Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook was saddened to learn last week of the death, after a long illness, of Sir Martin Gilbert, the British historian. He was 78 years old. Sir Martin, whose grandparents had fled to England from czarist Russia after a pogrom, was an Oxford-educated scholar and writer of exceptional fluency and industry. Obituary tributes have made much of the fact that he produced some 80 books in his lifetime—an astonishing record, by any measure—but of course, there was more to his achievement than mere numbers.
Gilbert’s multivolume authorized biography of Sir Winston Churchill (1968-88)—begun when Churchill’s son Randolph died after completing just two volumes—is not only a detailed and comprehensive record of the great man’s life, but a wise, insightful, and graceful assessment of his career and influence. Lives of Winston Churchill will be written and published indefinitely, but Sir Martin Gilbert’s monument is not likely to be superseded.
Like many great historians, Sir Martin was actively engaged with his times as well. A committed Zionist and authority on Jewish history, he helped to establish the discipline of Holocaust studies and explored the long epic of the Jewish diaspora, in Europe and elsewhere. He wrote about British diplomacy, Soviet refuseniks, the first and second World Wars, and the history of Jerusalem. He was a broadcaster, documentarian, and familiar voice on radio and television. Toward the end of his life he served, at the request of his friend Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on the official inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq war.
Two minor items help to illustrate what Martin Gilbert was like. He had a lifelong fascination with geography and cartography, and all his books were brimming with lovingly rendered maps. And as a traveler he was an indefatigable writer and sender of postcards, sometimes dozens at a time. Above all, he was a gentleman of genius and decency, who wrote hard truths and explained the world he inhabited.
His words still call to us.
4:01 PM, Jan 23, 2015 • By RICHARD M. LANGWORTH
Anyone reading this knows where he was on September 11, 2001. A diminishing number remember where they were on January 30, 1965—the day we said farewell to Winston Churchill. (He died fifty years ago, January 24, 1965.)
Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Scrapbook correspondent Richard M. Langworth, the author and longtime president of the Churchill Centre in Washington, D.C., weighs in on the new statue of Gandhi to be erected in London . . .
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Every time you realize how badly the media mangles something you know about, you wonder how well they are interpreting what you don’t know.
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook notes, with sadness, the death last week in London of 91-year-old Mary Soames, the youngest and last surviving child of Sir Winston Churchill. From her time as a very young woman in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the British equivalent of the WAC), where she assisted her father at his various wartime conferences, through her career as the wife of a prominent politician, mother, biographer, benefactor, and resource for historians, Lady Soames led a long and productive life. And by all accounts, a happy one as well.
May 5, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 32 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
From Brandeis on the Atlantic to Azusa on the Pacific, an iron curtain has descended across academia. Behind that line lie all the classrooms of the ancient schools of America. Wesleyan, Brown, Princeton, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Berkeley, Bowdoin, and Stanford, all these famous colleges and the populations within them lie in what we must call the Liberal sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from the commissars of Liberal Orthodoxy. . . .
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
These observations of his on the Middle East have easily withstood the test of time:
Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Maybe Barack Obama really is a Marxist. His September 10 speech to the nation on Syria seems to have been inspired by Groucho’s great number in Animal Crackers (1930):
Hello, I must be going
I cannot stay, I came to say I must be going
I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going . . . la-la!
A velvet red carpet in the ‘Iron Curtain’ city. May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By CITA STELZER
You learn a lot about America and its people on a book-signing tour.
Apr 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 31 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.
How many times in the last century have these concluding lines of C. P. Cavafy’s famous 1898 poem, “Waiting for the Barbarians,” been quoted? How many modern intellectuals have pondered the subversive implications of that sophisticated question?
Nov 26, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 11 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
—Winston Churchill, tribute to the Royal Air Force,
House of Commons, August 20, 1940
The time for evasion is over.Jul 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Last month, we published an editorial under the title “A Period of Consequences.” The phrase was taken from a speech in the House of Commons in late 1936 in which Winston Churchill warned: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”
Our dangerous Iran policy.Jun 21, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 38 • By JAMIE FLY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
The passage last Wednesday of a fourth U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran was the latest act in the tragicomedy that is U.S. policy toward Iran.