How Winston Churchill Changed the World
Michael Shelden is a Professor of English at Indiana State University, where he has won the top award for excellence in scholarship, the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research/Creativity Award, three times. He earned his PhD in English from Indiana University. He is the author of six biographies, including Orwell: The Authorized Biography, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His other Great Courses include How Winston Churchill Changed the World; George Orwell: A Sage for All Seasons; and England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles.
01: Churchill and the Muse of History
First, establish a strong sense of how Winston Churchill looked at the world, and what he brought to politics that made him stand out from the start of his career. Then, learn how the connecting thread of history helped inspire Churchill to deliver his iconic “Finest Hour” speech.
02: Young Churchill
Survey the remarkable accomplishments of Winston Churchill’s life before he turned thirty. Follow the future statesman as he fights on the frontier of India, takes part in the British army’s last great cavalry charge, survives capture in South Africa’s Boer War, and wins a seat in Parliament.
03: Churchill, the Edwardian Titan
Few British politicians have risen as far—and as fast—as Winston Churchill did during the first decade of his parliamentary career. Examine Churchill’s meteoric ascent, including his conflicts with political veterans Arthur Balfour and Joseph Chamberlain, his time as a liberal statesman, and his relationship with Violet Asquith.
04: Churchill’s Rise to the Admiralty
Focus on Churchill’s career as First Lord of the Admiralty and his efforts to make sure the British navy could win battles in the North Sea. Central to this were technological developments (including a massive new gun for ships) and his knowledge of the newest twist in naval warfare: aviation.
05: Churchill and Failure in World War I
With the military disaster in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles during World War I, Churchill pushed his luck too far. Discover what led to this major failure and his subsequent resignation from government, as well as how he overcame this fall from grace by joining the fight on the Western Front.
06: Churchill in War and Peace
Gain insights into Churchill’s return to government in 1917 as Minister of Munitions and, after the end of World War I, as War Secretary. Then, examine Churchill’s fraught relationship with Prime Minister Lloyd George and the publication of his grand, four-volume history of the war years: The World Crisis.
07: Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer
As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill’s primary job was to maintain Britain’s economic prosperity. Here, learn how his efforts to cut wasteful spending, implement modest tax cuts, and return to the Gold Standard hurt the British economy in a way that would undermine most of his good work elsewhere.
08: The Rise of Tyranny in the 1930s
Take a step back to investigate just how tangled the relationship between Britain and Germany was becoming in the 1930s. Professor Shelden reveals how Churchill led an uphill battle to persuade his country about the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis—even as his fellow countrymen turned against him.
09: Churchill as Author and Historian
During the 1930s, Churchill kept his name and fame alive through his books and essays. In this lecture, explore some of his greatest works from the period, including Great Contemporaries (a dazzling study of major leaders of the day) and Marlborough: His Life and Times (a multi-volume biography of a famous ancestor).
10: The Gathering Storm in Nazi Germany
As international danger loomed on the horizon, Churchill knew the Royal Air Force would be the key to Britain’s future. Learn how Churchill set in motion a chain of events that led to the legendary (and revolutionary) Spitfire, then examine how Churchill tried to save King Edward’s monarchy from scandal.
11: Churchill in the Age of Appeasement
Explore just how pitifully disunited and disorganized the British government was as it stood on the verge of war with Hitler. How did the “age of appeasement” begin? What made Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain think he could do business with Hitler? How did Churchill continue to prepare for war?
12: The Road to Dunkirk
On May 8, 1940, a speech by David Lloyd George validating Churchill’s premonitions of war with Germany led to Chamberlain’s defeat—and Churchill’s succession to the role of prime minister. But, as you’ll learn, within a month of taking office Churchill faced one of his most serious challenges at Dunkirk.
13: Churchill in Power
When Churchill took power over the government, he knew he’d not only have to fight the Germans but also the simmering resentments within the Conservative Party. Take a closer look at cabinet battles and the famous speech to the House of Commons after the Dunkirk “miracle” that effectively crushed Churchill’s defeatists.
14: Surviving the Nazi Blitz
Explore how Churchill responded to the terror of the Blitz and how his long history of experience with aviation had a major impact on the war in the air. Then, conclude with a look at the wisdom of a particular—and overlooked—sentence from his famous speech of June 18, 1940.
15: Turning the Tide against Hitler
When did the course of war with Germany take the decisive turn for England that Churchill had hoped for? Why did his attention wander to Malaysia and Singapore? Why was the Suez Canal such an important lifeline for Britain? What was Churchill’s long-term strategy for facing down the German juggernaut?
16: Churchill and Roosevelt
Learn how another historical giant—U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt—became the one vital person Churchill needed at his side to win the war. You’ll learn what made these two men such effective partners, including their strong wills, their love of attention, and their hatred of being on the sidelines.
17: Churchill and Stalin
Turn now to Churchill’s relationship with another historical giant: Russian leader Joseph Stalin. Why was Churchill’s August 1942 trip to Moscow one of his most difficult wartime challenges? How did he and Roosevelt balance their desire to help an enemy of Hitler’s without allowing Stalin more leverage than was prudent?
18: Debating Churchill’s Wartime Leadership
Take a look at some of the more controversial decisions of Churchill’s war record, including his possible delay of the D-Day invasion and the bombing campaign against Dresden and other German cities. Also, consider Churchill’s early public stance against the threat to Jews under the Nazis.
19: Churchill from Tehran to Yalta
At the Tehran Conference, Churchill realized how small Britain was compared to the rising world powers of Russia and the United States. At the Yalta Conference, he discovered the only bond of victors is their common hate. Here, go inside Churchill’s experiences at these critical diplomatic events from World War II.
20: Peace, Churchill, and the British Voter
In July 1945, at the height of his triumph over Hitler, Churchill was kicked out of office by the British electorate and replaced with Clement Attlee. Examine how Churchill’s struggle to save Europe from despotism left Britain a minor world power instead of the major power it once was.
21: Churchill on the Iron Curtain
In this lecture on the dawn of the Cold War era, investigate how Churchill grew increasingly disappointed with Britain’s postwar future—including its reduced power, influence, and economic prospects—and his realization that another ominous threat loomed over the world: Stalin and the Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe.
22: Churchill and Britain’s Postwar Crisis
As prime minister, Churchill had shared his government with Labour leaders. Learn what happened once Labour assumed power and walked away from that spirit of partnership. From a fiscal meltdown to rationing to British troops at war in Asia, ceaseless opposition became the rule of the day.
23: Churchill’s Return to Power
Churchill devoted as much energy as possible in his second period as prime minister to cementing ties between the United States and Britain in response to the Soviet Union’s rise as a superpower. Discover how he became a powerful, persuasive advocate for peaceful coexistence in the face of atomic destruction.
24: Churchill and the Legacy of Freedom
Was Winston Churchill really the indispensable man of the 20th century? Can one person even make that much of a difference in the course of history? Professor Shelden concludes his lecture series with a pointed consideration of provocative questions that most academic historians won’t even go near.