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Winston Churchill, 1929-55

3. Wartime Prime Minister

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Churchill's conduct as Prime Minister during the Second World War, focusing in particular on: (i) the mythology that now surrounds Churchill as a wartime leader, and the difficulty of sorting fact from fiction; (ii) Churchill's determination at the beginning of the war to fight to the bitter end; (iii) his desire to persuade the United States to provide aid to Britain, and to ultimately join the war on the British side; (iv) the high level of military support provided by the Americans to the Allied forces: destroyers-for-bases and lend-lease; (v) the extent to which British and American interests coincided – and the extent to which they diverged – and the success with which Churchill managed the relationship with Roosevelt; (vi) the extent to which Britain was relegated to the position of minor partner when the Russians entered the war in 1941, and the success with which maintained British interests despite the weakness of his position; and (vii) Churchill's overall effectiveness as a wartime leader.


In this course, Professor Richard Toye (University of Exeter) explores the career of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill between 1929-55. In the first module, we think the decade between 1929-39 in which Churchill was out of government, what he called his 'wilderness years', focusing in particular on Churchill's views on India and the rise of Nazi Germany, and ending with his return to government as First Lord of the Admiralty in September 1939. In the second module, we think about how Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, before turning in the third module to his performance as Prime Minister during the Second World War. In the fourth module, we think about why Churchill and the Conservatives suffered such as a heavy defeat in the 1945 general election, before turning in the fifth module to think about what Churchill did next. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about how Churchill and Conservatives managed to return to power in 1951, and Churchill's performance during his second ministry between 1951-55.


Prof. Richard Toye is Professor in the History department at the University of Exeter. He is a historian of Britain in its global and imperial context in the period from the late nineteenth century to the present day, and is particularly interested in the rhetorical dimensions of politics, economics and empire. He is the author of several monographs, including The Labour Party and the Planned Economy, 1931-1951 (2003), Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956 (2017), and Winston Churchill: A Life in the News (2020).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Toye, R. (2021, March 21). Winston Churchill, 1929-55 - Wartime Prime Minister [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Toye, R. "Winston Churchill, 1929-55 – Wartime Prime Minister." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 21 Mar 2021,