London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1927. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, first printing, of the third 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). The events of the 1916-1918 volumes, of which this is the first, include Churchill's time at the Front, his return to the Cabinet, and Armistice Day, marking the formal end of hostilities.
Unfortunately, the smooth navy cloth of the British first editions proved quite susceptible to wear, the contents prone to spotting and toning. This first printing of the 1916-1918 Part I volume is in excellent condition, near-fine and notable for exceptional shelf presentation. The blue cloth binding retains perfect color, vivid gilt, and sharp corners, with almost none of the usual scuffing and toning and only a trivial hint of wear to the spine ends and corners. The contents are bright with a crisp, unread feel. Spotting, endemic to the edition, is primarily confined to the prelims and page edges, with occasional intrusions into the blank inner margins. The sole previous ownership mark is the armorial bookplate of British industrialist Frank Reddaway (1854-1943). The endpapers show offsetting from the pastedown glue and bookplate.
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. 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.
Reference: Cohen A69.2(III-1).a, Woods/ICS A31(ab), Langworth p.105. Item #007794