(Cohen A284) (ICS A145)

Prior to this work, four-fifths of Churchill’s speeches had never been published in book form. To correct this, and to coincide with the Centenary of Churchill’s birth, a team of Columbia University graduate students spent six months combing Parliamentary records, newspapers, pamphlets, Conservative Party and BBC broadcast transcripts. The result was eight massive volumes totaling nearly 9,000 pages, pulled together by Robert Rhodes James, who had earlier published a biography of Lord Randolph Churchill and the seminal Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939. Rhodes James added introductory essays for the four parts of the work and useful prefatory notes before many speeches; the publishers provided two comprehensive indices. The editor was paid £5,000 for his work (55p per page), surely the publisher’s bargain of the decade.
Indispensable as it is, the Complete Speeches remains a flawed work, primarily because it is not complete. Granted, the editing required difficult judgments. For example, Churchill’s speech in defense of Edward VIII in the Albert Hall (3 December 1936) was omitted because he didn’t finish it—the audience protested and began walking out! But there are many inexplicable omissions: the final peroration from the post-Munich speech in 1938 (“I have watched this famous Island descending the staircase which leads to a dark gulf…”) is nowhere to be found. Some speeches are wholly absent, for example 28 June 1954, when Churchill called for detente with the Soviet Union at the Washington Press Club, adding coyly that he hoped nobody would think him a Communist for doing so. Churchill’s youthful orations were spottily recorded, and many of these were left out. Although Hansard went verbatim in 1911, even it was not reliable, since its reporters said Churchill’s remarks were sometimes inaudible.
-Richard M. Langworth

From the Reviews
“The public Churchill emerges with great clarity….What an elocutionary feast remains! All the pinnacles of a turbulent career are here: the condemnation of the Munich settlement, the promise of ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat,’ and the fateful iron curtain speech at Fulton. Indeed, the parts are engulfed by the whole in what turns out to be a sweeping chronicle of the major events of the first half of the century.”
“These speeches do more than remind us that Churchill was a gifted orator and writer. They increase our understanding of a matchlessly dramatic life; we watch its progress or recession in their pages. We learn more about the events that molded Churchill, his world and our own. Appearing in his centenary, these monumental works may even help to make Churchill fashionable again.”
-Jon Foreman in The Nation (USA), 21 September 1974



§ § §






First Edition
Cohen A284.1 / ICS A145a

Publisher: Chelsea House/Bowker, New York, 1974
Eight volumes

Red cloth blocked gold and black. On cover, author’s name, general title and Churchill Arms; on spine, author’s name and general title gold on black panel; volume number, years, editor’s and publishers’ names blocked gold. Red cloth headbands and footbands, each volume with frontispiece. The eight volumes published as a set at $185.
Vol. I, 1072 pages numbered (i)-xvi and 1-1056. Vol. II, 1158 pages numbered (i)-xii and 1057-2197 (+1). Vol. III, 1010 pages numbered (i)-xii and 2299-3296. Vol. IV, 1212 pages numbered (i)-(xii) and 3297-4496. Vol. V, 1160 pages numbered (i)-(xiv) and 4417-5572. Vol. VI, 1176 pages numbered (i)-xii and 5573-6733 (+1). Vol. VII, 1182 pages numbered (i)-(xiv) and 6735-7902. Vol. VIII, 1028 pages numbered (i)-(xii) and 7903-8917 (+1).

The original price was steep in 1974, but would be a bargain today. Typical sets in fine condition are now selling for very large prices soon after the set was out of print. Some sets on today’s market have come from libraries, with defacing marks on their spines or library stamps on title pages; these cost less, but not much less. As formidable a job as it seems, the prospective buyer should collate each volume: several volumes exist with missing signatures of 32 pages.



Abridged One-Volume Edition
Cohen A284.2 ICS A145b

Publisher: Chelsea House, New York, 1980; Windward, London, 1981; Barnes & Noble, New York, 1998 (a hardback entitled Churchill Speaks)
This very thick paperback was published at $25/£15. Well put together for a softbound work, it numbers 1088 pages and contains a good selection of speeches from the original eight volumes. Given the increasing scarcity of the original, it is a good stopgap volume until one can find (or afford) the first edition.








Abridged Edition
Cohen A284.4 / ICS A145c

Publisher: Chelsea House, New York, 1983
Eight volumes

A paperback edition, greatly abridged, is the only multi-volume successor to the original work. It appears infrequently, but should not be looked upon as anything approaching the complete text.




§ § §


Click here for a list of terminology, bibliographic information, and other notes.