The Corner

World

Two Men’s Destinies

Churchill (Library of Congress)

Andrew Roberts has not been tackling small subjects. A recent book is a biography of Napoleon. Another recent book is a history of World War II. Now Roberts has produced Churchill: Walking with Destiny. I have done a podcast, a Q&A, with him, here.

It was his own destiny, he says, to write this biography of Churchill. He has been writing about this figure for years — over many books and articles — but has not until now done a proper life, a full life. He enjoyed the experience, too. He likes Churchill more today than he did when he began.

In our podcast, I ask Roberts how he works, as a historian, as a writer. Does he write as he goes along or does he complete his research first? (His answer is fascinating: He wrote the Churchill biography, which is a thousand pages, in 100 days flat.) We also explore many specific questions about Churchill, of course.

What about his intelligence, his sheer smarts? What about his writing? How did he write A History of the English-Speaking Peoples? What about his American side? His moods? Did he suffer from “black dog,” as we hear? Was he a learner from his mistakes? Did he require little sleep, as people say? Did he believe in God? What were his politics? Was he really more liberal than conservative? What about his marriage? What about his views on race? And so on.

We also discuss such questions as, What is the role of individuals in history (for good or ill)? Then there’s this: Is there anyone like Churchill, past or present? Anyone so large in his talents? Jefferson?

Andrew Roberts may have been born to write many books — I think he was — but he was for sure born to write this one, and to hear him speak, on this podcast and elsewhere, is a joy.

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