Item #006661 The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915. Winston S. Churchill.
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915
The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915

The World Crisis, a full set of six British first edition, first printings, inscribed and dated by Churchill five days prior to publication in the 1915 volume to the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill for the Dardanelles disaster and forced his resignation from the Cabinet in 1915

London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1923-1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This full, six-volume, British first edition, first printing set of Winston S. Churchill’s history of the First World War is anchored by a remarkable association copy. The second, pivotal, 1915 volume – the volume in which Churchill’s perspective on the disastrous Dardanelles offensive is recounted – is inscribed and dated by Churchill prior to publication to Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill and forced his resignation in 1915.

Churchill inscribed this presentation copy five days prior to publication in five lines on the blank recto preceding the half title. The inscription reads: “H. H. Asquith | from | Winston S. Churchill | Oct 25. 1923.” Churchill inscribed various volumes of The World Crisis to various important associations. Inscribed 1915 volumes are generally scarcer than later inscribed volumes. Few inscribed copies, if any, are as significant – and as pointed.

Asquith nearly ruined Churchill. Then he lost his wartime premiership to David Lloyd George, under whom Churchill was exonerated and eventually restored to the Cabinet. By 1923, Churchill had served under Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, and Colonial Secretary. Yet despite the substantial redemption, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. In 1923, Asquith published his own war memoirs, The Genesis of the War, “which had none of the panache or indiscretion of Churchill’s”. (ODNB) Churchill’s own history proved more widely read and better remembered. And – though it took a quarter of a century and a Second World War – Churchill eventually proved the decisive wartime leader that Asquith never was.

One can regard this inscribed presentation copy as an expression of respectful bygones by Churchill to his former Prime Minister. Churchill’s career was characterized by frequent magnanimity and collaboration with political foes. But one can also regard this inscription in this particular volume as a very personal rebuke and refutation. The interpretation is open to debate. The importance of the association is unequivocal.

The inscribed first edition, first printing 1915 volume is in better than very good condition. The binding is square, tight, and clean. Modest shelf wear is substantially confined to extremities, including slight bumps to the bottom edge and upper right of the rear cover, a few slightly softened corners, and wrinkled spine ends. Shelf presentation is nonetheless superior, the spine nicely rounded with no creasing, no color-shift to the navy cloth, and vivid spine gilt. The boards are substantially free of the usual scuffing, showing only tiny spots of minor blistering. The contents are age-toned but clean with only incidental spotting confined to the prelims.

The other five first edition, first printing volumes in this set are very good or better. All five bindings are square and tight with bright spine gilt. Modest shelf wear is primarily confined to extremities. The 1911-1914 boards show some light spots of discoloration. The first edition of The Aftermath is particularly prone to blistering of the cloth. Notably, this copy is not only bright and sharp, but shows only a hint of the customary blistering adjacent to the hinges. The Eastern Front is also a superior example with all illustrations and maps intact, including the color folding map at p.368. The contents are all cleaner than usual for the edition. Minor spotting is generally confined to prelims and page edges, and virtually absent in The Eastern Front. We find no previous ownership marks in the set other than the author’s inscription in the 1915 volume.

The set is housed in a navy buckram slipcase with gilt title, author, publication dates, and the Churchill coat of arms in gilt on the right side.

PLEASE NOTE THAT A CONSIDERABLY MORE DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THIS ITEM IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

Reference: Cohen A69.2(I).b, (II).a, (III-1&2).a, (IV).b, (V).a; Woods/ICS A31(ab); Langworth p.105. Item #006661

This is a full, six-volume, British first edition, first printing set of Winston S. Churchill’s history of the First World War, anchored by a remarkable association copy. The second, pivotal, 1915 volume – the volume in which Churchill’s perspective on the disastrous Dardanelles offensive is recounted – is inscribed and dated by Churchill prior to publication to Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister who scapegoated Churchill and forced his resignation in 1915.

Churchill inscribed this presentation copy five days prior to publication in five lines on the blank recto preceding the half title. The inscription reads: “H. H. Asquith | from | Winston S. Churchill | Oct 25. 1923.” Churchill inscribed various volumes of The World Crisis to various important associations. Inscribed 1915 volumes are generally scarcer than later inscribed volumes. Few inscribed copies, if any, are as significant – and as pointed.

Asquith had nearly ruined Churchill. Then he had lost his wartime premiership to David Lloyd George, under whom Churchill was exonerated and eventually restored to the Cabinet. By 1923, Churchill had served under David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, and Colonial Secretary. Yet despite the substantial redemption, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered; Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history. In 1923, Asquith published his own war memoirs, The Genesis of the War, “which had none of the panache or indiscretion of Churchill’s”. (ODNB) Churchill’s own history would prove the more widely read and better remembered. And – though it took a quarter of a century and a Second World War to prove it – Churchill eventually proved the decisive wartime leader that Asquith never was.

Regarding the Dardanelles disaster and his forced resignation, years later, Churchill’s wife, Clementine, recalled to Churchill’s official biographer “I thought he would never get over the Dardanelles; I thought he would die of grief.” (Gilbert, Vol. III, p.473) In a profile of Asquith published more than twenty years later, Churchill wrote of Asquith and the Dardanelles: “Unhappily for himself and all others, he did not thrust to the full length of his convictions… Asquith did not hesitate to… end the political lives of half his colleagues… leave me to bear the burden of the Dardanelles, and sail on victoriously at the head of a Coalition Government.” (Churchill, Great Contemporaries, p.148)

One can regard this inscribed presentation copy as an expression of respectful bygones by Churchill to his former Prime Minister. Churchill’s career was characterized by frequent magnanimity and collaboration with political foes. But one can also regard this inscription in this particular volume as a very personal rebuke and literary repudiation. The interpretation is open to debate. The importance of the association is unequivocal.

The edition

In October 1911, Asquith appointed then-36-year-old Winston Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill entered the post with the brief to change war strategy and ensure the readiness of the world’s most powerful navy. He did both. Even Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, with whom Churchill had been variously at odds for nearly two decades, told Churchill on his final day as First Lord “Well, there is one thing at any rate they cannot take from you. The Fleet was ready." (Churchill, The World Crisis: 1915, p.391) Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a naval campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately proved disastrous – a strategic initiative fully supported by Asquith – 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.

Characteristically, Churchill not only played a uniquely critical, controversial, and varied role in the “War to end all wars”, but wrote about it, too. The World Crisis was published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931. The first four volumes span the 1911-1918 war years – 1911-1914, 1915, and two 1916-1918 volumes. Not surprisingly, the tumultuous and, for Churchill, disastrous year of the Dardanelles offensive - 1915 – is the only year that consumes an entire volume. Two supplemental volumes complete the work. The fifth volume, The Aftermath, covers the postwar years 1918-1928. As the title implies, The Eastern Front, the sixth and final volume, covers the eastern theatre.

The British first editions are handsome, pleasingly substantial, the text featuring generous margins and informative shoulder notes that summarize the contents of each page. Nonetheless, the smooth navy cloth bindings proved quite susceptible to wear and blistering of the cloth, the contents quite prone to spotting and toning.

Condition

The inscribed first edition, first printing 1915 volume is in better than very good condition. The binding is square, tight, and clean. Modest shelf wear is substantially confined to extremities, including slight bumps to the bottom edge and upper right of the rear cover, a few slightly softened corners, and wrinkled spine ends. Shelf presentation is nonetheless superior, the spine nicely rounded with no creasing, no color-shift to the navy cloth, and vivid spine gilt. The boards are substantially free of the usual scuffing, showing only tiny spots of minor blistering. The contents are quite respectable for the edition, age-toned but clean with only incidental spotting that appears confined to the prelims.

The other five first edition, first printing volumes in this set are very good or better. All five bindings are square and tight with bright spine gilt. Modest shelf wear is primarily confined to extremities. The 1911-1914 boards show some light spots of discoloration, perhaps from fleeting and incidental moisture exposure. The first edition of The Aftermath is particularly prone to blistering of the cloth. Notably, this copy of The Aftermath is not only particularly bright and sharp, but shows only a hint of the customary blistering adjacent to the hinges. The Eastern Front is also a superior example with all illustrations and maps intact, including the color folding map at p.368. The contents are all cleaner than usual for the edition. Minor spotting is generally confined to prelims and page edges, and virtually absent in The Eastern Front. We find no previous ownership marks in the set other than the author’s inscription in the 1915 volume.

The set is housed in a navy buckram slipcase with gilt title, author, publication dates, and the Churchill coat of arms in gilt on the right side.

The association

Herbert Henry Asquith, first Earl of Oxford and Asquith (1852-1928) served as Prime Minister from 1908-1916. He was the first Prime Minister to promote Winston S. Churchill to the Cabinet and under whom Churchill served the longest. He was also arguably the most destructive to Churchill’s reputation and ambitions.

Twenty-two years Churchill’s senior and born to a middle-class family in the wool trade, Asquith belonged to a different generation and social class than Churchill. Asquith began as a brilliant Oxford scholar with subsequent careers at the bar and in journalism before engaging as a participant in politics, first elected to Parliament in 1886. He served Gladstone as Home Secretary from 1892-1895. The year after young Winston Churchill crossed the aisle to become a Liberal, Asquith became Campbell-Bannerman’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, serving from 1905-1908.

Upon becoming Prime Minister in 1908, Asquith appointed the “radical twins” David Lloyd George and Winston S. Churchill to the Cabinet, to the Exchequer and Board of Trade respectively. At 33, Churchill became one of the youngest British politicians appointed to a Cabinet. By appointing Lloyd George and Churchill, Asquith “reinforced the radical and activist side of Liberalism.” (ODNB) This impetus drove a progressive menu of reforms culminating in political battles over “The People’s Budget” and two General Elections in 1910. Then, in October 1911, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty.

Churchill had been First Lord of the Admiralty for nearly three years before the start of the First World War, during which time he had worked feverishly to prepare the fleet, converting it from coal to oil, building high speed ships with 15-inch guns, and establishing the Royal Naval Air Service. Given the investment in the fleet there was pressure to ensure its active use in the war effort. “By the end of December 1914 several plans had come forward for finding a quicker means to victory than attrition and eventual breakthrough on the western front. At the cabinet of 13 January 1915 Asquith agreed to Churchill’s plan for the navy to force the Dardanelles and thus make possible a much more effective allied effort on the eastern front.” (ODNB) The Dardanelles campaign began in February 1915. “Brilliant in its conception, the assault… was under-equipped and woefully executed.” (Otte, Finest Hour 188, 2020) In the end, the Anglo-French naval command turned back after losing several ships to mines. Doubling down, the War Council decided that Allied infantry should capture the Gallipoli Peninsula. Thereafter, the Secretary of War, Kitchener, dithered and delayed in deployment of forces. (Roberts, Walking with Destiny, pp.205-208) The failure and slaughter that ensued is well-known. The process that produced the disaster was summed up by Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the War Council, thus: “Behind each episode there lay a whole history of rumour, contradiction, conjecture, planning, preliminary movement discussion, decision, indecision, order, counter-order, before the climax was reached, often in a welter of bloodshed and destruction.” (Bell, Churchill and the Dardanelles, p.357)

When an inevitable leadership crisis for Asquith’s Government emerged in May, a new coalition Government was formed. The Conservatives demanded that Churchill – who had abandoned their Party in 1904, bedeviled them ever since, and become regarded by the Tories as a traitor to his class – be forced out. “Asquith, Lloyd George and Bonar Law agreed to form a new coalition government, on condition that Churchill and Lord Haldane, the Lord Chancellor and Asquith’s close friend… were removed from their posts.” (WWD, p.214)

Churchill, who mistakenly believed that Lloyd George still supported him, revealed the depth of his distress: “I know I am hurt, but as yet I cannot tell how badly. Later on I shall know the extent to which I am damaged, but now I only feel the shock.” (WWD, p.216) Churchill’s wife, Clementine, sent an admirably sincere, albeit intemperate and emotionally charged, letter to Asquith “in a last-ditch attempt to save her husband.” Asquith not only declined to reply, but read the letter aloud to lunch guests. (WWD, p.217)

Churchill had not been a distant subordinate. Asquith’s social circle included the Churchills and “He, his wife, and elder daughter were our guests on the Admiralty yacht for a month at a time in the three summers before the War.” Indeed, Violet Asquith would become a lifelong and devoted friend of Churchill, authoring a book of recollections about him the year he died (Winston Churchill as I Knew Him, 1965)

Moreover, both men suffered during the First World War, ostensibly reason for bonds to mend and endure. Churchill, of course, saw both his political and corporeal lives threatened – the former in his fall from the Cabinet, the second during time spent in the trenches at the Front. Asquith suffered not only the loss of his wartime premiership to David Lloyd George, but also the loss of a son. In his own sojourn at the Front “in November and December of 1915” Churchill saw Asquith’s eldest son, Raymond. Like his father, Raymond was an accomplished Oxford scholar. “When the Grenadiers strode into the crash and thunder of the Somme, he went to his fate cool, poised, resolute, matter-of-fact, debonair.” (GC, p.139) Asquith’s second surviving son “rose in the War from Sub-Lieutenant to Brigadier-General, gaining with repeated wounds amid the worst fighting the Distinguished Service Order with two clasps, and the Military Cross.” (GC, p.138)

Churchill praised Asquith’s intellect, his “orderly, disciplined mind”, and the fact that “A carefully-marshalled argument, cleanly printed, read by him at leisure, often won his approval and thereafter commanded his decisive support.” (GC, p.140.) Nonetheless, no doubt with the Dardanelles in mind, Churchill also noted, “…there was also a sense of scorn, lightly and not always completely veiled, for arguments, for personalities and even for events which did not conform to the pattern he had with so much profound knowledge and reflection decidedly adopted.” (GC, p.137)

Had Churchill merely been forced from the Admiralty, with the prospect of political rehabilitation he could have remained sanguine. But, being reconciled to the powerless sinecure of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was a distinctly un-Churchillian prescription for recovery. And it was far from the only blow Asquith delivered. In July 1915, when Churchill wanted to visit Gallipoli on behalf of the Cabinet, Asquith first endorsed the plan but then failed to overrule Conservative opposition, forcing Churchill to abandon the trip. Months later, when the British Expeditionary Force Commander-in-Chief Sir John French offered Churchill command of a Brigade in France, Asquith did not overrule the objections of Kitchener, forcing Churchill to decline. By the end of 1915, Churchill had made it to the Front and was approved for promotion to Brigadier General – a promotion which Asquith personally vetoed, explicitly suggesting to Sir John French that Churchill be confined to command of a Battalion. (Gilbert, Vol. III, p.611)

Certainly, there seems little evidence that the two men warmly reconciled. In early 1922, Asquith accepted a dinner invitation from Churchill’s sister-in-law but reportedly stipulated that he should not meet Winston. The feelings were apparently mutual. On 4 February 1922, Churchill wrote to his wife, Clementine “…I cannot forget the way he deserted me over the Dardanelles, calmly leaving me to pay the sole forfeit of the policy which at every state he had actively approved. Still less can I forget his intervention after I had left the Government to prevent Bonar Law giving me the East African command and to deprive me of the Brigade to which French had already appointed me. Lastly, there was the vacancy in 1916 at the Ministry of Munitions, when he could quite easily have brought me back, as Lloyd George urged…I am not in the least vindictive… All the same I do not think there can be any doubt on which side the account of injury shows a balance.” (Gilbert, Documents Volume 10, pp.1751-2) This was how matters stood between the two men little more than a year before Churchill inscribed this volume to Asquith. It is a decidedly barbed compliment that Churchill later bestowed in saying “Mr. Asquith was probably one of the greatest peace-time Prime Ministers we have ever had.” (GC, pp.150-51)

The political arcs of each man sharply diverged after this inscription. Two years later, Churchill returned to the Conservative Party and to the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would ultimately suffer still another – and more protracted – period of political isolation before returning to the Admiralty and to war in 1939 and ascending to the first of his two premierships in 1940.

By contrast, although he retained leadership of the Liberal Party, Asquith never regained the premiership after being replaced by Lloyd George in December 1916. And even such leadership as he retained proved hollow, fraught with “an undercurrent of acrimony” with his former subordinate and overshadowed by the electoral eclipse of the Liberals by Labour. “In the last decisive act of his long political career, Asquith put the first Labour government into office by persuading the Liberal Party… that this was the correct course of action”. (ODNB) Asquith was repaid by losing his seat in Parliament to Labour the following year and a subsequent defeat of his nomination for the chancellorship of Oxford. While the once-young-Liberal-lion, Churchill, returned to the Conservative Party, Asquith, the aging progressive who had waged political war with the House of Lords ultimately accepted the Garter and an earldom.

Reference: Cohen A69.2(I).b, (II).a, (III-1&2).a, (IV).b, (V).a; Woods/ICS A31(ab); Langworth p.105.

Price: $30,000.00

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