History Weekends 2018: 5 minutes with Andrew Roberts

Andrew Roberts has been researching and writing a cradle-to-grave biography of Winston Churchill for four years. At our York and Winchester History weekends this autumn, he will share some of the evidence he has drawn on for his new take on Britain's legendary leader

Andrew Roberts.

We caught up with Andrew Roberts to find out what we can expect from his talk, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, at our History Weekends in York and Winchester this autumn…

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Q: What can audiences look forward to in your talk at our History Weekends in York and Winchester?

A: A re-interpretation of a very, very well-covered area of biography. I’ve been writing about Churchill-related themes for 30 years now and have published five books with Churchill in the title or subtitle. So I feel “as if all my past life has been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial”.

Q: Why are you so interested in this area of history?

A: It’s the existential story of our country. Does it survive or doesn’t it? Who can’t be interested in it?

Q: Tell us something that might surprise or shock us about this period of history…

A: Out of every five Germans killed in combat on the battlefields of the Second World War, four died on the Eastern Front. So the entire war effort of the Western Allies – Britain, the USA, Canada, the Free French, etc – was expended on killing the fifth German.

Winston Churchill, 1941. (Photo by War Archive/Alamy Stock Photo)

Q: What historical fact blows your mind?

A: In the calendar year 1944, when the Germans and Russians produced 40,000 warplanes each, and Britain 28,000, the USA produced 98,000 warplanes, almost as many as the next three largest warplane-producing nations combined.

Such extraordinary production figures were also seen in other areas of war material production. It’s no wonder that Hitler signed his own death warrant when he declared war on the USA.

Q: Which three historical figures would you invite to a dinner party and why?

A: Churchill – to ask him why he nicknamed President Franklin Roosevelt ‘Don Quixote’? Napoleon – to ask what were the ‘zigzags’ that Josephine did to him in bed. Queen Elizabeth I – because everything she said or did is fascinating.

Former British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) gives his victory salute to a group of school boys, c1953. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Former British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) gives his victory salute to a group of school boys, c1953. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Q: If you had to live in any historical time period, which would you choose and why?

A: Assuming modern medicine and relative wealth, it has to be the 1700–89. The art, architecture, music, literature, sense of possibility and discovery, Enlightenment, political issues and personalities would never afford a dull day.

Q: Which history book(s) would you recommend (excluding your own)?

A: Alfred Duff Cooper’s Talleyrand (2001)Kenneth Rose’s King George V (2000); and Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Catherine the Great and Potemkin: The Imperial Love Affair (2016).

Andrew Roberts will be speaking about Winston Churchill at our Winchester History Weekend on Sunday 7 October and at our York History Weekend on Sunday 21 October. To find out more about his talk and to book tickets, click here.

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Andrew is also president of Cliveden Literary Festival, which takes place from 29–30 September 2018. He will discuss Winston Churchill in the festival’s Walking with Destiny panel on Sunday 30 September 2018.