London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1927. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, first printing, of the fourth volume of Winston Churchill's monumental history of The First World War. 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). 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.
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. This copy approaches very good condition. The navy cloth binding is square and tight with bright spine gilt and no color shift between the covers and spine. The binding shows light overall scuffing and minor blemishes. The contents are respectably bright. Notably for the edition, we find only a hint of unobtrusive spotting confined to the page edges. The sole previous ownership mark is four initials in pencil on the front free endpaper recto.
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.
References: Cohen A69.2(III-2).a, Woods/ICS A31(aa), Langworth p.103. Item #007342