London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1929. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed British first edition, first printing, of the fifth and penultimate volume of 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. As The Aftermath subtitle suggests, this volume deals with the postwar years 1918 to 1928.
The British first editions were tall, handsome volumes bound in navy cloth, the contents featuring shoulder notes summarizing the subject of each page. Unfortunately, the original dust jackets are scarce and the smooth navy cloth of the British first editions proved quite susceptible to wear, the contents prone to spotting and toning. Moreover, the cloth binding of this fifth volume proved particularly susceptible to blistering.
Condition is good in a fair dust jacket. The navy cloth binding is square, tight, and unfaded with bright spine gilt. Apart from light shelf wear to extremities, and an abrasion to the bottom edge of the rear cover, the chief aesthetic flaw is modest blistering, along both vertical edges of the spine and at points along the edges of both covers. The contents are internally bright with a crisp, unread feel and no previous ownership marks. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps confirms that this copy has spent life jacketed. Spotting is primarily confined to the prelims and text block edges, which also show some shelf dust and age-toning. The dust jacket is toned, modestly to the faces, more significantly to the spine, with only the flaps retaining appreciable original green hue. There is intermittent shallow loss to extremities, with larger loss to a maximum depth of 1 inch at the spine head (nonetheless leaving almost all of the title print intact) and an irregular 1.25 inch deep by 2 inch wide loss at the upper left front face. Splits are either starting or advanced to the spine joints and flap folds. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The World Crisis was published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931. The first four volumes span the 1911-1918 war years. The fifth and sixth volumes deal, respectively, with the post-war years (The Aftermath) and the Eastern theatre (The Eastern Front).
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 A69.2(IV).a, Woods/ICS A31(ab), Langworth p.105. Item #007739