Read The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-40 by William Manchester Online


In this powerful biography, the middle volume of William Manchester’s critically acclaimed trilogy, Winston Churchill wages his defining campaign: not against Hitler’s war machine but against his own reluctant countrymen. Manchester contends that even more than his leadership in combat, Churchill’s finest hour was the uphill battle against appeasement. As Parliament receivIn this powerful biography, the middle volume of William Manchester’s critically acclaimed trilogy, Winston Churchill wages his defining campaign: not against Hitler’s war machine but against his own reluctant countrymen. Manchester contends that even more than his leadership in combat, Churchill’s finest hour was the uphill battle against appeasement. As Parliament received with jeers and scorn his warnings against the growing Nazi threat, Churchill stood alone—only to be vindicated by history as a beacon of hope amid the gathering storm. Praise for The Last Lion: Alone   “Manchester has such control over a huge and moving narrative, such illumination of character . . . that he can claim the considerable achievement of having assembled enough powerful evidence to support Isaiah Berlin’s judgment of Churchill as ‘the largest human being of our time.’”—The New Yorker  “Memorable.”—San Francisco Chronicle   “Stirring . . . As Manchester points out several times, it’s as if the age, having produced a Hitler, then summoned Churchill as the only figure equal to the task of vanquishing him. The years Alone are the pivotal years of Churchill’s career.”—The Boston Sunday Globe  “The best Churchill biography [for] this generation . . . Even readers who know the basic story will find much that is new.”—Newsweek   “A triumph . . . equal in stature to the first volume of the series.”—Newsday  “Vivid . . . history in the grand manner.”—The Washington Post   “Compelling reading.”—The Times (London)...

Title : The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-40
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ISBN : 9780385313315
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 800 Pages
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The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-40 Reviews

  • Lizzy
    2018-10-02 16:43

    The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill Alone, 1932-40, another hit for William Maschester! I think nobody could have surmised better than Maschester who Winston Spencer Churchill was, as he begins the second volume of his The Last Lion trilogy:"...But now, fourteen years after the Armistice of 1918, the Weald (of Kent) is an idyll of peace, and the explorer on foot finds that it possesses camouflaged delights... There, among eighty sheltering acres of beech, oak, lime, and chestnut, stands the singular country home of England's most singular statesman, a brilliant, domineering, intuitive, inconsiderate, self-centered, emotional, generous, ruthless, visionary, megalomaniacal, and heroic genius who inspires fear, devotion, rage, and admiration among his peers."In this secong installment, it was interesting to see Churchill out of power. The title of this installment, Alone, was specially pertinent: he was isolated in his own party, always waiting and believing now was his time. An eternal optimistic, he faced defeat after defeat but never gave up. In times of appeasement his protests against Hitler only isolated him more:“Nazi aggression, one might think, should have lent support to Winston’s candidacy. At this, of all times, it seems inconceivable that Baldwin would pick a weak man to supervise the defense of England. Nevertheless, that was what he did. Baldwin said outright: “If I pick Winston, Hitler will be cross.” In his biography of Chamberlain, Keith Feiling writes that the Rhineland was “decisive against Winston’s appointment”; it was “obvious that Hitler would not like it.” As the prime minister’s heir apparent, Chamberlain encouraged Baldwin to think along these lines. He suggested that Baldwin choose a man “who would excite no enthusiasm” and “create no jealousies.””I found through Maschester's work, memorable for always including Churchill's own words, that WSC was indeed a remarkable figure: so few of his contemporaries, or none that cried it out so loud out and clear despite never being heard, captured Hitler's essence as he clearly did. In Hitler he was able to see the menace he represented for Europe and all mankind.5-stars and an all-time-favorite. Highly recommend!

  • Michael
    2018-10-16 23:32

    This second of three volumes by the masterful biographer covers the critical period of European history that encompasses the run-up to World War 2. The read is not quite as fun as the first volume because for most of this period Churchill was excluded from the governments in power. But it made for a thoroughly engaging tale of his persistent efforts to wield influence to counter the unfortunate policy of appeasement that Britain and France took while Nazi Germany grew ever more powerful and aggressive. Due to his imperialist slant of not giving ground toward independence for India and work against tariffs, he was not invited to be a Cabinet member of MacDonald’s National government in 1931 and was considered too much of a warmonger to be accepted in the subsequent Conservative regimes of Baldwin and Chamberlain. We spend a lot of time with Churchill in domestic life at his estate in Kent, Chartwell. Gardening, landscaping, building walls, painting, and writing his massive tomes on a history of his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough and a history of English speaking peoples. Totally dependent on his pen for his income, he expanded his journalistic output on an impressive array of topics from literature and history to politics and foreign policy. In the latter area, his opinions on the dangers of Hitler and poor readiness of Britain to deter his aims were muffled by restrictions on his opinions being aired in the London Times or on BBC radio. However, his columns were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers throughout the world, and his speeches of warning as a Member of Parliament, ignored time and again, slowly gained allies when he was able to share details on the pitiful military readiness of the U.K. compared to Germany from his own network of contacts among insiders in the British government and in Europe. From the perspective of the war, it is easy to lapse into a simplistic view that it was inevitable once Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 and took supreme dictatorial power with the abolishment of democracy in Germany in 1934. But with each escalation of Nazi boldness and might—remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, annexation of Austria in 1938, seizure of the Sudenenland part of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and military invasion of the rest in 1939—there is plenty of room for Monday morning quarterbacks to point to alternative interventions that might have been effective. However, Manchester makes it clear that the appeasement policies of Baldwin and Chamberlain were a tragic series of mistakes often founded on deception and self-interested politics, the British public was fully collusive. Compared to France, Britain’s populace didn’t care what Hitler did in Eastern Europe. A strong Germany would be a bulwark against the treat of godless communist aggression by the Soviets in Europe. The Munich Agreement handing over the Sudetenland without Czech participation for promises of future good behavior was heralded as a glorious achievement by Chamberlain for “peace in our time.” Writing to Lloyd George at the time, Churchill noted how the choice was between war and shame, and Britain’s pick of shame meant a less favorable war later. The Blitzkrieg invasion of Bohemia and Moravia parts of Czechoslovakia was founded on Hitler’s prediction that France and Britain would do nothing. Manchester sides with Churchill and many historians that more efforts at deterrence through the League of Nations or alliance efforts among Britain, France, and the Soviets would have been effective. The Czech’s were militarily strong though poorly equipped. The German military led by General Beck was ready to stand up to Hitler should it appear other nations would come to their aid, especially in light of a Franco-Soviet Pact. When turnover of the French government made that appear unlikely, the potential “strike” by the generals was quelled. The steamrolling of the rest of Czechoslovakia and killing of up to 250,000 in Prague alone, half of them Jewish, made a mockery of the appeasement strategy and gave the Nazis the needed success to pursue Poland only months later. Mussolini’s invasion of Albania with Hitler’s permission made it clear that alliance with Italy was no longer in the cards. With Britain and France so compliant against Nazi expansion, Stalin made a deal with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Poland with Germany and gain free rein for the Baltic states. Against this backdrop, we experience all the detailed efforts of Churchill to get Britain and its potential allies to work together at collaborative deterrence and rearmament sufficient to match Germany’s four million men in arms and growing air and naval power. When the invasion of Poland kicked off in 1939, treaties made it inevitable that France and England declare war. Finally, Chamberlain was forced by public pressure to bring Churchill into the cabinet, giving him the post of the Admiralty like he had in World War 1 until the Gallipoli disaster. Poland put up a noble fight with a million soldiers, but the Panzer tank corps and massive bombings quickly won out, with France committing only to only a pitiful salient under an incompetent general. The only positive outcome was the escape of about 100,000 soldiers who later served admirably with the Allies in many venues of the war. Neither France or Britain wanted to bomb the munitions factories of the Ruhr for fear of reprisals by the supremely strong Lufwaffe. Aside from lots of devastating U-boat attacks in the face of Britain’s attempt of a naval blockade, there was a long pause in action for preparation. It was a great pleasure to experience Churchill in operation at the Admiralty House. But he soon got in trouble when U-boats got into the middle of the fleet at Scarpa Floe in Scotland and sank some capital ships. His ingenious plan to gain control of Norwegian ports as a means to block the critical transport of iron ore from neutral Sweden turned out to end in a disaster in execution. The soldiers put ashore to take the ports were not prepared with skis to manage the three feet of snow, and the cabinet chose to concentrate on the well defended port of Trondheim instead of a more critical remote northern port. Unlike Gallipoli, this debacle didn’t stick to him, but instead it served as the nudge to replace Chamberlain with a new Prime Minister and national coalition government. Lord Halifax was preferred by the leaders of Parliament, but he refused, making Churchill the only real choice. Thus, this phase of the biography ends with him making his famous speech to the House of Commons:I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: 'I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.' We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.Certainly this 900-plus page read takes some commitment, but it's worth it to fill in one's gaps in understanding about the momentous events that led to the war that killed so many millions and Churchill working behind the scenes. Most of all I came to feel the tragedy of how Churchill was wasted as the man who might of led the world to peace but ended up leading the war.

  • Lewis Weinstein
    2018-10-02 22:52

    A brilliant, comprehensive account of Churchill's role in the crucial time frame when England and the world refused to listen to him. I'm reading parts of this as research for my draft of a sequel to A FLOOD OF EVIL ... A Flood of EvilCurrently reading about the events that preceded Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland in 1936.MORE TO FOLLOW

  • Sweetwilliam
    2018-10-04 16:29

    I just finished The Last Lion Part 2: Alone, 1932-1940. It left me with a pit in my stomach. This reinforces my theory that the actions of the useful idiots: The naive, the pacifists, the isolationists, the self-loathing liberals, the peace-at-any-cost crowd are the cause of more wars and end up killing more Americans and more people than the so-called warmongers that they purport to despise. It is ironic that in this case it was Great Britain’s Tory (conservative) party that helped to create a situation that would lead to the destruction of Europe and a world war that would kill millions. The democracies of Europe, led by Great Britain’s Prime minister's Baldwin and Chamberlain allowed Hitler to walk away from the treaty of Versailles and to rebuild the German war machine. First it was PM Baldwin who did little to rearm England followed by PM Chamberlain and his gang of appeasers. They are referred to in this book as the “Men of Munich” after their leader Neville Chamberlain guaranteed “peace in our time” by giving Hitler the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia at the Munich conference of 1938. According to Manchester, there was one consistent voice in Parliament warning anyone who would listen that Hitler was the greatest threat to peace in Europe and that allowing the German’s to re-arm would guarantee WWII: That man was Winston Spencer Churchill. Read this if you have the stomach. Manchester’s The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940 is the best account that I have ever read of events leading up to the outbreak of WWII. In fact, I feel that this aspect of the book is far more important than the personal life of Winston Churchill. You could almost remove the sections about Churchill, the family man and the books he was writing at the time etc. Until war was declared in September of 1939, Churchill, the man of a bygone Victorian era, was ignored and ostracized by his own Tory party. He was considered “out of touch” and he sat the proverbial bench for most of the 30’s. He was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty for a second time at the outbreak of the war in September of 1939 and finally PM in May of 1940. Englishmen and ministers of Parliament remembered WSC’s consistent oration against appeasement. He was a soothsayer and every bad thing he predicted about the policy of appeasement came to be. It was eye opening to understand the blow-by-blow account of how the war was started. Manchester explains that Hitler's Germany was bracketed between France and England in the west and Czechoslovakia and Poland in the east and behind them stood a frowning Stalin who watched as German communists were shot or imprisoned. Manchester contends that Hitler couldn't have done it alone. He needed help. He got it from the original useful idiot: Neville Chamberlain. The book affirms that the Munich agreement was really the final nail in the coffin. According to Manchester, the Men of Munich are responsible for rearming the Germans, killing the Jews, enslaving the Slavs, and toppling several democracies in Europe. Munich cost the west the Soviets as a potential ally. After Munich, Stalin signed a secret non-aggression pact with Germany because he was convinced that the democracies would never fight. The Poles were doomed. Manchester writes that “They were victims of a squalid deal between two despots whose hands were stained with the blood of the innocent.” After Munich, Churchill said of Chamberlain “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.” When war finally broke out in Poland, France, with the largest army in the free world, had 3 weeks where they could have invaded Germany along the western front. The bulk of the German army was fighting Poland. Instead the French hid behind their massive fortress of steel and concrete. The Poles, at one time, actually drove the German 8th army back for three straight days and England’s response was to drop leaflets over Germany to tell them the truth about Hitler and to urge her citizens to overthrow Das Furor. The governments of the free world and all the newspapers understood what the Nazis were doing as they expanded their territories. They refrained from criticizing Hitler because they were afraid that they may provoke him. Even after England declared war, Chamberlain was still worried about offending Hitler. The French even refused to fly forays into Germany because they didn’t want to instigate the Nazis. Meanwhile the Luftwaffe patrolled over France. This is mind-boggling. This stands as an example of what disasters befall us when good, well intended men are duped by a psychopath. Thank God the free world had a man like Winston Spencer Churchill to take up the fight. If you are in favor of appeasement or rewarding an aggressor nation please read this book. Winston said “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”The free world needs another Winston Churchill. I, for one would follow that man anywhere.

  • Carol Storm
    2018-10-01 22:27

    What an awe-inspiring man, and what a tremendously ambitious biography. Succeeds beyond all expectation!

  • Matt
    2018-10-10 16:24

    Manchester’s second volume is the shortest chronological time period of the three, yet is equally as exciting and jam-packed with information as the first. It tackles Churchill’s life, both political and personal, with the rise of the Nazis and the lacklustre activities of the British Government as its main backdrops. Manchester again depicts Churchill as a great prophet, standing alone while Hitler steamrolls not only to power, but turns Europe into his plaything. While the book is biographic in nature and should be Churchill-centric, Manchester does address a great deal of German history to set the scene. Without it, much of the underlying impetus to depict Churchill as a visionary would be lost. A must-read (after Volume One) for anyone interested in a thorough and powerful political biography of one of the world’s great statesmen, told in such detail that one cannot leave without a great deal of new insight.Manchester tries to work in a chronological fashion as he begins the book, alternating between Churchill in the Baldwin Cabinet against the fall of the Wiemar Republic. While most of the narrative (regarding Germany) is quite well known, some of the inner workings of the British Government may be new for the reader. Once Chamberlain takes over as prime minister, Churchill is edged out and his speeches in the House shift away from domestic policy and towards the fascist uprisings in Germany and Italy. Churchill stands alone in his critique and foreboding of this ideological and military power build-up, as the British Government seeks diplomatic relations with Hitler and Mussolini. Manchester uses this isolationist theme again, after its effective use in Volume One. The isolation does not come without a cost, as his friends begin to drift away from him and the self-doubt rises. He turns to writing his numerous pieces of non-fiction, which bring him much pleasure, all while Europe is on the brink of cataclysmic change.The aptly named sub-title of the volume can be illustrated, as mentioned before, as he remains a beacon in the night, while the Fuhrer beats his chest and begins his plan to take over the European continent, plotting to bring fascism to the mainland. Churchill was ignored post-Great War as it related to Russia’s acceptance of communism (Bolshevism), which Manchester reiterates as Churchill repeats his warnings at every opportunity, in the House and in the press. As in 1919, these pleas fall on deaf ears, leaving Churchill to contemplate what lies ahead. Chamberlain, naive and inept to his core, is more concerned with pooh-poohiong the warnings and trusting that Hitler will not cause any concern. He goes so far as to sign a Munich Pact and presumes this will quell Hitler’s need for power and territory.Manchester is able to weave extensive discussion about the Nazi rise to power and place it against the backdrop of the view from across the English Channel. It is not only sentiment that Manchester uses as his building blocks, but the hard foundation of history, which makes the book all the better. Use of nuances and detailed historical accounts brings the book to life and sells Manchester’s theme that Churchill was surrounded by those whose interest in appeasement was stronger than any rational sentiment. Hitler did not up and decide to take these actions (as I was duped into thinking from the history books), but it was a slow and intricate chess game that Manchester describes. Chamberlain and the French cowered away under their respective rocks and could not understand why the Nazis wouldn’t just ‘be good little boys’.Manchester fleshes out the entire Churchill, from his twice a day baths, his eccentric food habits at his country estate and even his counseling of Edward VIII prior to his abdication. Churchill is more than a stuffy cigar smoking grump whose interest lies only with climbing the political ladder. While the discussion of letter writing dissipates in Volume Two, Manchester does pull from a number of documents and presents a living history. While it can be quite detailed and even somewhat dense, the reader will surely take away a great deal from the experience and feel the advancing sense of doom with each part of the book.Without knowing the specifics of the third volume, the reader could presume that this tome presents the least ‘growth’ of Churchill as a person, but perhaps the greatest as a politician. He used his past experiences to better ground himself and holds firm to his beliefs, even in the face of major opposition. By the end, Manchester paints a Europe in the midst of a war and crisis state that could have been averted. The ousting of Chamberlain was a must and the selection of Churchill as prime minister is the only hope Britain has of righting itself, though he cannot do it alone.Kudos again, Mr. Manchester for your hard work and dedication to the subject. The intricate details presented make for an enlightening read and one the reader can use to better understand Britain’s role in the build-up to World War II. I look forward to the last volume and all it has to offer.

  • Douglas
    2018-09-23 17:50

    Eight hundred plus pages of Churchill in the wilderness. The book was hard to read as I found myself exasperated at a whole class of leaders, a whole nation, actually many nations, that could not see what Churchill could see. I understand that knowing the history of WWII gives me a special position to judge, but I found it nearly unbelievable almost no one for a decade did not heed the warnings in his speeches and writings.Warned about a rearming Germany and calling for the United Kingdom to rearm, he was called hysterical. Warns about Hitler's nature as put down in Mien Kampt. He was called a warmonger. Warned not to stand for Germany taking the Rhine,he was called crazy. Warned they should not give in to Hitler on Czechoslovakia, he was called an embarrassment. When he warned Poland is next, he was told repeatedly they didn't want to get Hitler mad at Britain and appeasing him was the only way. When he is finally named Prime Minister in the last pages of the book – after war had been declared and on the very day France came under attack – the book became very enjoyable. Just fruits.I'm very impressed with the thoroughness of Manchester and his ability to make a very frustrating story readable and enjoyable. I learned a great deal about how Hitler was allowed, no, assisted, in bringing Europe to the edge of of a cliff. Also learned more about the government of the UK.Can't wait to read the last volume.

  • Mikey B.
    2018-10-01 17:35

    Speech of March 26, 1936 (page 192, my book)“When you are drifting down the stream of Niagara, it may easily happen that from time to time you run into a reach of quite smooth water, or that a bend in the river or a change in the wind may make the roar of the falls seem far more distant. But, your hazard and your preoccupation are in no way affected thereby.”Speech of December 31,1937 (page 243)“After all, it is a horrible thing that a race of people should be attempted to be blotted out of the society in which they have been born, that from their earliest years little children should be segregated and that they should be exposed to scorn and odium. It is very painful. Moreover, it is not only in regards to Jews that there is intolerance. Religious opinions, Protestant and Catholic alike, are subject to a prejudice of which we fondly hoped and were brought up to believe, the nineteenth century had rid the world....Very often when these conversations begin they go very nicely for a certain time, and then it appears that what the Germans want is that peace and good will should be translated forthwith into tangible and solid immediate benefits which they are to receive. Very often it is suggested that we should promise to do something, or give something, or, what is perhaps even more difficult, to stand by and see something or other done that may not be desirable.”This book very persuasively reveals that the years 1931 thru 1940 were Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour”. For most of these years Churchill stood terribly alone – his voice and writings unheeded. It was only in March, 1939 after Nazi Germany snuffed out what remained of forlorn Czechoslovakia that the gaze of those in Parliament, the media (in those days newspapers and radio) and the British people turned towards him, realizing how prescient were his words over the years. And what words – the eloquence shines into immortality!In Parliament, in newspapers he warned again and again of Nazi Germany – he realized from its very beginnings its dark threats to the future of civilization. Whereas others saw German rearmament as a necessary correction to the “evil” of the Versailles Treaty; the march into the Rhineland (1936) as Germany entering her backyard, the Anschluss of Austria (1938) as an inevitable political union of Germanic peoples; and Munich as a necessary sacrifice to keep Hitler happy. Churchill knew the true nature of Hitler and Nazism. If Churchill’s advice had been heeded Hitler would have been stopped.The author correctly portrays appeasement (whether of Stanley Baldwin or Neville Chamberlain’s more active role in it) as very popular and the modus operandi of that time period. They genuinely thought they could come to terms with Hitler, not realizing that dealing with Hitler was not like dealing with another democracy (like France or Holland). Possibly, as Anthony Eden said of Neville Chamberlain – “Chamberlain knew Hitler lied, he just didn’t think he would lie to him.” Churchill knew Hitler to be a liar with an enormous appetite.The only quibble I have is that at the time of the 1939 English and French guarantee to Poland’s territory – the author insists that Soviet Russia should have been brought into this alliance. In other words England, France and the Soviet Union would guarantee the territorial integrity of Poland. Geographically this does not make sense as the Soviet Union does not share a border with Germany. Poland for obvious historical reasons did not want Soviet troops intruding on her territory to purportedly protect Poland. For another view of this see The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-1941. Also at the time of Germany’s attack on Poland – it would have been easy for the French army to launch an attack on Germany’s exposed border to France. This was another “lost opportunity”; in fact the last opportunity.What was truly frightening and remarkable is that the author provides us with several instances of how the English government suppressed criticism of Nazi Germany for fear of offending Hitler. Many British newspapers stopped publishing Churchill’s articles as these were offensive to the German Fuhrer. The BBC would not allow Churchill to do radio broadcasts. So dominant and popular was the dogma of appeasement that they emasculated criticism of the regime they felt they could get onside with repeated concessions.Here are a few more excerpts from the book:Churchill – (after he became Prime Minister in May 1940) (page 681)“as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and trial. Eleven years in the political wilderness had freed me from ordinary party antagonisms. My warnings over the last six years had been so numerous, so detailed, and were now so terribly vindicated, that no one could gainsay me.”Churchill speech of May 19, 1940 (page 686) – when Germany attacked Holland, Belgium and France in May 1940“Behind them, behind us – behind the armies of Britain and France – gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians – Upon all of whom a long night of barbarism will descend unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall.”Isaiah Berlin on Churchill (page 687)saw him as a leader who imposed his “imagination and his will upon his countrymen,” idealizing them “with such intensity that in the end they approached his ideal and began to see themselves as he saw them.”

  • Deb Cutler
    2018-09-24 15:51

    This was the most compelling biography I have ever read. For years I have wondered how to understand World War II-the forces that led up to it and the counties that seemed to just give up and allow Hitler and the Nazi's to take over their countries. This book weaves together the facts and the opinions of not just Winston Churchill, but the other politicians and observers in a logical, sympathetic (sometimes) way. I am going to read the preceding work and finally the WWII years so that I have a better understanding of not just the United Kingdom's attitudes, but of the European view as well. Naturally the United States plays a significantly smaller role in a biography of Winston Churchill than the UK does, but as an American I need to step back and learn from this perspective, it is quite a shock to view the war from this perspective. I kept wanting to shout, "Don't let the Germans take over," but naturally I couldn't do anything and that was so frustrating, but i does help to understand the whys of the lives that were lost and the war that was supposed to-once again-end all wars.

  • Sebastien
    2018-09-23 17:46

    This second volume is good, focused on the years 1932-1940... Manchester examines the internal politics of Britain and the international diplomatic goings on of Europe at the time. Churchill is the main character of course, but Manchester keeps this book very broad and zeroes in on quite a few political figures, especially Neville Chamberlain (to devastating effect) and quite a few other European figures. Manchester makes it easy to follow the diplomatic strategies and decisions taken by various European powers and their politicians. In his view the greatest errors were made by politicians who blindly adhered to the idea of keeping peace no matter the cost (Churchill on the other hand saw the threat and risk that this policy held, and his unheeded warnings and fears would eventually be proven accurate). Many of Britain and France's most powerful politicians would continue blindly clinging to their appeasement policy in spite of event after event that clearly contradicted their stance. In the end, Hitler was the greatest beneficiary of this policy...

  • Jason Russell
    2018-10-17 15:24

    Utterly brilliant. A mesmerizing read from cover to cover. It was a bit jarring to realize about 250 pages in that the focus would stray only briefly and infrequently away from the growing Nazi menace and Churchill's solitary voice warning against it. But that's where the story was. This volume, tragically, paints a horrible picture of the British policy of appeasement, which dominated the cabinet, the media, and other stakeholders, well before it was infamously embodied at Munich. Looking back now, knowing the pure evil designs and outcomes of Herr Hitler and his regime, it's shocking to see how willing the British government was to let him do his thing, often simply out of fear of offending Hitler. It's unfathomable. In that regard, reading this volume was almost like watching a train wreck. You just want to scream at Chamberlain, et al. Looking forward to volume three...after a short break.

  • John Bohnert
    2018-10-03 22:27

    It was very difficult to read how Britain repeatedly appeased Hitler. Churchill alone spoke out over the prewar years warning Britain that Hitler was a serious threat. But Winston was ridiculed.

  • Keenan Johnston
    2018-09-26 16:48

    Certainly, it is the work Tuesday through Thursday which enables you to win a football game on Saturday. I shouldn't have been so naïve to think that I could achieve the same level of enjoyment out of Volume II without having slugged through Volume I.Volume II is based on the years 1932 - 1940 as Hitler rises to power and preparations are made for World War II. Churchill is effectively in exile from Parliament, but is the only Brit who understands Hitler and writes / speaks on the dangers of Germany as they rearm and run the Treaty of Versailles through the shredder. Meanwhile, the British Prime Ministers Baldwin and Chamberlain refuse to rearm and deviate from pacifism.Volume I provided the history of WWI, and Churchill's involvement as a soldier and in government. Churchill certainly had his flaws as a politician, but Volume I allows the reader of Volume II to understand why Churchill is the only man capable of leading the allies through WWII.I loved this book, all the way up to the last pages as Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and I can't wait for the main event (Volume III).

  • Frank
    2018-09-23 23:52

    Manchester continues the telling of Churchill's, and picks up in 1932, as Churchill is out of the cabinet and exiled to the back bench. Here Churchill the outsider, takes on the mantle and exposes Hitler and the Nazis for what they were, much to the chagrin of the appeasing government in power at that time in England. We have McDonald, all but in effective and scared of his own shadow, Baldwin who couldn't be bothered with mainland Europe (one of most sneakiest of politicians who stabbed Churchill in the back time after time) and lastly, Chamberlain, who just couldn't understand that Hitler was playing him. During this decade Churchill had to support his family by writing, he published the History of the English Speaking People's, during this time and wrote for magazines and newspapers. A hugely talented, honorable , man who was truly inexhaustible and unwavering. Manchester's narrative along with the fact that Churchill is such an incredible personage make for a excellent book.

  • Mike
    2018-09-24 15:33

    One of the best overviews of the run up to WWII. Amazing book about Churchill.

  • Richard
    2018-10-12 20:28

    I thought of some alternative subtitles after reading this book. "Appeasement in our Time." "With Leaders like this, you don't need Enemies." "When war winners become losers." I'm not trying to trivialize this modern masterpiece. It's just that, the more one reads of the foolhardy actions taken by the great European democracies after World War I regarding their future survival, the more one feels a sense of unease over the incompetence and lies which allowed a threat to world peace to gain a footing and prosper in Germany. It has been said that the seeds of World War II were sown in the way peace was restored following World War I. There may have been an inevitability to the rise of National Socialism among a populace humiliated by being labeled as the instigators of the first war, while boiling over with anger directed toward their own wartime government which capitulated before a victory over Germany's enemies or complete destruction of the country in defeat could be finalized in 1918. World War II became not so much a result of the need to revenge insults as a resetting of the state of hostilities left unfinished in 1918 that the Nazis were only too happy to commit their country on.The subtitle "Alone" describes the position Winston Churchill was in during the 1930's, during which he was one of the few public figures who didn't subscribe to the corrosive groupthink guiding the British diplomatic direction. Winston had, by 1932, been a central figure in the government, after gaining a reputation as a war hero during several Victorian era colonial wars. He had held cabinet positions along with his position as a member of Parliament. His Victorian values prevented him from going along with the rest of the Tory-led government on Indian dominion status, and now he would view the great events of the day as an outsider. It can be argued that the country needed someone with Winston's deep thinking serving HMG, but events would prove that his pariah status kept him from being tainted as just another insider at a time when the country was being sold down the river by its leaders. The main point of contention was Winston's instinctive and highly correct disliking of the new Nazi leadership in Germany, which would constantly run counter to the directions that a series of PM's, from MacDonald to Baldwin to Chamberlain. By the time Stanley Baldwin took over, the mantra of diplomacy was appeasement, appeasement, appeasement. Neville Chamblerlain would become the high priest of the concept. The associates of these PM's would be yes-men or they wouldn't remain in office. The two most notorious to emerge were Chamberlain's Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, and the British ambassador in Berlin, the boot-licker of Hitler and the Nazi leadership, Sir Neville Henderson. These two, with the PM and Chamberlain's "Rasputin", Horace Wilson, became the "Men of Munich", those that orchestrated the sell-out of the Czechs during the Sudenten Crisis of 1938, that William Manchester methodically indicts for their actions.As Manchester points out in the Author's Note, this work is a biography and not a history. Nevertheless, a biographer cannot make all facets of his subject's life clear without knowing that the reader understands the dynamics existing in the world while the story is unfolding. There was an awful lot going on in Winston's world, and Manchester does a masterful job of bringing the early twentieth century world into focus, especially as events transpired in Great Britain and Europe. At the center of Manchester's story, of course, is Winston Churchill, an ex-government minister. He retained his seat in Parliament, but would serve as a backbencher, literally an outsider within the House of Commons, not trusted or respected by most of the members of his party, which ran the government at this time. Different reasons explain his outsider status, including India, his previous defection from the Tories before returning to the party (ratting and re-ratting), and the hard-to-shake unfair (according to Manchester) reputation as the planner of the disastrous World War I Galipoli campaign. Most damning concerning Churchill's suitability to participate in government, however, was his absolute unwillingness to countenance the feckless foreign policy of his country. The two greatest victorious European powers of World War I, Great Britain and France, had established punitive conditions at Versailles which effectively would keep Germany bound with rules against re-armament so that peace in Europe would be maintained. Now, the British government was soft pedaling German rearmament, and would continue to rationalize Germany's erosion and eventual rebuke of the Versailles rules. Manchester shows how Winston became Europe's best informed private citizen. He had at one time been given access to British military records which was never revoked, allowing him to mine a trove of military statistics up to World War II. Probably of most importance, however, was his huge network of operatives consisting of civil service and military workers who increasingly lost faith in their leadership and sent him valuable intelligence about British and even German armament manufacturing and stockpiling, at great personal risk to themselves. After the war, he would recall much of this data in charts and tables to bolster his recollection of this time in his great first volume in his "The Second World War" series titled "The Gathering Storm.""The Last Lion 2" distressingly unfolds with the stagnation of British military preparedness while Nazi Germany became a formidable power in less than a decade. The French, Britain's ally with the largest, most powerful army in Europe at the beginning of this era, were increasingly weakened by a chaotic political scene. The one thing most of France's parties agreed on was the conviction to never again engage in vigorous action which could lead to the appalling bloodletting of World War I, and thus their army marked time inside a static defense which would prove catastrophic in 1940. Manchester writes about a corrosive spirit which permeated all strata of French society, undermining support of any measures, including expenditure of needed money, for the building of a military force which would engage a foreign enemy in the field.A key point which Manchester presents is that the German adventurism and saber rattling of the 1930's was rationalized rather than condemned by the British government and seconded by the news media. As each German-provoked European crisis transpired, HMG tried find a reason to keep betting on the chimera of a stable Germany as a potential ally against any potential threat which may in future be posed by Russia. Winston Churchill risked, and damaged his public stature by constantly speaking publicly about the danger posed to Britain in these circumstances, and by pleading incessantly for his country to engage in efforts to form alliances with other countries to counter the German threat through the mechanism of collective security. His efforts were very effectively countered by a press which did not print his most forceful messages to a public which by the 1930's was living in a post-World War I collective post traumatic disorder.There is a lot of great diplomatic and political history in this book. Some of the most compelling, in my opinion, occured around the time of the eventual realization by Chamberlain that Great Britain was hoodwinked, after Hitler turned the Sudentenland partition into an occupation of all of Czechoslovakia. When it became apparent that diplomatic steps needed to be explored in order to put up a challenge to a now-dominant German military, Chamberlain ineptly engaged in secret negotiations which bound England to go to war in the event of a German invasion of a Poland led by men of "dubious and unstable judgement" (p. 406). There is a certain linearity narration of pieces of common knowledge by which history is portrayed in history class and on those endless World War II television documentaries: Great Britain and France had established a pact to go to war if Poland was invaded; Hitler invaded Poland on September 1st; Britain and France logically went to war; eventually the allies won the war ... (no wonder students are bored with history). In reality, by the time Hitler invaded Poland, HMG was trying to find a way to engage in negotiations in order to get an assurance from the Germans that they would stop fighting if they were allowed to keep Danzig, not having a clue that Hitler's earlier demands over Danzig were only a pretext for invading Poland. If Britain could negotiate a way to cop out of going to war with Germany, Chamberlain would jump at the opportunity, even if it left France in the lurch. It took two days for the government to get up the gumption to acknowledge the inevitability of a declaration of war. Eight months later, when it was time for the Germans to invade France, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, Chamberlain was still hanging on to power in the face of growing vehement public disgust with his government's lackluster conduct in the war so far. Case in point: the embarrassingly disastrous attempt to fight the Germans in Norway. The government could point to some commendable actions at sea, thanks to the decision to bring Winston Churchill into the government as First Lord of the Admiralty. Manchester's book ends at the same point as Churchill's biographical "The Gathering Storm". It is May 1940, and the German blitzkrieg across Western Europe had caught everyone by surprise. The British government was shaken by the realization of a possible defeat of France. Somehow, Britain would have to find a way to fight a war, after years of inadequate military preparedness funding, against the most powerful army in Europe. Poland and Czechoslovakia, two formerly possible allies, had been sacrificed to the German onslaught. German, and to an extent, Italian military forces were consolidating control of Europe. Russia and Germany were raping Finland and Poland respectively, while agreeing to refrain from aggression against each other. When it finally became time for the Chamberlain conservative government to leave, public opinion would elevate the one man who had the backbone, and the knowledge of the workings of government, to vigorously prosecute a war: Churchill. In his own book, Churchill writes of going to bed the first night after the King called for him to form a government, assured that his whole previous life was preparation for his new role as PM. Manchester suggests that Churchill's outward confidence concealed deep fears over the ability of his country to survive, given the magnitude of the challenges facing it.

  • Carol
    2018-09-23 18:29

    This volume covers the quietest period of Churchill's life. He is on the outside: out of Parliament, out of favor, out of work, out of funds. But he had inside information on German activity, in what to me is one of the strangest footnotes of history. Church's curiosity and forethought prompted a request in the 1920's of the PM of state secrets concerning Germany's rebuilding. This was granted and never rescinded. New British governments were unaware of Winston's access, but he kept a pulse on every aspect of their future enemy's strength. One learns much about the character of a person by observing their response to failure and their quotidian choices in the midst of tedium and frustrated desires. Churchill painted, built brick cottages, and wrote books. And continued his unceasing warnings that lost him popularity and favor. It was painful to watch Chamberlain's appeasement policy miss the mark year after year after year. The irony of Winston's position is that those years of cicada-screeching made him the one all Britain turned to when his warnings came to fruition. I docked one star because it seemed to me that Manchester went into too much detail of the politics of England in the 1930's.

  • Lance
    2018-10-18 21:47

    With “hawkish” Churchill without a war and out of power, I didn’t think it was possible for this book to be better than the first. However, I loved reading more about Winston the man and the build up of the Third Reich. Winston’s foresight is vindicated but the task ahead is beyond daunting. Looking forward to the next.

  • Barbara
    2018-10-06 15:53

    Interesting man - got what he wanted by hood or by crook

  • Jim
    2018-09-23 21:47

    This book, second volume of a never-finished three volume biography of Winston Churchill, is simply the best biography I've ever read. That's hardly a fitting review of the book, but it's both true and a good place to start. I stumbled onto it completely by accident on vacation in Buenos Aires, already committed to another book to read. Serendipity works in odd ways; a year ago, I'd found Manchester's engaging Death of a President on a bookshelf in Rio and couldn't put it down. The same was to be true of this work, too.In three layers, the book excels: it describes an unusual and amazing man, in extreme and unusual times, in unusually well-written language. The 689 pages just roll away. The first 34 pages -- "The Lion Caged" -- describes a typical day in the life of 60+ year old Churchill, and are unstoppable. Reading this day in the life account, you simply can't put the book down. Churchill's traits are revealed one by one as we learn how he spends his day (reading the papers in bed til noon, entertaining guests at lunch, feeding the goldfish, enjoying a 2 hour nap, then holding court at the grand dinner, and finally, after all guests have left, starting writing in his ancient study at 11, only to retire at 4 am).The book would be worth it if it catalogued simple days at the end of a brilliant political career, but the start of volume 2 is 1932. Before a backdrop of war fatigue, economic depression, and the bitter peace of Versailles, Hitler is on the rise in Germany. Churchill's incessant calls in the House of Commons to stop the rise of Nazism appear to a pacifist and Bolshevik-fearing country as war-mongering. Over 600 pages and 2 Governments, we learn of the many opportunities England (and France) had to stop Hitler's rise, and how repeatedly the British Government appeased, conceded, and in some cases, colluded to avoid any confrontation with Nazi Germany. The book closes on May 10, 1940, the day Hitler invaded the Low Countries and Churchill was made Prime Minister. All in all, it's an amazing tour through the accomplishments, methods, techniques, speeches, views, and mistakes of Churchill during the years leading up to the Second World War. Sublime!

  • Paul D.Miller
    2018-10-06 16:35

    This book gets better as it goes along. The first half covers 1932-1937. The second half slows down to a day-by-day and sometimes hour-by-hour account of Churchill's rise to power over the final, crucial eighteen months. The narrative tension pulls taut during the crisis over the Sudetenland, just before the invasion of Poland, and in the final days before Chamberlain's resignation. These sections are riveting. Otherwise, this is filler between the excellent first volume and what I hope to be the magisterial concluding entry in the trilogy. Like Volume 1, I was disappointed in how little we learn about Churchill's family life, religious beliefs, or personal reflections. Perhaps Churchill wasn't introspective or left few records of his inner thoughts; if he did, this book contains none of them. This is an excellent record of his public life, nothing more.

  • Kathy
    2018-10-12 22:51

    I listened to this on audiobook and while it took a long time to get through it also allowed me a lot of time to think about what I was hearing. What struck me most was that if WWII had not happened Winston Churchill would be thought of as a minor historical figure who degenerated into crackpot-ness in his later years.The persistence and doggedness that characterized this time in his life is absolutely amazing. Very few people have that profound a sense of their own value and even fewer are right about it. I also enjoyed the "warts and all" approach to this story. He was amazing, but you probably didn't want him as a close personal associate. I am looking forward to listening to the next part.

  • Nick Black
    2018-09-23 19:42

    slightly less perfect than volume 1 (i counted five typos, whereas volume 1 seemed wholly without), but still an incredible historical narrative, ending as winston takes over the prime ministership from chamberlain and the wehrmacht storms across the Low Countries. less character analysis than volume 1, but that's fine -- one can assume less character development in these eight years than his first fifty-eight. the vocabulary is stunning, and weird thing is that manchester provides translations, sometimes multiple times(!), for all the german--even loanwords like blitzkrieg--but very rarely for french. readers of volume 1 will know there's plenty of french in this trilogy, but the german only comes in with the rise of the Führer. a strange decision.

  • Sue Pit
    2018-10-12 23:53

    I am greatly impressed with the William Manchester's Last Lion Alone (1932-1940) regarding Winston Churchill during the years preceding WWII when he saw the grave danger of Hitler whilst others sought the road of appeasement toward the same. I am only sad that William Manchester did not live to complete his writings on Winston Churchill albeit I know Paul Reid took up the mantle of completing this series with Volume 3 (re 1940-1965).

  • Greg Bailey
    2018-10-18 16:25

    A fantastic book. This volume, the second, is better than the first. It recounts the years 1932 to 1940, when Churchill, with great prescience, warned Britain's appeasing leaders about Hitler--and no one would listen. It ends when events sadly prove Churchill right and he is named prime minister as the Nazis attack France. What an incredible piece of history.

  • Vince
    2018-09-30 16:36

    Very Dense & Very Intense. Manchester describes the background of how England and France blindly allowed World War II to happen and how Winston Churchill did all he could to help expose Hitler to the appeasers. The perfect compliment to William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. An Outstanding read. Simply Brilliant!

  • Daniel Beutler
    2018-10-07 18:41

    Of course it was good; it was part of the same story as the last one! Now anticipating "Defender of the Realm" by Paul Reid, Manchester's friend whom he commissioned to complete the final volume about ten years ago.

  • James
    2018-10-16 15:53

    A triumph. If you, like I in June 2017, needed to reaffirm your belief in the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and the ability for an individual to accomplish good in the world... this is your book.

  • Jeffrey
    2018-10-23 16:50

    Just as good as volume 1. In other words-AMAZING!

  • Terry Earley
    2018-09-27 18:34

    I have enjoyed reading all I can on Churchill. Manchester treats him well in this series.