Book Review: Oblivion or Glory: 1921 and the Making of Winston Churchill


by David Stafford

New Haven: Yale, 2019. Pp. xvi, 302+. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $26.00. ISBN: 030023404X

Churchill's Return to Power

Prof. Stafford (Victoria), who has written a number of works on Churchill and the Second World War, such as Roosevelt and Churchill and Ten Days to D-Day: Citizens and Soldiers on the Eve of the Invasion, takes a look at how 1921 shaped his life. As a result of the disastrous outcome of the Dardanelles, despite very good performances as Minister of Munitions and then as Secretary of State for both War and Air in 1917-1921, his political life seemed precarious, while his personal finances were in disastrous shape.

But then, almost dramatically, during 1921, everything seemed to turn around for Churchill. While the death of a wealthy cousin and the popular success of his history of the Great War resolved his financial problems, Churchill’s appointment as Secretary of State for the Colonies brought him back into the center of national and even world affairs until 1929 and the advent of the first Labour Government.

Stafford shows us how Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, worked for more determined action against the new Soviet regime in Russia and protecting the emerging Baltic republics, helped shape the emergence of an independent Ireland, had a role in the reorganization of the Middle East with the emergence of quasi-independent Kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan, worked toward closer ties with the U.S., and promoted greater integration within the British Commonwealth.

Stafford also gives us a look at Churchill’s personal life, with profiles of family, friends, foes, and others, and even a very thoughtful discussion of his increasing fondness for painting, which seems to have had a valuable therapeutic effect on him.

Of course Churchill’s fortunes would fall and rise again over the following two decades, but in Oblivion or Glory Stafford makes a very good case for the importance of 1921 in shaping the man.


Note: Oblivion or Glory is also available in audio- and several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close