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Churchill: The Man Behind the Myths

Weekend All-Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, March 19, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0684
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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"The Roaring Lion", Winston Churchill portrait by Yousuf Karsh, 1941 (cropped)

In many ways, as he once said of Russia, Winston Churchill is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In a wide-ranging daylong examination, Kevin Matthews, a historian at George Mason University, discusses Churchill’s tempestuous career as an army officer, war correspondent, member of Parliament, and minister in both Liberal and Conservative governments to reveal a man too often hidden by the post-World War II myths that surround him.

9:30 a.m.–12 p.m.  The Path to Prime Minister

Winston Churchill wrote that when he became prime minister in 1940, he felt “that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial.” Matthews traces how, despite many setbacks, Britain’s wartime leader became uniquely prepared to lead his nation in a cause many at the time thought hopeless. Instead, as Churchill later recalled, it became “their finest hour.”  

12–12:30 p.m.   Break

12:30–3 p.m.   Warlord

Matthews reviews Churchill’s leadership during World War II; the impact of his oratory (as JFK put it, “he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle”); his relationship with Franklin Roosevelt and the creation of the Anglo-American alliance; and his dealings with Josef Stalin. He also analyzes his mistakes as a war leader, from the doomed attempt to save Greece from Axis attack to his opposition to the D-Day landings in Normandy.

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