Select one of the keywords
Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill's Speeches    edited by Winston S. Churchill order for
Never Give In!
by Winston S. Churchill
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This selection from the great statesman's speeches is annotated by his grandon, Winston S. Churchill, himself a journalist, former war correspondent and British MP. Though most of what Churchill says is political in nature, there are also quite a few tributes to the famous - including T. E. Lawrence, Roosevelt, and King George VI - on their deaths. The book's title comes from an address that the indomitable Churchill made at his alma mater, the Harrow school for boys during WW II: 'Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never ... never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense!' Indeed that dogged persistence in support of what he believed is there in all of Churchill's speeches over the years, not only during the war years. Though Churchill's editor presents to us speeches covering over sixty years, he tells us that he himself believes that his grandfather's 'finest hour' came in the 'Wilderness Years' when he was almost a lone voice 'drawing attention to the enormous scale of German rearmament'.

It all begins with Churchill's years as a 'Young Statesman' (1899-15), when he argued passionately for a social safety net, including minimum wage and unemployment insurance (with an ongoing discussion of man as 'both an individualist and a collectivist'). Then come his WW I experiences in 'Oblivion and Redemption' (1916-29), when the failure of the Dardanelles landings resulted in his resigning as First Lord of the Admiralty and serving on the front line in Flanders. At the end of the war, Churchill recognized the participation of the 'Dominions of the Crown over the seas' as a 'gift which came back to us in this old land, in this small island, from the principles of freedom' (and made similar comments after WW II). Interestingly, he argued at that time both for a national home for the Jewish people and for an 'Arab state which can revive and embody the old culture and glories of the Arab race'. And he gives a fascinating parable of disarmament in the context of Zoo animals, the process itself creating distrust and hostility.

It seems impossible in hindsight that Churchill's speeches of the 'Wilderness Years' (1930-39) went unheeded, the government in extreme denial, desperate to avoid another war at any cost. Listen to the feeling in this exhortation to action, 'We must recognize that we have a great treasure to guard; that the inheritance in our possession represents the prolonged achievement of the centuries; that there is not one of our simple uncounted rights today for which better men than we are have not died on the scaffold or the battlefield.' One wonders how they could not listen, but he was dubbed a warmonger until it was almost too late. Later, he makes a wonderful comparison of a lull in crises to the digestive spell after a boa constrictor devours its prey. Of course Churchill's 'Glory Years' (1939-45) followed, during which he led Britain's struggle against the Nazis, while waiting for the awakening of the 'Great Republic across the Seas'. Phrases from that period have become part of the language - 'their finest hour'; 'Never ... was so much owed by so many to so few'; 'Divided we fall'.

After the end of WW II, Churchill entered his 'Sunset Years' (1945-63), during which he once again had a stint as Prime Minister, and was finally presented by President Kennedy with an honorary U.S. citizenship. It was interesting to note that Winston Churchill never used a speechwriter. Reading his words, and gaining his perspective on events of the twentieth century give fascinating insights into the sowing of the seeds of conflicts that the modern world faces. Would that we had leaders of Winston Churchill's stature to guide us today.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews