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 A masterly chronicle of Churchill as a domestic figure rather than as the bulldog wartime leader, and one of the most subtle portraits of him as a politician. Addison (History/Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland) revises the view of Churchill as uninterested and out of his depth in domestic affairs, painting instead a nuanced picture of a canny parliamentarian. Churchill changed parties twice but managed to accomplish the change, writes Addison, ``with exceptional dexterity,'' making it appear as if he were maintaining his principles while the parties changed theirs. To make his point that Churchill was deeply interested in domestic affairs, Addison emphasizes Churchill's diligence in mastering complicated briefs and focuses on key domestic issues during his long career. Contrary to the prevailing view of an impolitic Churchill who clung to principle like a dog to a bone, Addison shows him aware of the need for political cover. When, for instance, he agreed to Britain's return to the gold standard in the 1920s, he made it clear to the country that he did so only on the recommendation of his advisors. Yet Addison also admits that by 1940 Churchill had become such an old-fashioned politician that many of his most effective speeches in the House of Commons during the war were not broadcast on radio at all. After the war, he led a government so cautious about changing what Labor had instituted that Rab Butler, later chancellor of the exchequer and himself no raging extremist, said that ``Winston is so brave in war and so cowardly in peace.'' Addison's most interesting assertion is that the rise of Hitler saved Churchill from drifting into right-wing irrelevance. Most impressively, Addison doesn't settle for easy classifications, admitting that `` a man of whom almost everything that can be said is true in part.'' Innovative and thought-provoking. A tour de force. (12 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-7126-5826-2
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Pimlico/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994