London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, first printing, of the sixth and final volume of Winston Churchill's monumental history of The First World War. The Eastern Front is both essential to filling a full set of British first editions and scarce, owing to the fact that the first printing was just 5150 copies, as opposed to 7500 for the British first printing of each of the preceding five books. Consequently first editions are not frequently offered outside of sets.
A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, Winston Churchill played a uniquely critical, controversial, and varied role in the “War to end all wars”. Then, being Churchill, he wrote about it. The World Crisis was originally published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, with the first four volumes spanning the war years 1911-1918 and the fifth dealing with the postwar years 1918-1928 (The Aftermath). In proposing this sixth and final book to his publisher, Churchill wrote: "In the previous volumes of the World Crisis I have described only in a few pages the course of events in the Eastern theatre. They have merely been the background of our main drama of the war. But now I think I might write a volume called 'The Eastern Front', which would be separate from but supplementary to our five volume history."
Though the U.S. first edition of The World Crisis preceded the British, many consider the British edition aesthetically superior, with its larger volumes and shoulder notes summarizing the subject of each page. Unfortunately, the smooth navy cloth of the British first editions proved quite susceptible to wear, and the contents prone to spotting and toning.
This copy is in very good plus condition, noteworthy for excellent shelf presentation, suitable for anchoring a superior first edition six-volume set. The blue cloth binding is square and tight, retaining rich navy color and bright spine gilt. Light shelf wear to extremities and a few small scuffs and blemishes to the front cover to not detract from the excellent spine appearance. The contents are bright and complete with a crisp feel and no previous ownership marks. All illustrations and maps are intact, including the color folding map at page 368. What prevents our grading this copy as near fine is spotting, mostly confined to the prelims and page edges, and some soiling to the upper front free endpaper recto and facing pastedown.
In October 1911, aged 36, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. He entered the post with the brief to change war strategy and ensure the readiness of the world’s most powerful navy. He did both. Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a naval campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately proved disastrous, a convergence of factors sealed his political fate. Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign, leaving the Admiralty in May 1915. By November, Churchill resigned even his nominal Cabinet posts to spend the rest of his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches at the Front. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated by the Dardanelles Commission and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience two decades later leading up to the Second World War. And, of course, Churchill famously returned to the Admiralty in September 1939. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. Hence Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
References: Cohen A69.2(V).a, Woods/ICS A31(aa), Langworth p.103. Item #005873