CHURCHILL OUT OF HIBERNATION, WEEK 4
Gazing around at Churchill’s books on the shelves here at Chartwell, we find ourselves with a powerful urge to share them with you, title by title, at a safe social distance.
Join us for an out of hibernation stroll through Churchill’s works as they reside here at Chartwel, beginning with his first book: The Story of the Malakand Field Force.
In September 1896, Second Lieutenant Winston Churchill, 21-years-old, sailed with his regiment from Southampton for what was supposed to be a nine-year tour in India. Arriving in Bangalore, he immersed himself in the frivolities of the colonial military life: playing polo, collecting butterflies, planting roses in his garden. He also read a great deal.
In August 1897, Churchill’s Bangalore lassitude was shattered by news of a tribal revolt along India’s northwest border with Afghanistan. Churchill decided to pursue action and write about it as a member of the Malakand Field Force being formed to put down the uprising by Major General Sir Bindon Blood.
“Observing,” officially, as a journalist in the employ of both The Daily Telegraph (at £5 a column) and The Allahabad Pioneer (for which Kipling had once written), Churchill patrolled India’s Mamund Valley, hard by the Malakand Pass. The high-rate of casualties soon pressed him into service as an officer in command of cavalry troops. Tangling with the fierce Pathan tribesmen up close, Churchill witnessed much bloodshed and meted out a little himself, often in hand-to-hand combat.
These violent Malakand adventures very quickly led to his first published book. Expanding his well-received Daily Telegraph “letters” into a book-length account of the whole Bindon Blood campaign, Churchill launched himself into work starting in October 1897. By Christmas he was done. A month later, an offer from Mr. Longmans of the esteemed Longmans, Green publishing firm was received and accepted, for an advance of £50.
Two thousand copies of The Story of the Malakand Field Force were printed for the first edition, published in March 1898. By June, more than
1,200 of these had been sold. On his first try,
Winston Churchill had written something of a bestseller.
Alongside the First Edition of Malakand, Longmans published a hardcover for its Colonial Library series, “intended for circulation only in India and the British colonies.” As you may imagine, harsher climate conditions in the colonies generally resulted in low survival rates for these volumes. On our shelves, however, sits a copy that is quite astonishingly pristine.
You really must come see it some day.
Until then, we wish you continued health and safety, with a mask always.