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Churchill and the Revisionists

Andrew Roberts defends Britain's war hero against his detractors, in our Longman/History Today Awards Lecture.

'History', said Churchill in his November 1940 panegyric to Neville Chamberlain, 'with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days'. Churchill himself would probably be very pleased by the historical cottage industry which has grown around him. Never far from controversy during his lifetime, he would doubtless have taken enormous pleasure in defending his reputation from what are now loosely called the 'revisionists’.

In a sense, of course, all history-writing is a revision of the original version, and for a time Churchill scholars were merely restoring the balance after the mass of over- hagiographical books which appeared lauding him in the fifties and early sixties. Since then, however, and especially relatively recently, a new, violently aggressive, knocking strain has appeared.

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