Sir Martin Gilbert (1936-2015) was a leading British historian and the author of more than eighty books. Specializing in 20th century history, he was the official biographer of Winston Churchill and wrote a best-selling eight-volume biography of the war leader’s life.
Born in London in 1936, Martin Gilbert was evacuated to Canada with his family at the beginning of World War II as part of the British government’s efforts to protect children from the brutal bombings of the Luftwaffe. He was made a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, in 1962. He is the author of several definitive historical works examining the Holocaust, the First and Second World Wars, and the history of the 20th century.
In 1990, Gilbert was designated a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and was awarded a Knighthood in 1995. Oxford University awarded him a Doctorate in 1999. Gilbert was a sought-after speaker on Churchill, Jewish history, and the history of the 20th century, and traveled frequently to lecture at colleges, universities, and organizations around the world.
The final volume of the official biography spans Churchill’s life from the defeat of Germany in 1945 to his death nearly twenty years later. It sees him first at the pinnacle of his power, leader of a victorious Britain. In July 1945 at Potsdam, Churchill, Stalin, and Truman aimed to shape postwar Europe. But while still grappling with world issues Churchill returned to Britain for the general election results and was thrown out of office.For six years Churchill worked to restore the fortunes of Britain’s Conservative Party, while at the same time warning the world of Communist ambitions, urging the reconciliation of France and Germany, pioneering the concept of a united Europe, and seeking to maintain the closest possible links between Britain and the United States. His aim throughout was to achieve not confrontation with the Soviet Union but conciliation based firmly upon Western strength and unity.In October 1951 Churchill became prime minister for the second time. The Great Powers were at peace but under the shadow of a fearful new weapon, the hydrogen bomb. Hoping, after the election of Eisenhower in 1952 and the death of Stalin in 1953, for a fresh start in East–West relations, Churchill worked for a new summit conference; but in April 1955 ill health and pressure from colleagues forced him to resign.In retirement Churchill traveled widely; took up painting again; completed the four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples; and watched as world conflicts continued, still convinced that they could be resolved by statesmanship. "Never despair" remained his watchword, and his faith, until the end. That end came slowly; for those nearest to him it was a sad decline. Yet almost to his ninetieth year he was able to follow events with hope and faith in the ability of man to survive his own folly.
This volume starts with the outbreak of war in September 1939 and ends with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. In it, Martin Gilbert reveals not only how each decision was reached, but what influences lay behind it, whether of individuals or of information reaching Churchill from the most secret source of British Intelligence.Drawing on a remarkable diversity of material, including the War Cabinet and other Government records, as well as Churchill’s own archive, the diaries and letters of his private secretariat, and the recollections of those who worked most closely with him, Martin Gilbert reveals the full extent of Churchill’s personal contribution to every aspect of the struggle.On the day Hitler invaded Poland, Churchill, aged sixty-four, had been out of office for ten years. Two days later, on 3 September 1939, he became First Lord of the Admiralty, in charge of British naval policy and at the center of war direction. On 10 May 1940 he became Prime Minister, leading his nation during a time of grave danger and setbacks. His first year and a half as Prime Minister included the Dunkirk evacuation, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the Battle of the Atlantic, the struggle in the Western Desert, and Hitler’s invasion of Russia.By the end of 1940, Britain under Churchill’s leadership had survived the onslaught and was making plans to continue the war against an enemy of unlimited ambition and ferocious will.One of Churchill’s inner circle said: "We who worked with Churchill every day of the war still saw at most a quarter of his daily tasks and worries." Martin Gilbert has pieced together the whole, setting in context much hitherto scattered and secret evidence, in order to give an intimate and fascinating account of the architect of Britain’s "finest hour."
In the hands of master historian Martin Gilbert, the complex and compelling story of the Second World War comes to life. This narrative captures the perspectives of leading politicians and war commanders, journalists, civilians, and ordinary soldiers, offering gripping eyewitness accounts of heroism, defeat, suffering, and triumph.
This is one of the first historical studies of World War II that describes the Holocaust as an integral part of the war. It also covers maneuvers, strategies, and leaders operating in European, Asian, and Pacific theatres. In addition, this book brings in survivor testimonies of occupation, survival behind enemy lines, and the experience of minority groups such as the Roma in Europe, to offer a comprehensive account of the war’s impact on individual lives on both sides. This is a sweeping narrative of one of the most deadly wars in history, which took almost forty million lives.
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