The Making of Winston Churchill
By Michael Shelden
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451609912, 400pp.)
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
In modern memory, Winston Churchill remains the man with the cigar and the equanimity among the ruins. Few can remember that at the age of 40, he was considered washed up, his best days behind him. In Young Titan, historian Michael Shelden has produced the first biography focused on Churchill’s early career, the years between 1901 and 1915 that both nearly undid him but also forged the character that would later triumph in the Second World War.
Between his rise and his fall, Churchill built a modern navy, experimented with radical social reforms, survived various threats on his life, made powerful enemies and a few good friends, annoyed and delighted two British monarchs, became a husband and father, took the measure of the German military machine, authorized executions of notorious murderers, and faced deadly artillery barrages on the Western front. Along the way, he learned how to outwit more experienced rivals, how to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, how to question the assumptions of his upbringing, how to be patient and avoid overconfidence, and how to value loyalty.
He also learned how to fall in love. Shelden gives us a portrait of Churchill as the dashing young suitor who pursued three great beauties of British society with his witty repartee, political f lair, and poetic letters. In one of many never-before-told episodes, Churchill is seen racing to a Scottish castle to prepare the heartbroken daughter of the prime minister for his impending marriage.
This was a time of high drama, intrigue, personal courage, and grave miscalculations. But as Shelden shows in this fresh and revealing biography, Churchill’s later success was predicated on his struggles to redeem the promise of his youth.
Michael Shelden is the author of four previous biographies. For twelve years he was a features writer for The Daily Telegraph (London) and a fiction critic for The Baltimore Sun. He is currently a professor at Indiana State University.
“Perceptive and entertaining.”
"A vivid portrait of a young man on the make, as ambitious as he was gifted. . . Enthralling."
-DailyBeast.com [Newsweek digital edition]
“Entertaining and erudite…. Shelden is full of sharp literary insights about Churchill, as one would expect from a literary biographer of his rank.”
“[As this] glowing portrait makes clear, the young Churchill was as beloved as he was despised: his intelligence, industry, and wit made him a darling of the press, and he was often seen as a future Prime Minister.”
-The New Yorker
“Much has been written about Winston Churchill, but there is still much to learn, especially about those early years when he seemed destined for greatness. Michael Shelden now thoughtfully explores those years in Young Titan….An engaging as well as perceptive take on the man who believed that while we are all worms ‘he was a glowworm’ — a belief history would splendidly vindicate.”
“Just when you think there can be nothing fresh to be said about the long life of Winston Churchill, along comes biographer Michael Shelden's page-turner about Churchill from age 26 to 40….Churchill's life is the gift that keeps on giving, and many readers who assume they've read it all will find Mr. Shelden's lively account a must-add for their groaning shelves.”
“Swiftly narrated…. Shelden, a noted biographer whose 1992 Orwell was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, explores the young titan in entertaining depth, with deep regard for Churchill's achievements and no end of colorful detail.”
“Michael Shelden has done the nigh-impossible: he has found original things to say about the man Isaiah Berlin called ‘the largest human being of our time’—Winston Churchill. In this entertaining and deeply researched book, Shelden paints a memorable portrait of the young Churchill’s life and loves.”
-Jon Meacham, author of American Lion
“Young Titan gives us an exciting, needed look at Winston Churchill in his years as a Liberal. Breaking with the Conservatives, he battled for better working conditions, for unemployment insurance, for improvements in education. He waged a two-front war: against the Tories on the right, the socialists on the left. It is the young Churchill at his best, a great foretelling of what was to come when Britain and the world needed him most.”
-Chris Matthews, author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero and anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball
“For history buffs, Winston Churchill is the gift that keeps on giving, and in Young Titan Michael Shelden has given us the gift of Churchill’s fascinating formative years. It’s all here—the boy wonder, adventurer, romantic, orator, and eloquent man in the arena. I didn't want it to end.”
-Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation