London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1949. Hardcover. This is a vintage, jacketed reprint of Churchill's second published book. This is the fourth and penultimate printing of the bibliographically important 1933 edition. Originally published in 1899, The River War recounts Churchill's experiences and reflections concerning British involvement in the Sudan, including Churchill’s participation in “the last great British cavalry charge”. In 1933, a so-called "Second Cheap Edition" was made from plates of the 1902 edition with a bibliographically significant new introduction by the author explaining that "A generation has grown up which knows little of why we are in Egypt and the Sudan." There were ultimately five printings of this edition with at least seven different dust jackets issued (at least two for the 1933 second printing and two for the final, 1951 printing).
Condition of this jacketed 1949 printing is good plus in a good minus dust jacket. The dark yellow cloth binding is square, clean, and tight with bright spine gilt, the chief defect being a dimple running most of the vertical length of the spine. The contents are bright with spotting primarily confined to the text block fore edge. The sole previous ownership mark is the tiny sticker of a Bristol bookseller affixed to the lower left front pastedown. The unclipped dust jacket retains the original lower front flap price. There are shallow losses to the spine ends and the adjacent upper right rear face and the spine is toned, with a “Y”-shaped closed tear and associated wrinkling to the lower spine. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
In 1883, Mahdist forces of messianic leader Mohammed Ahmed overwhelmed the Egyptian army of British commander William Hicks and Britain ordered withdrawal from the Sudan. In 1885, General Gordon famously lost his life in a doomed defense of Khartoum, where he had been sent to lead evacuation of Egyptian forces. General Kitchener reoccupied the Sudan in 1898. With him was a very young Winston Churchill, who participated in “the last great British cavalry charge” during the battle of Omdurman in September 1898, where the Mahdist forces were decisively defeated. Writing about the British campaign in the Sudan, Churchill - a young officer in a colonial British army - is unusually sympathetic to the Mahdist forces and critical of Imperial cynicism and cruelty. This work offers us the candid perspective of the future 20th century icon from the distinctly 19th century battlefields where Churchill learned to write and earned his early fame. The text is arresting, insightful, powerfully descriptive, and of enduring relevance.
Reference: Cohen A2.4.d, Woods/ICS A2(d.4), Langworth p.33. Item #006868