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About The Official Biography

by Randolph Churchill & Martin Gilbert

Churchill had long wished to write his father's biography, and by the end of the 1950's was making strong efforts to win his father's confidence. In May 1960 Winston Churchill wrote to his son:

"My dear Randolph, I have reflected carefully on what you said. I think that your biography of Derby [Lord Derby, by
Randolph Churchill, Cassell: London 1959] is a remarkable work, and I should be happy that you should write my official biography when the time comes. But I must ask you to defer this until after my death. I would not like to release my papers piecemeal, and I think that you should wait for the time being and then get all your material from my own Archives and from the Trust. In any case, I do not want anything to be published until at least five years after my death. -- Your loving father, Winston S. Churchill"

The first volume of Winston S. Churchill was published in 1966, the year after Sir Winston died. After Randolph's death in 1968 Martin Gilbert, who had joined Randolph as a research assistant in 1962, was appointed the official biographer. Sir Martin is presently completing the Companion Volumes, the latest of which included the following acknowledgement: "The publication of [The War Papers] was made possible by the exceptional generosity of Wendy Reves, and by the determination of the International Churchill Society [now The Churchill Centre, Washington, DC], and its then United States president, Richard Langworth, to bring the Churchill document series, known as the Companion Volumes, back into production."

The following volumes of the Official Biography have been published:

Volume I. Youth, 1874-1900 by Randolph S. Churchill
Volume I. Companion, Part I and Part II
Volume II. Young Statesman, 1900-1914 by Randolph S. Churchill
Volume II. Companion, Part I, Part II and Part III
Volume III. The Challenge of War, 1914-1916 by Martin Gilbert
Volume III. Companion, Part I and Part II
Volume IV. The Stricken World, 1916-1922 by Martin Gilbert
Volume IV. Companion, Part 1, Part II and Part III
Volume V. Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939 by Martin Gilbert
Volume V. Companion 'The Exchequer Years' 1922-1929
Volume V. Companion 'The Wilderness Years' 1929-1935
Volume V. Companion 'The Coming of War' 1936-1939
Volume VI. Finest Hour, 1939-1941 by Martin Gilbert
The Churchill War Papers, Volume I., 'At the Admiralty'
The Churchill War Papers, Volume II., 'Never Surrender'
The Churchill War Papers, Volume III, 'The Ever-Widening War'
Volume VII. Road to Victory, 1941-1945 by Martin Gilbert
Volume VIII. Never Despair, 1945-1965 by Martin Gilbert

Not really "Official"

Incidentally, the name "Official Biography" is somewhat misleading, as Sir Martin Gilbert noted in a 1991 interview with Brian Lamb on C-Span's "Book-notes": "I'm called the official biographer, though to the enormous credit of the Churchill family they've never asked to see a single word of what I was writing until the books were printed and bound and ready for sale to the public. They never asked me to delete a word or to skirt around a particular issue. So 'official' is a misnomer if it's thought to mean a censored or restricted biographer."

For details on biographic versus companion volumes and the difference between editions, you can visit Chartwell Booksellers.

To order the recently reprinted biography and document companion volumes by Hillsdale Press, visit the Hillsdale College Bookstore.

The reprint volumes by Hillsdale Press are also available by subscription. Contact Robin Curtis at Hillsdale College on (517) 437-7341 x2511 for more information.

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