"Here, in his own words, are the fascinating first thirty years in the life of one of the most provocative and compelling leaders of the twentieth century - Winston Churchill." "As a visionary, statesman, and historian, and the most eloquent spokesman against the Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill was one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century. In this autobiography, Churchill recalls his childhood, his schooling, his years as a war correspondent in South Africa during the Boer War, and his first forays into politics as a member of Parliament. My Early Life not only gives readers insights into the shaping of a great leader but, as Churchill himself wrote, "a picture of a vanished age.""--BOOK JACKET.
His time in the army after attending Sandhurst took him to Cuba, India and Egypt. It is here and later in the many chapters of the book dealing with the Boer War that his attitudes are most jarring to the modern reader, though of course Churchill was naturally a man of his own time, with the generally held attitudes of his time and class: the oft mentioned view that going to war was a jolly jape that all young men should undertake and thoroughly enjoy; an unquestioning acceptance of the morally civilising mission of British imperial power - "We certainly felt as we dropped off to sleep the keenest realisation of the great work which England was doing in India and of her high mission to rule these primitive but agreeable races for their welfare and our own"; and, when speaking of the settlements of hostile tribes euphemistically that "These could all be destroyed and the tribesmen together with their women and children driven up to the higher mountains in the depth of winter, where they would certainly be very uncomfortable". His hindsight leads to him draw comparisons between these comparatively minor wars and the worldwide conflagration to strike little over a decade after the end of this book's narrative: "It was not like the Great War. Nobody expected to be killed. Here and there in every regiment or battalion, half a dozen, a score, at the worst thirty or forty, would pay the forfeit; but to the great mass of those who took part in the little wars of Britain in those vanished light-hearted days, this was only a sporting element in a splendid game". His capture and heroic escape from captivity by the Boers are thrillingly described (though much of the details of military manoeuvres left me cold). His early attempt and success in entering Parliament as a member for Oldham are also well described, and in his very early appearances in the House as a Conservative MP he was already out of step with his party in a number of respects and "I drifted towards the left", moving towards the Liberal Party.
This is a beautifully written memoir - Churchill was certainly a superb writer, in addition to his other virtues and faults.