New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923 - 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, first edition, first printing set of Winston Churchill’s history of the First World War. A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, 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, 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). This U.S. edition preceded its British counterpart, rendering it the true first edition.
This set features good plus or better volumes, all six sound and complete with clean contents. Of note, the first, 1911-1914 first issue binding proved quite vulnerable to both bleaching of the spine color and darkening of the gilt spine print. This copy certainly shows both defects. The 1915 and Unknown War volumes show lesser spine toning, while the two 1916-1918 volumes and The Aftermath retain unfaded maroon hue, though with various blemishes, most notably some faint moisture staining to the front cover of The Aftermath and a whitish mark to that volume’s lower spine. The contents of all six volumes are notably clean. The only spotting we find appears confined to the prelims and pastedowns of the 1911-1914 and Unknown War volumes. The only previous ownership marks are a previous owner name in pencil on the front free endpaper recto of the 1915 volume and an inked gift inscription dated “Xmas 1931” (the year of publication) on the front free endpaper of The Unknown War. Both 1916-1918 volumes show cosmetic splits that expose the intact mull beneath – Vol. I at the half title and Vol. II at the front pastedown. Both bindings are a little shaken but the contents are still firmly attached to the bindings.
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. 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.
Nearly a quarter of a century after he was forced to resign from the Admiralty and nearly a decade after he published the sixth and final volume of The World Crisis, Churchill famously returned to the Admiralty in September 1939, the position from which he would ascend to his storied wartime premiership in May 1940.
Reference: Cohen A69.1.(I).a, A69.1(II).b, A69.1(III-1&2).a, A69.1(IV).a, A69.1(V).a. Item #007650