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The World Crisis

The World Crisis

Released 1923

About The World Crisis

The World Crisis is Winston Churchill's account of World War I, published in six volumes (technically five, as Volume III was published in two parts). Published between 1923 and 1931, in many respects, it prefigures his better-known multivolume The Second World War. The World Crisis is analytical and, in some parts, a justification by Churchill of his role in the war. Churchill is reputed to have said about this work that it was "not history, but a contribution to history". His American biographer William Manchester wrote: "His masterpiece is The World Crisis, published over a period of several years, 1923 to 1931, a six-volume, 3,261-page account of the Great War, beginning with its origins in 1911 and ending with its repercussions in the 1920s. Magnificently written, it is enhanced by the presence of the author at the highest councils of war and in the trenches as a battalion commander". The page total is 2517 pages without the Eastern Front volume. The British historian Robert Rhodes James writes: "For all its pitfalls as history, The World Crisis must surely stand as Churchill’s masterpiece. After it, anything must appear as anticlimax". James further comments, "Churchill’s literary work showed a certain decline in the 1930s" and that his Marlborough and The History of the English-Speaking Peoples have more of a rhetorical note than The World Crisis. The news he was writing about the war was all over London; he chose The Times for the serial rights rather than the magazine Metropolitan, and with advances from his English and American publishers, he told a guest in 1921 that it was exhilarating to write for half a crown a word (a pound for eight words). The title was settled as The World Crisis rather than Sea Power and the World Crisis. Dawson of The Times had suggested The Great Amphibian. The question of copyright and of quoting confidential government documents was raised by Bonar Law, but other authors like Fisher, Jellicoe and Kitchener had done so. Successive volumes were published from 1923 to 1931 by Thornton Butterworth in England and Scribner’s in America. The first (American) advances enabled him to purchase a new Rolls-Royce in August 1921. In 1922, he had purchased Chartwell, a large house requiring expensive repairs and rebuilding. He justified his position and actions such as on the Dardanelles Campaign. The reception was generally good, but an unnamed colleague said, "Winston has written an enormous book about himself, and called it The World Crisis." Arthur Balfour said he was reading Churchill’s "autobiography disguised as a history of the universe".