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Robert Blake and Wm. Roger Louis

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206262

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206262.001.0001

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Churchill in 1940: The Worst and Finest Hour

Churchill in 1940: The Worst and Finest Hour

Chapter:
(p.241) 14 Churchill in 1940: The Worst and Finest Hour
Source:
Churchill
Author(s):

David Reynolds

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206262.003.0015

In 1940, Britain faced the greatest crisis in its history since Napoleon's armies massed on the French coast in 1804–1805. Yet at the same moment Churchill at last attained his cherished ambition, becoming Prime Minister and leading his country at a time when his peculiar talents could be given full rein and just appreciation. Britain's worst hour was also Churchill's finest. This chapter argues that a sober examination of Churchill's performance as war leader in 1940 does not belittle his greatness. On the contrary, it makes him a more human and thereby a more impressive figure than the two-dimensional bulldog of national mythology. This chapter explores Churchill's role as war leader in three main areas: first, naval strategy during the Phoney War while he was at the Admiralty; the realignment of British foreign policy following the collapse of France; and defence policy and domestic leadership during the Battle of Britain.

Keywords:   Winston Churchill, Britain, Phoney War, naval strategy, foreign policy, France, defence policy, Battle of Britain, domestic leadership, war leader

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