Winston Churchill as writer

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This article is about the literary career of the British statesman. For the American novelist of the same name, see Winston Churchill (novelist).

Winston Churchill was a prolific writer, under the pen name "Winston S. Churchill". Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his numerous published works, especially his six-volume work The Second World War. At the ceremony he was awarded the prize "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."[1]


Churchill's first paid work as a writer was for a series of five articles on the Cuban War of Independence in The Graphic in 1895, the year of his father Lord Randolph's death. For the rest of his life, writing was Churchill's main income source. Almost always well paid as an author, he wrote an estimated eight to ten million words in more than 40 books, thousands of newspaper and magazine articles,[2] and at least two film scripts.[3]

Confusion with the American novelist of the same name[edit]

Churchill and his contemporary, the American novelist of the same name, are still occasionally confused as writers. The novels of the "American" Churchill are often incorrectly attributed to the "British" Churchill, or at least listed with the latter's works, especially by booksellers. The British Churchill wrote only one novel, Savrola, being better known for his popular histories.[4]

Churchill, upon becoming aware of the American Churchill's books, then much better known than his own, arranged to sign his own works "Winston Spencer Churchill", adding the first half of his double-barrelled surname, Spencer-Churchill, which he did not otherwise use. In practice the "middle name" was turned into an initial, and the pen name as it actually appears in Churchill's works is "Winston S. Churchill". The following witty and good humoured correspondence passed between the two writers:

Mr. Winston Churchill presents his compliments to Mr. Winston Churchill, and begs to draw his attention to a matter which concerns them both. He has learnt from the Press notices that Mr. Winston Churchill proposes to bring out another novel, entitled Richard Carvel, which is certain to have a considerable sale both in England and America. Mr. Winston Churchill is also the author of a novel now being published in serial form in Macmillan’s Magazine, and for which he anticipates some sale both in England and America. He also proposes to publish on the 1st of October another military chronicle on the Soudan War. He has no doubt that Mr. Winston Churchill will recognise from this letter—if indeed by no other means—that there is grave danger of his works being mistaken for those of Mr. Winston Churchill. He feels sure that Mr. Winston Churchill desires this as little as he does himself. In future to avoid mistakes as far as possible, Mr. Winston Churchill has decided to sign all published articles, stories, or other works, ‘Winston Spencer Churchill,’ and not ‘Winston Churchill’ as formerly. He trusts that this arrangement will commend itself to Mr. Winston Churchill, and he ventures to suggest, with a view to preventing further confusion which may arise out of this extraordinary coincidence, that both Mr. Winston Churchill and Mr. Winston Churchill should insert a short note in their respective publications explaining to the public which are the works of Mr. Winston Churchill and which those of Mr. Winston Churchill. The text of this note might form a subject for future discussion if Mr. Winston Churchill agrees with Mr. Winston Churchill’s proposition. He takes this occasion of complimenting Mr. Winston Churchill upon the style and success of his works, which are always brought to his notice whether in magazine or book form, and he trusts that Mr. Winston Churchill has derived equal pleasure from any work of his that may have attracted his attention.[5]

This suggestion was accepted in this section of the response letter:

Mr. Winston Churchill is extremely grateful to Mr. Winston Churchill for bringing forward a subject which has given Mr. Winston Churchill much anxiety. Mr. Winston Churchill appreciates the courtesy of Mr. Winston Churchill in adopting the name of ‘Winston Spencer Churchill’ in his books, articles, etc. Mr. Winston Churchill makes haste to add that, had he possessed any other names, he would certainly have adopted one of them.[6]

The Story of the Malakand Field Force[edit]

His first published book was The Story of the Malakand Field Force.[7] It details an 1897 military campaign on the Northwest Frontier (an area now part of Pakistan and Afghanistan).


Main article: Savrola

The "Ruritanian" novel Savrola, written on the way to and after the Malakand campaign, is Churchill's only major work of fiction. It is a largely conventional work in its genre, with a plot centred on a revolution in "Laurania", a fictional European state. Some of its characters are believed to be modelled upon members of his family.

The River War[edit]

Churchill's second book, The River War,[8] was an account of the British reconquest of the Sudan, written in 1899 while he was still an officer in the British army. The book provides a history of the British involvement in the Sudan and the conflict between the British forces led by Lord Kitchener and Islamic Jihadists led by a self-proclaimed second prophet of Islam Muhammad Ahmad who had embarked on a campaign to conquer Egypt, to drive out the non-Muslim infidels and make way for the second coming of the Islamic Mahdi. Churchill was himself present at the Battle of Omdurman which is described as part of the history.

Thoughts and Adventures[edit]

This book is less popular than others written by Churchill. Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, mentions it only once. He writes:

"Churchill began to put together yet another book, Thoughts and Adventures, a collection of newspaper articles which he had written over the past twenty years, on his flying adventures, his air crash, painting as a pastime, a near escape from death on the western front, cartoons and cartoonists, elections, and economics."[9]

In the book, Churchill gives his thoughts on the state of modern affairs. He discusses the threat of scientific progress, particularly the development of nuclear weapons. He also discusses the effects of mass civilisations on the human character.[10]

The Second World War[edit]

The Second World War is a six-volume history of the period from the end of the First World War to July 1945. The most ambitious of any work published by Churchill, it was to take a great portion of his life following his defeat in the 1945 post war election. The first volume was published in 1948 but the work was not finished until 1953.

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples[edit]

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples is a four-volume history of Britain and its former colonies and possessions throughout the world, covering the period from Caesar's invasions of Britain (55 BC) to the beginning of the First World War (1914).[11] It was started in 1937 and finally published 1956–58, delayed several times by war and his work on other texts. The work was one of Churchill's writings mentioned in his Nobel Prize in literature citation.[12]


Title (US Title) (Year of publication)

Essays and short stories[edit]


  1. ^ The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 Retrieved 12 August 2011
  2. ^ Johnson, Paul (2009). Churchill. Viking. ISBN 978-1-101-14929-4. 
  3. ^ Wenden, D. J. (1993). "Churchill, Radio, and Cinema". In Blake, Robert B.; Louis, William Roger. Churchill. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 0-19-820626-7. 
  4. ^ Dockter, Warren (October 2011). "The Tale of Two Winstons". The Historian 111. 
  5. ^ The Age October 19, 1940, hosted on Google News. "Two Winston Churchills". Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  6. ^ My Early Life – 1874–1904, hosted on Google Books. Oldham. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Project Gutenberg: The Story of the Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill Retrieved 12 August 2011
  8. ^ Project Gutenberg: The River War by Winston Churchill Retrieved 12 August 2011
  9. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1982). Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years. Boston: Houghton MifflinCompany. 
  10. ^ Churchill, Winston (1932). Thoughts and Adventures. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-393-02942-5. 
  11. ^ Barrett, Buckley Barry (2000). Churchill: A Concise Bibliography. Westport CT: Greenwood. p. 32. ISBN 0-313-31450-0. 
  12. ^ Frenz, Horst (1953). "Winston Churchill: the Nobel Prize in Literature 1953". Stockholm: Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Which Winston Churchill wrote "Man Overboard!"?". Skulls in the Stars blog. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2013. To clarify things, the story possesses the following footnote, 'As by a very remarkable coincidence there are two Winston Churchills, both writers, we may mention that this Winston Churchill is the son of the late Lord Randolph Churchill.' 
  14. ^ "If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg" by Winston Churchill. Reprinted in Wisconsin Magazine of History: Volume 44, number 4, summer, 1961.