New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing of the second volume of Churchill's acclaimed history of the First World War. In this second volume Churchill provides his perspective on the disastrous Dardanelles offensive – which nearly cost him both his political and corporeal lives.
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). Unusual among Churchill’s many published books, the U.S. first edition of The World Crisis preceded the British, making it the true first edition.
The U.S. editions were bound in a handsome maroon cloth that proved quite susceptible to toning and wear. Moreover, the contents, with their untrimmed fore edges, are quite often spotted and age-toned. This first edition, first printing of the 1915 volume approaches good overall condition, and would be graded far better if not for a structural defect. Two stars on the spine, as well as a blind rule border and gilt printed author and title on the front cover, indicate that this is the more attractive of the two identified first printing binding variants. The maroon cloth binding retains exceptional, unfaded color on both the covers and spine, marred only by a little moisture exposure which left faint mottling at the spine head and upper edges of the covers. The reason for the unfaded binding is evident in the endpapers, which show differential toning consistent with dust jacket flaps, indicating that this copy was long protected by its dust jacket, now lost. The contents are, like the binding, unusually clean and bright. We find no previous ownership marks and no spotting. Age toning is evident only at the text block edges, the top edge also showing some dust soiling. The chief defect of this copy is a split at the rear gutter, causing a full separation of the text block from the binding at the rear endpapers.
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. 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." (The World Crisis: 1915, p.391) 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. 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.
Reference: Cohen A69.1(II).b, Woods/ICS A31(aa), Langworth p.103. Item #007064