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Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman.

Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman. By James C. Humes. (Washington, DC: Regnery History, 2012. Pp. xiii, 244. $27.95.)

Regnery is self-described as a conservative alternative to mainstream publishers, and James Humes is an accomplished author of over twenty books as well as a former speechwriter for Republican presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George H. W. Bush. He has written of Winston Churchill in several works before this examination, which focuses on the prophetic accuracy of the "Great Man's" prognostications, culled from Churchill's articles, books, speeches, and recorded conversations. Humes also shares his experience as a young man when he was sagely advised by elder statesman Churchill to "study history" because the "longer you look back, the further you look forward" (8-9).

Humes argues that history was Churchill's source of imagination, combining with his experience as a soldier, giving him an intuition for the impact of technological innovation and social change on war and society. Prior to World War I, Churchill was the first British cabinet minister to fly a plane, and during the war he promoted the tank as a means to break the military deadlock of trench warfare. He was also an early architect of the welfare state, but saw its limits, believing in social insurance rather than social revolution and regulation instead of nationalization of industry. For him, the lesson of the 1930s was the folly of appeasing totalitarian regimes. His prophetic insight was an appreciation of the fact that human nature is counter to wishful thinking. His 1899 novel Savrola foreshadowed the rise of a Hitler-type dictator who is defeated by the title character, a great orator, who in turn is removed by a socialist revolution, evocative of Churchill's World War II heroics and subsequent crushing electoral defeat. Humes also references many of Churchill's remarkably accurate predictions, such as becoming prime minister (twice), his death on the same day his father died (24 January), and the fall of the Soviet Union before the end of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, this book has several problems. There are no photographs or maps, no bibliography, and far too few endnotes, with several chapters having none. Many, if not most, of Churchill's quotes have no attribution and are difficult to verify, and there are many incorrect dates given. There are also egregious factual errors, such as crediting Churchill with the phrase "fog of war" regarding World War I air operations when the term actually originates from Clausewitz's 1837 military classic On War; that Churchill presciently predicted television in 1931 when it had been around since 1926; and that Churchill's 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature was somehow for his 1956 History of the English Speaking Peoples when the prestigious award was actually awarded for Churchill's body of published work as well as his speeches (45, 80, 87). Therefore, though there is little new for the Churchill scholar or aficionado, the book has some potential for the general reader, especially if there is a revised and corrected edition.

William John Shepherd

Catholic University of America

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Author:Shepherd, William John
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2015
Words:502
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