A History of the English Speaking Peoples

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A History of the English Speaking Peoples is a four-volume history of Britain and the English speaking nations, written by Winston Churchill, covering the period from the Norman Conquest of Britain (1066) to the beginning of World War I (1914).

Churchill was a great British patriot with a love of history and a firm belief in the trans-Atlantic alliance, so it was natural for him to turn his hand to a history of both nations. Churchill began the history during the 1930s, during his so-called "wilderness years" when he was not in government. Work was interrupted in 1939 when the Second World War broke out and Churchill was appointed Prime Minister. After the war finished in 1945, Churchill was busy, first writing his history of that conflict, and then as Prime Minister again between 1951 and 1955, and so it was not until the late 1950s, when Churchill was in his late 70s, that he was able to finish the work.

The quality of the work deteriorates as it progresses. The early volumes provide a very readable and balanced coverage of history, but in the later volumes, only completed when he was over 80, Churchill concentrated more and more on subjects that interested him, notably devoting a full one third of the last volume to the military minutiae of the American Civil War. Social history, the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution hardly get a mention. Clement Attlee modestly suggested the work should have been titled "Things in history that interested me".

The four volumes are:

  • The Birth of Britain
  • The New World
  • The Age of Revolution
  • The Great Democracies

In the early 1970s, the BBC produced a series of twenty-six fifty-minute plays loosely based around Churchill's work and entitled Churchill's People. The quality of the productions was judged to be so poor that Head of Drama Shaun Sutton declared them untransmittable. However, so much publicity had already been put in place surrounding the broadcasts that they were forced to go ahead, with much critical mauling and low viewing figures. Following this experience, the BBC rarely produced drama series of any longer than thirteen episodes, to prevent such a long-running embarrassment being repeated.

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