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Churchill the American Churchill the American
by Thanos Kalamidas
Issue 5
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Book
A Man of the century: Winston Churchill and His Legend Since 1945
John Ramsden
Columbia University Press, 2003
History is my passion. I love reading history books. I love reading biographies and autobiographies. One of my favourite autobiographies is Winston Churchill’s. The man was history himself, he was there making history and, whether they agree or not with Churchill’s ideas, everybody who loves history has to admit he was the best person to describe the events of the Second World War.

He was there at the secret meetings and the secret agreements. He sat there with Roosevelt and Stalin dividing the world into pieces. When you think about the Second World War, you have to think about Winston Churchill.

In 2002, John Ramsden, Professor of Modern History at Queen Mary in the University of London, decided to publish a book about Winston Churchill. Prof. Ramsden carried out excellent research on all the Churchill commemorations throughout the world, including statues, museums, street signs and in gift shops. There are more books about this and most of them are accompanied by rich photographic material, which is incomparable to the eight-pages Prof. Ramsden devotes in his 600-page book.

Sir Winston Churchill cared for his legacy and the icon he was leaving for the coming generations. You don’t need to be a professor to understand that, after all, the man wrote most of the books and articles that refer to him during ‘50s.

However, Prof. Ramsden was very enlightened with Mr. Churchill’s American connection. Reading about the man, you always miss that the Duke of Marlboro had an American mother and this seems to be a big issue for Prof. Ramsden. Half of his book is about how America, both the administration and the people, reacted when their compatriot died. Don’t you get a bitter taste when you read the words ‘American compatriot’ for Sir Winston Churchill? I did! To think of the cartoonists who draw him like an English bulldog, with his familiar melon hat and his cigar, it sounds like a joke, but wasting nearly 250-pages on that is a tragedy.

During your academic years, from Bachelor to Master to finally get a Ph.D., you must write a thesis, which has to be unique and thoroughly researched. What most of us did was to pick up some small detail in what we were studying, spend over a year researching it to death and end up with a 200-page work, plus a 200-page bibliography. Obviously, Prof. Ramsden after adding 400-pages decided to transform it into a book and make some money as well.

Here I have to congratulate those responsible in the publishing company’s marketing department. The book has a very catchy title, a good cover photo and some very interesting comments on the back page, such as: “A significant contribution to Churchillian literature…”; “A meticulous, exhaustive account of the grout of the Churchill legend…”; “A marvellously informative and splendidly written account of the mythologizing of Churchill…”; and, even better, “This book is a must: a tour d'horizon of all things Churchill by the dean of Conservative Party historians. Only John Ramsden with his encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth-century British politics could have produced this magnificent work.” Amen!

Without saying that it was a waste of time reading the book, I admitted already that I learned thing I didn’t know, next time I come cross one of Prof. Ramsden’s books I will prefer to borrow it from the library instead of buying it!

   
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