The People's Rights Browse current inventory of this title

By Winston S. Churchill
First published in 1909/1910 by Hodder and Stoughton, London

"...the unreformed House of Lords... is a lingering relic of a feudal order.
It is the remains, the solitary remainder of a state of things and of a balance of forces
which has wholly passed away. I challenge the defenders, the backers, and the instigators 
of the House of Lords - I challenge them to justify and defend before the electors
of the country the character and the composition of the hereditary assembly."

(The People's Rights, p.6)


In 1904, Churchill quit the Conservative Party and joined the Liberals, beginning a dynamic chapter in his political career that saw him champion progressive causes and branded a traitor to his class.

In late 1909-early 1910, when The People's Rights was published, Churchill was a powerful political force and a member of the Cabinet.  From December 3-11, 1909 Churchill was on the campaign trail on behalf of the Liberals. The People's Rights is a distillation of these nine days of speeches, criticizing the House of Lords (which had rejected the Liberal Government's budget, thus precipitating the campaign) and championing Free Trade, a graduated income tax, luxury tax, and surtaxes on unearned income.

Churchill's efforts were not wasted; as a result of the election, the Liberals would achieve a slim majority and passage of their budget.  The first edition is not only an important work, but also the only edition published in Churchill's lifetime.  A second edition would not be published until 1970, 60 years later.  

Nearly all first edition copies were bound in bright yellow-orange paper wraps, with a striking halftone photo of Churchill on the cover that appeared on both the dust jacket and wraps issue of Liberalism and the Social Problem published the previous year.  Printed on cheap pulp paper, these first editions of The People's Rights proved exceptionally perishable.  Few copies survive and those that do are typically characterized by overall fragility and marked by wear, losses, and general deterioration.  For obvious reasons, they are scarce and desirable, even in flawed condition.  There are two states of this first and only printing.  The first state features and Appendix and an Index (at pages 149-152), while the second replaces the Index with a second Appendix.

A considerably more scarce and desirable first edition of The People's Rights is the publisher's original hardcover binding.  As documented in Ronald Cohen's excellent Bibliography, "100 sets of sheets were bound on 20 December 1909".  The hardcover issue is thus not only extravagantly rare, but was also bound "two weeks before the publication of the paper wrappers issue" and may have even been available in the last few days of 1909  (Cohen, Volume I, A31.1, page 177).  

So rare is the hardcover issue that Churchill's first bibliographer, Frederick Woods, was only able to examine a typically worn and faded copy and thus incorrectly reported the binding color as "cherry-red cloth, flecked with pink".  The true color, evident in the copy pictured here, is in fact a deep red.  

In 1970, a second British edition was published by Jonathan Cape as a hardcover with an illustrated yellow dust jacket echoing the original wraps first edition covers.  In 1971 a U.S. first edition was issued by Taplinger Publishing Company, identical to the Jonathan Cape edition except for the Taplinger imprints on the jacket, spine, and title page.

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