London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1941. Macmillan issue from first edition plates, only printing. Hardcover. This collectible wartime reprint is the first Macmillan issue of the abridged and revised single-volume edition of Winston Churchill’s acclaimed 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. After completion of the sixth and final volume, a first abridged and revised edition followed, also in 1931. This important edition covering the war years 1911-1918 is not just an abridgement. It incorporates revisions by Churchill with new material, including a whole new chapter on the Battle of the Marne, as well as a new introduction.
This first abridged and revised edition – The World Crisis 1911-1918 – was published by Thornton Butterworth just as Churchill was beginning his “wilderness years” decade. Churchill spent nearly the entirety of the 1930s out of power and out of favor, frequently at odds with both his Government and prevailing public sentiment. But in 1940 Churchill became wartime Prime Minister. And also in 1940, Thornton Butterworth went under and a different publisher, Macmillan, acquired the rights to several of Churchill’s books.
Macmillan produced three printings of The World Crisis 1911-1918 – in 1941, 1942, and 1943. This first Macmillan issue was published in December 1941, the same month the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States finally formally entered the war. This is technically an “issue” and not an “edition” since it was printed from first edition plates.
This first printing of the Macmillan issue of December 1941 is very good in a very good dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is clean, tight, and square with bright spine gilt. The corners are slightly turned, there is light shelf wear to extremities, and a hint of blistering to the cloth along the front cover fore edge. The contents remain respectably bright with no previous ownership marks and light spotting primarily confined to the endpapers and page edges. The dust jacket has a neatly price-clipped lower front flap and fractional loss at the joint and flap fold extremities. The red spine title print remains clearly legible, despite modest overall spine toning. There is an abrasion obscuring part of the print “BOOKS BY | THE RT. HON. | WINSTON CHURCHILL” at the upper left of the rear face. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
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.
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.
Reference: Cohen A69.14.a, Woods/ICS A31(bd.1), Langworth p.116. Item #007581