Welcome to my website. As a result of the efforts of the Digital Internet Group, based in London, Ontario, Canada, I am able to present each of my eighty-one books, and also tell something of how I came to write them, and what they contain.
I was born in London in October 1936. As my working life has been that of a historian, it is natural for me to look back over my life in historical terms.
My birth took place in the last few weeks of the reign of King Edward VIII. The King, who was also Emperor of India, was soon to abdicate, in order to marry an American divorcee, Mrs Simpson. They became Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
I was to tell the story of the part played by Winston Churchill in the abdication crisis in WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, THE PROPHET OF TRUTH, 1922-1939, which is volume five of the Churchill biography. Between 1968 and 1988 I wrote six volumes of the life of Churchill, about which I shall write later in these pages.
The Second World War broke out when I was two-and-a-half years old. Nine months later, as Britain faced a German invasion, I was evacuated to Canada. I have vivid memories of the transatlantic crossing, from Liverpool to Quebec, although I was not yet four years old.
I also designed and published FIRST WORLD WAR ATLAS, which has recently (2002) been reprinted. It looks not only at the battles, but at the diplomacy, and the economics, and the human aspects of the war, and at the peace treaties which followed it.
In 1955 I left school. After a mere two weeks footloose
and fancy free in London - theatre-going
It was Mrs B.K. Nehru - who asked me to call her "Auntie
Fori", who nursed me back to health after I was taken ill during that
1958 Indian visit. The book consisted of 140 letters that I wrote to her
over a two-year period. It is called LETTERS
TO AUNTIE FORI: THE 5,000-YEAR HISTORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR
FAITH. Auntie Fori had been born in Hungary, of Jewish parents, but
had spent half a century in India, where I have visited her several times
since that first encounter in 1958.
THE ROUTLEDGE ATLAS OF THE
HOLOCAUST is still in print. The most recent editions have a full
index of all the places that appear on the 316 maps (the first publisher
would not give me the number of pages needed for a comprehensive index).
This atlas has been published in German and French.
In 1961 I was elected a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford, which became my academic home and research base for almost twenty years. A year after my election - in tandem with my Oxford position - Churchill's son Randolph asked me to join his research team on the life of his father, which he had just begun to write. I began work the junior on a team of five. For the next six years I would live at Oxford, and teach and write at Merton College, but be prepared to travel across country to work in the Churchill archive whenever Randolph summoned me.
Randolph Churchill taught me many aspects of the historian's craft. He was a hard taskmaster but a generous one. Discoveries in archives located far from the Churchill papers were greeted by his enthusiasm. He also encouraged me to go on with my own independent research and writing. Two years after I began work for him, I published, BRITAIN AND GERMANY BETWEEN THE WARS, an edition of letters, diaries and documents covering every aspect of British foreign policy during the inter-war years. While still working for Randolph Churchill, I published THE EUROPEAN POWERS, 1900-1945. It was translated into Spanish, and, in 2002, reprinted in English.
While working for Randolph, making use of my time in Oxford, I also edited the letters, speeches and correspondence of a First World War pacifist, who had gone to prison rather than fight. His name was Clifford Allen. Later, as Lord Allen of Hurtwood, he was active in the appeasement debate. His wife Marjorie, whose own career had included much pioneering work for legislation to protect children, gave me full access to his voluminous correspondence. I called the book, after a phrase that Clifford Allen had used in one of his letters describing his lonely position in public life: PLOUGH MY OWN FURROW: THE STORY OF LORD ALLEN OF HURTWOOD.
A seminar that I gave at Oxford in 1965 led me to publish THE ROOTS OF APPEASEMENT. In it I included, as appendices, several previously unpublished documents. Also, to help my students, I had been drawing sketch maps of historical events, changing borders, and the conflicts of the European powers, as well as their imperial activities. This became my first published atlas, RECENT HISTORY ATLAS, 1860-1960.
In 1965 I took a four-month sabbatical from my Oxford and Churchill work, to be a visiting Professor to the University of South Carolina, at Columbia, South Carolina, the State capital. While I was there, Churchill died, and, with Randolph's approval, I wrote a short, single-volume life of Churchill for Oxford University Press. Randolph read my book in proof, an unnerving experience for me, to have a son read what I had written about his father. But he was full of encouragement. This book is called WINSTON CHURCHILL, and was my first book about Britain's war leader. It was published in the United States as well as in Britain.
I also edited a book showing Churchill both from his own
words, and the words of his contemporaries. This book was for an American
series called Great Lives Observed: my volume was entiled, simply, CHURCHILL.
It was followed by a second Great Lives Observed volume which I greatly
enjoyed compiling, about Britan's Prime Minister in the last two years
of the First World War, LLOYD GEORGE.
I would have edited a third volume in the series, on Mahatma Gandhi, but
in the year that my LLOYD GEORGE was
published - 1968 - Randolph died, and I was asked to continue his work.
I did so, writing six of the eight volumes of the Churchill biography,
entitled WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, and compiling
a series of document volumes to accompany and supplement the main narrative.
I had been working for some years on developing my historical atlas method and presentaion. One of those who encouraged me in this work in its early days was Arnold Toynbee. In 1968 two new historical atlases finally saw the light of day: what are now THE ROUTLEDGE ATLAS OF BRITISH HISTORY and THE ROUTLEDGE ATLAS OF AMERICAN HISTORY. Regularly updated, as new history unfolds, their most recent new editions were published in both Britain and the United States in 2002.
Books for high school students have always been something I wanted to write. In 1969 I published a folder of text and documents and facsimiles and illustrations in the Jackdaw series, entitled WINSTON CHURCHILL, and three years later a second Jackdaw, THE COMING OF WAR. In 1971, between the two Jackdaws I published a short book for schools, SECOND WORLD WAR. I also worked with my daughter Natalie, during a visit to Israel, to draw the maps and take the photographs for a CHILDREN'S ILLUSTRATED BIBLE ATLAS.
Following Randolph Churchill's death, I was asked to take over his task and to complete the Churchill biography – both the main and the document volumes. The Churchill archive was brought to Oxford for my use, and housed in the deepest underground floor of the Bodleian Library. With that treasure trove as my base, I travelled to public and private archives throughout Britain. I also corresponded with many hundreds of Churchill's contemporaries, and came to know a good number of them as friends. Their recollections, and the archival material which they possessed, became an integral part of my Churchill work.
My own first volume after Randolph's death, and the third volume of the biography, was published in 1971: WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: THE CHALLENGE OF WAR, 1914-1916. It was followed a year later by a two-volume set of documents, known as Companion Volumes to the biography. They were entitled WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, VOLUME THREE, COMPANION VOLUME - Part One and Part Two.
These "companion volumes" of documents contained a wealth of personal and official correspondence, written by Churchill, and sent to him, as well as transcripts of the many secret meetings at which policy was worked out, including that of the ill-fated attack on the Dardanelles and the subsequent Gallipoli landings. I also published all his private letters from the trenches of the Western Front, where he served during the first five months of 1916: letters to his wife, to his mother, to his close friends, and to his former political colleagues, whom he was desperate to rejoin.
My next Churchill biography volume, Volume Four, was WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: WORLD IN TORMENT, 1917-1922. It was published in 1975, followed by a three-part documentary companion, WINSTON S. CHURCHILL, VOLUME FOUR, COMPANION VOLUME - Parts One, Two and Three.
Volume Five, WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: THE PROPHET OF TRUTH, 1923-1939, was published in 1976. It was followed by three separate document volumes. The first was THE EXCHEQUER YEARS, 1922-1929, the second, THE WILDERNESS YEARS, 1929-1935 and the third THE COMING OF WAR, 1936-1939. Astonishingly, each of these three document volumes can now fetch up to $1,000 on the second hand marketplace. I am hoping that they may be reprinted before too long, by the original British publishers, William Heinemann, in tandem with Hillsdale College, Michigan, which has an impressive Churchill component in its curriculum, and where, since 2002, I have been a Distinguished Fellow.
In 1983 I published Volume Six of the Churchill biography, WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: FINEST HOUR, 1939-1941. This has three document volumes, which have been published as THE CHURCHILL WAR PAPERS. Each has its own title. The first is: AT THE ADMIRALTY, September 1939 - May 1940. the second is "NEVER SURRENDER", May - December 1940. The third is: THE EVER-WIDENING WAR, 1941.
Volume Seven of the Churchill biography: WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: ROAD TO VICTORY, was published in 1986.
Volume Eight of the Churchill biography, WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: NEVER DESPAIR, 1945-1965, was published in 1988.
While teaching at Oxford and working for Randolph, I had
published BRITAIN AND GERMANY BETWEEN THE
WARS, an edition of documents with commentary. In it, I included
some letters and documents from Sir Horace Rumbold, the British ambassador
in Berlin when Hitler came to power. I was so struck by the vivid
quality of Rumbold’s reports that I went to see his son's collection of
family papers. The result was a full-length biography, SIR HORACE
RUMBOLD, PORTRAIT OF A DIPLOMAT, published in 1973. It is one of the books
of which I am most proud.
Having completed six volumes of the full biography, and the document volumes spanning the years 1914 to 1939, I bought a new fountain pen and several bottles of ink and set about writing a single-volume biography of Churchill, CHURCHILL: A LIFE. This was the culmination of my Churchill work, and enabled me to focus on both Churchill the social reformer and Churchill the war leader.
Many people had asked me to tell the story of writing the Churchill biography. It has been a fascinating thirty-year journey. The result of these requests, from friends and strangers, was IN SEARCH OF CHURCHILL. My son David took the photographs for the final chapter, about Chartwell.
History and geography continued to be intertwined in my work. Approached by Jews who had fled from Arab lands in 1948, at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, who felt that their story was not widely enough known, in 1976 I published a small atlas, THE JEWS OF ARAB LANDS: THEIR HISTORY IN MAPS. The first edition was entirely maps, the second edition was illustrated. A similar approach that same year, on behalf of Jews who were being refused permission to leave the Soviet Union, led to another illustrated atlas, THE JEWS OF RUSSIA: THEIR HISTORY IN MAPS AND PHOTOGRAPHS. I incorporated the maps in both these atlases into all subsequent editions of THE ROUTLEDGE ATLAS OF JEWISH HISTORY.
After spending many months in Israel, teaching first at Tel Aviv University and then at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I researched two separate projects, one an atlas and the other a history. The atlas was entitled JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED HISTORY ATLAS. Published in 1977, I produced a new edition in 1993, bringing it up to date. The history was EXILE AND RETURN: THE EMERGENCE OF JEWISH STATEHOOD.
Jerusalem was to be the focus of two more of my books, one, which spanned the nineteenth century, was called JERUSALEM: REBIRTH OF A CITY. It was published in 1985. Eleven years later I published JERUSALEM IN THE TWENTETH CENTURY. Both books were illustrated, and contained – as do all my books – a number of maps specially drawn for them. Widening my horizons beyond Jerusalem – the disputed capital of Israel – in 1998 I published ISRAEL: A HISTORY. It is a sustained narrative of a long struggle and great achievements in the face of many odds, some self-inflicted. It is the only history that I have written about a country: a sort of geographic biography – with controversial politics and hard-fought wars as a recurring theme.
Work in a number of archives in Britain, the United States, Israel and Switzerland led me to publish AUSCHWITZ AND THE ALLIES in 1981. It examines the controversial topic of the Allied response to news of the Holocaust, and to the appeals to bomb the railway lines leading to the camps. It is arguably my most controversial book, and certainly my most hard-hitting. Twenty years after publication, it is still in print. It has been published in both German and Hebrew.
A visit to the Soviet Union, in order to make a public report on the struggle of Soviet Jews to leave the Soviet Union led to one of the books that most affected me personally, JEWS OF HOPE: THE PLIGHT OF SOVIET JEWRY TODAY. I felt that many of those I wrote about had become my friends, even during a short visit, and I was to visit many of them again before they were eventually allowed to leave.
While in the Soviet Union, I met many friends of the imprisoned Jewish activist, Anatoly Shcharansky. They, and his wife Avital, who was in Israel, encouraged me to write about him, in the hope of adding yet more ammunition to the long battle for his release. The result was SHARANSKY: HERO OF OUR TIME. With Churchill and Rumbold, it is one of three full-length biographies that I have attempted in my writing career. Digging out the facts was hard, but the result was both a rounded biography and a campaign document. That gave me particular pleasure.
I put my Churchill hat on again when asked to give the British Academy Thank Offering for Britain lectures. There were three of them, published together as a small volume, CHURCHILL’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. This was published in 1981. That same year I completed a study of the most difficult decade in Churchill’s life, WINSTON CHURCHILL: THE WILDERNESS YEARS. It went in tandem with a television series of the same name, starring Robert Hardy as Churchill and Sean Phillips as his wife Clementine.
One of Churchill’s friendships, with the literary agent Emery Reves, inspired me to edit the letters and messages they exchanged over a period of more than twenty years. The book, WINSTON CHURCHILL AND EMERY REVES: CORRESPONDENCE, was published in 1997, sixty years after the two men had first met.
Friendship plays a large part also in this author’s motivation. Encouraged by a neighbour, Sir Harry Solomon, I drew seventy-two maps for an ATLAS OF BRITISH CHARITIES. Among the maps was one showing Princess Diana’s charitable work.
Friendships have also led me, during the last few years, to write four more books on Holocaust themes. The first arose as a result of a request by a group of teenage survivors, men and women who call themselves ‘The Boys’, mostly Polish-born, who were brought to Britain immediately after the war. The book is called THE BOYS.
The second book had its origins in the request by twelve MA students at University College, London, whom I was teaching for the year, and who asked me to take them to the places that I had been teaching about. I was flattered to be asked, planned the journey, bought the train tickets, booked the hotels, and kept a diary of the journey. The diary was published as HOLOCAUST JOURNEY: TRAVELLING IN SEARCH OF THE PAST. I illustrated it with my own maps and photographs. It always gives me pleasure when strangers write to say that they have used the book on their own journeys to the cities and camps that we visited, including Berlin, Warsaw, Prague and Auschwitz.
The third book was the first of my books for which I prepared colour maps, and also colour illustrations. Called NEVER AGAIN: A HISTORY OF THE HOLOCAUST, it has been published in Italian, French, Dutch, German and Lithuanian. It is intended to serve as an introductory course on the Holocaust, with each two-page spread devoted to a single theme. Friendship with young people, many of them the children of my friends, who wanted to have a short introductory book on the Holocaust, led to my embarking on this task.
The fourth book on a Holocaust theme that I wrote in the past decade had been long in the making. I began collecting material for it in 1974, when by chance I was present at Oscar Schindler’s funeral in Jerusalem. The book, for which I then began collecting material, was published in Britain in October 2002 and in the United States in February 2003. It is called THE RIGHTEOUS: THE UNSUNG HEROS OF THE HOLOCAUST. It tells the story of the twenty thousand non-Jews, mostly devout Christians, who risked their lives to save Jews. Many of my Jewish friends and acquaintances and correspondents who were themselves saved by non-Jews, greatly encouraged me to undertake this book.
As a celebration of Jewish life and achievements, as well as recognition of the Jewish struggles, at the beginning of the Twentieth-First Century I published THE JEWISH CENTURY: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY. It has appeared in German, Dutch, French, Italian, Danish and Russian – the first book of mine to be published in Moscow.
As a culmination of forty years as a historian, I published a three-volume history of the Twentieth Century. I had begun work on it a decade before the century came to an end, and published THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, volume one (1900-1933) in 1997, followed by THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, volume two (1933-1951) in 1999, and the final volume, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, volume three (1952-1999) in 1999. Two years later I worked to reduce the three volumes to a single volume, HISTORY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, which was published in hardback in 2001 and in paperback in 2002.
In May 2004, a year after the website came into being, my book D-Day was published, for the sixtieth anniversary of the Normandy Landings. A number of those who took part in the landings sent me their recollections. This book was followed by Righteous Gentiles: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust, which told the story of twenty thousand Christians who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Many of those who were saved sent me detailed accounts of their rescuers.
At the beginning of 2006, HarperCollins published my most recent book on a Holocaust theme, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction, in which I was able to weave in recollections that had been sent to me by more than fifty of those who had witnessed Kristallnacht in their towns in Germany.
In my Churchill endeavours, three books have been published since the creation of the website. The first Churchill at War: His 'Finest Hour' in Photographs, 1940-1945. The second was Churchill's War Leadership (entitled in Canada 'Continue to Pester, Nag and Bite'). The third was Churchill and America. This last is a study of Churchill's sixty-year 'love affair' with the United States, in all its moods, setbacks and successes.
The summer of 2006 saw the publication, after my fifth visit to the Western Front in thirty-five years, of The Battle of the Somme: The Heroism and Horror of War. It was published simultaneously in Britain, the United States and Canada, on the ninetieth anniversary of that five-and-a-half month battle, which began on 1 July 1916. I had long wanted to tell the story of the Somme, which has been much recounted, but whose details are of endless fascination and sadness, a microcosm of the nature of armed conflict, and of the human dimension in war.
As in all my books, I will try in the new one to focus on individuals, whether those active on the high plateau of policymaking, or on the low ground (and sea and air) of combat and courage. My aim has always been to write history from the human perspective, never to neglect the person known as "the common man" - whether man or woman, or child, and to remember that when Winston Churchill was asked him why the Twentieth Century was called the century of the common man, he replied: 'It is called the century of the common man because in it the common man has suffered most.'