SHARE
Hillsdale College behind the scenes of the filming for the pro­motion of the Churchill doc­u­ments by Dr. Larry P. Arnn on August 8, 2019. Mar­keting Department | Courtesy

After decades of work, the 23rd and final volume of the “Churchill Doc­u­ments” is being pub­lished this fall by Hillsdale College’s Churchill Project. Sir Winston Churchill’s son Ran­dolph began writing the biog­raphy of his father 57 years ago, in 1962. He com­pleted the first two volumes of the biog­raphy. 

When Ran­dolph passed away, he bequeathed the biog­raphy to Sir Martin Gilbert, who was an Oxford his­torian and one of Randolph’s researchers. Gilbert then spent the rest of his life working on the biog­raphy, from 1968 to 2012. Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn studied under and worked with Gilbert, and since 2012, Arnn has been editing the volumes. 

This defin­itive and official biog­raphy of Winston Churchill is the largest biog­raphy, of any single his­torical person, according to the Churchill Book Spe­cialist. It is made up of eight nar­rative volumes, which Ran­dolph Churchill and Gilbert wrote, as well as 23 volumes of doc­u­ments. In total, it is 42,300 pages and 15.1 million words. Volume 22 of the series, “Leader of the Oppo­sition, August 1945 to October 1951,” was released in July 2019 and the 23rd volume, “Never Flinch, Never Weary, November 1951 to Feb­ruary 1965,” will be released this fall. 

The Churchill Project, launched by Hillsdale College, has been a large part of the work on and pub­li­cation of the Churchill biog­raphy and doc­u­ments. 

“Since its inception, the purpose of the Churchill Project has been to promote a right under­standing of Churchill’s words and deeds. The official biog­raphy has been one way – the most important way – in which we have pursued this end,” Colin Brown, asso­ciate director of research for the Churchill Project, said in an email. 

And though this is the final volume of the “Churchill Doc­u­ments” to be pub­lished, the Churchill Project is still ded­i­cated to guarding the legacy of a great man and exploring his history and career. 

“Pro­motion of the official biog­raphy and of the articles on the website are the two primary ways we intend to carry the Project forward. But the future of the Churchill Project is bright and there is always more that can be done,” Brown said. 

The Churchill Project also has several student fellows who have worked on the project and research. Senior Tess Skehan, who became a fellow in August 2017, has done some editing, reading, bio­graphical foot­noting, and tran­scribing for the Project. And, as she has gotten to work closely with Churchill’s doc­u­ments and per­sonal writings, she has enjoyed seeing dif­ferent sides of who he was as a person. 

Skehan noticed that often when looking back on his­torical figures people focus on them in their spe­cific role or career or even try to tear them down. But, she got to see Churchill in many dif­ferent lights besides just as a politician. He was funny. He was a father, a reporter, as well as a politician. 

“He became so much more per­sonal. You get to see so many aspects of him,” Skehan said. 

Senior Zach Palmer, also a Churchill fellow since 2017, has had various roles helping with the project and research. He enjoyed being so close to primary doc­u­ments and being sur­prised by what he may run across in the vast quan­tities of Churchill’s writings. 

“Churchill wrote nearly 10 million words over the course of his lifetime. While that may not seem like an impressive number, it truly is,” Palmer said. “Whether in a myriad of letters, his many books, or his per­sonal notes to other members of the English gov­ernment, Churchill had a word for just about every­thing.”

In order to cel­e­brate the momentous occasion of the pub­li­cation of the 23rd volume, Hillsdale hosted a large cel­e­bration in June in London. Among the guests were Lady Esther Gilbert — Sir Martin Gilbert’s widow — and members of the Churchill family, as well as members of the House of Lords, and many dig­ni­taries that con­tributed to the work. 

Ran­dolph Leonard Spencer-Churchill, Winston Churchill’s great-grandson, was in atten­dance and gave remarks cel­e­brating the life and work of his great grand­father, and those who worked to create his biog­raphy and pre­serve his legacy. 

“All of you here tonight from Hillsdale have played your part in helping us pre­serve liberty,” Churchill said. “It is truly uplifting that through your ded­i­cation and support for com­pleting the Churchill biog­raphy, it will stand as one of the great works of history, recording the truth faith­fully and without judgement.” 

Churchill thanked Arnn and all those at Hillsdale for fin­ishing the job and acknowl­edged that without many people, like Gilbert and Arnn and everyone at the Churchill Project, the under­taking that his grand­father, Ran­dolph Churchill, took up decades ago, may have never been com­pleted. 

“All of them, from Ran­dolph on, have played a role in pre­serving the history of those extra­or­dinary years in these thirty-one mag­nif­icent volumes,” Churchill said. “Their work will be used forever by those who seek the truth.” 

“Let us honour the brave men and women who saved our freedoms, and par­tic­u­larly those who serve our nation so bravely today,”  I would now like to propose a toast:

“’To Hillsdale College and to the memory of Sir Martin Gilbert!’”