My early life, 1874-1904

by Winston Churchill

Paperback, 1996




New York : Simon & Schuster, c1996.


"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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AlanEJohnson
This is one of the wittiest, and most poignant, books I have ever read. One laughs and cries throughout the reading; it is very difficult to put the book down. Written about 1930 during a time when Churchill was not very popular, his self-deprecating humor reveals a depth of character that only became clear to most people when he became Prime Minister during the darkest days of World War II.… (more)
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
It is said that "A man is not on his on oath in monumental inscriptions,." I'd say this is also true of autobiography. But WSC was a good journalist, and had a market for a volume of memoirs. Published at a low point in his career, he could see his past somewhat rosily, while reminding himself to some degree, that seeing what came next would be a sensible idea. It flows well, and gives one an idea about his interior mental furniture. The overall biography (one Volume) by Martin gilbert should be read after or before this one. There's also all eight volumes by (largely) the same writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member lydiasbooks
Took time to get into it and needed to alternate with lighter books. Was loving it by the end though. Fascinating and funny and detailed. Will read more of his books now. :)
LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is a brilliantly written memoir by Churchill of his first 26 or so years, until the turn of the 20th century. It was published in 1930, so with the hindsight of Churchill having reached almost the highest political offices in both Liberal and Conservative governments, but still before his most famous period of wartime leadership. He writes beautifully about his childhood and his famously miserable schooldays, where he hated Latin and maths, but loved English and history. Not going to university, he says that he "would far rather have been apprenticed as a bricklayer’s mate, or run errands as a messengerboy, or helped my father to dress the front windows of a grocer’s shop".

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.
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