London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1927. First edition. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, first printing, of the fourth volume of Winston Churchill's monumental history of The First World War, elusive thus in a damaged but nonetheless substantially intact original dust jacket. 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 final two volumes covering the postwar years 1918-1928 (The Aftermath) and the Eastern theatre (The Eastern Front).
Many consider the British edition of The World Crisis 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 blistering, and the contents prone to spotting and toning. The third and fourth volumes, covering the years 1916-1918, were issued as “Part I” and “Part II” respectively. The events of the 1916-1918 volumes, of which this is the second, include Churchill's time at the Front, his return to the Cabinet, and Armistice Day, marking the formal end of hostilities.
Jacketed copies of any World Crisis first editions are elusive. The 1916-1918 volumes present a special problem, as the paper used for the jackets proved particularly brittle, leading the surviving jackets to commonly split and fragment. While no exception, this dust jacket is still better than most we encounter. Notably, there are no hinge or flap fold splits, so what remains of the jacket is in one piece. There are, however, significant losses, including chips along the top and bottom edges to a maximum depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm), as well as two irregular holes to the spine, the first 1.25 inches tall (3.2 cm) affecting the left side of the author’s name, the second a smaller, 375 inch (.95 cm) hole at the center front hinge. The jacket shows light soiling to the faces and uniform toning to the spine. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removal, archival cover. The volume beneath is very good. The blue cloth binding is tight with sharp corners, despite a little superficial scuffing to the rear cover, modest shelf wear to extremities, and a little blistering of the cloth along the hinges and at the center of the front cover. The contents retain a crisp, unread feel, with no previous ownership marks and no spotting, more than compensating for some age-toning and a little shelf dust to the top edges.
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. 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)
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. 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(III-2).a, Woods/ICS A31(aa), Langworth p.103. Item #006709