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Interpreting the Evidence

Winston Churchill

  1. Load Winston Churchill Photograph, "[i]nto forty three years he has packed a century of effort and achievement," n.d. in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Photograph of Winston Churchill, the future Prime Minister of Britain most well remembered for his involvement in World War II. According tho the caption, "[i]nto forty three years he has packed a century of effort and achievement," n.d.
Historical Context
Even though Winston Churchill is widely known for his role in international affairs during the Second World War, he played a significant part in World War I, as well.  Churchill was born in 1874, the son of conservative politician, Lord Randolph Churchill.  As a youth, Churchill was very interested in military affairs. When he turned fourteen, it was decided that he would eventually enter the army, although it seems as though he ultimately wanted to be a politician like his father.  After that point, his schooling was directed toward military instruction with his eventual entrance into Sandhurst, the Royal Military College.  In 1895, Winston Churchill began building his military experience by serving in the Fourth Hussars (a military regiment formed in 1685.)  Soon after, he was granted a leave and worked as a reporter during the Cuban war.  Between 1896 and 1897, Churchill continued his military/journalist career while traveling to India, and by 1898, saw military action in Sudan.  He resigned his commission in 1899 to travel to report on the Boer War, where he was captured while on a train, leading to a daring escape and a hero’s welcome in Great Britain. Churchill began his political career soon after (1900) when he was elected to Parliament.  He served in numerous posts over the next few years.  In fact, he held almost every important ministerial post except foreign minister.  

As World War I broke out, Churchill, serving as First Lord of the Admiralty, actively pushed the Dardanelles Campaign, in an attempt to gain the powerful straits of Turkey for trade and water routes that would give the Entente powers great strategic power.  Churchill’s controversial naval plan (because of the difficulty of achieving the goal without ground troop support) was put forth and he was able to have the plan approved by the War Cabinet by January 1915. On February 19, the attack began with naval bombardment against the Turkish defenders.  By March 23, however, after three attempts, Churchill was forced to admit that the naval attack had failed.  Churchill’s political career was damaged at this point. Even though he had begun the war powerfully by pushing the development of the tank and helping to prepare Britain’s fleet, he was reduced to a minor office in 1915 and resigned as a result.  He rejoined the Army, eventually receiving the rank of colonel and, by 1917, he was able to re-climb the political ranks after being appointed David Lloyd George’s minister of munitions. Churchill ended the WWI years as state secretary for war and air (1918-1921.)  He continued to gain fame and power over the next two decades as the stage was set for the beginning of the Second World War.
Essential Question
How do individuals impact global events?
Check for Understanding
Describe the individual in the photograph and explain his contribution to the war.
Historical Challenges
Research Churchill’s capture and famous escape in 1899. How did this build Churchill’s image in England?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Geography: Make a map outlining Churchill’s plan to gain the straits of Turkey.