Books interview with Boris Johnson: “Churchill was a tremendous bully in some ways, but we needed a bully”

Boris Johnson talks to Matt Elton about his new account of the life of Winston Churchill, from the childhood experiences that motivated him to the legacy of his Second World War leadership

British statesman and writer Winston Churchill, aged 26. Photograph by Elliott & Fry. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Who were the formative figures in Churchill’s early life?

The biggest contribution Churchill’s parents made to history is that they neglected him as a child. There’s no doubt that Churchill’s father, Randolph, had an absolutely mesmeric effect on Winston. He wanted to be like him, and suffered terribly from a sense that he was a disappointment, that his father actively thought he was a failure and a wastrel. I think he longed to prove himself, possibly because some of the things that Randolph said were so wounding, and to show he had the stuff of greatness in him.

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