winston churchil blog

Larry Arnn on Winston Churchill's Biography


HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America. Bonjour, hi, Canada. Greetings to everyone around the world. It is time, the music tells us, for the Hillsdale Dialogue. Once a week, I go very big, very long, very high, with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, or one of his colleagues.  

He's been off sailing. Honest to goodness, I wish I had this trip. He's been going around the British Isles from May 31 to June 13 on the annual Hillsdale College cruise. Going to Glasgow, Belfast, the Isle of Man. If you'd told me, Dr. Arnn, I could have sent you to Saintfield, which is the ancestral home of the Hewitts, out there in Ulster.  

And then he ended up in doing the Churchill tour, through Blenheim Palace, and Bladon, and Chartwell, as well as London. But, deeply disappointing to me, he went to the Gladstone Library of the National Liberal Club. I think maybe he's been turning into a Corbynite. Hello, Dr. Arnn.  

LARRY ARNN: Corbynite. So first of all is I did not go over to your ancestral home, because I never heard of it.  

HEWITT: No one has. It's a fork in the road.  

ARNN: So if the Gladstone liberals were alive today, you and I would be members of that party.  

HEWITT: Oh come what about Disraeli? I thought Dizzy and I and you would be all together, toasting each other.  

ARNN: If they were alive today, we would be members of that party. The hard thing would be choosing between them.  

HEWITT: Well, you know, they were both very strong abroad. Right? They both had very muscular foreign policies when they chose to be engaged. Neither of them were Palmerston, but they were both very muscular.  

Which brings me to the first topic of the morning, which is not Boris Johnson versus Jeremy Hunt. Though I'm going to get there, because of your unique background. But the President of the United States doing a U-turn on Iran. And I don't know if you've read the papers yet, Dr. Arnn. I know you might have a little jet lag from your world travels.  

Exclusive Trump warned Iran via Oman that US attack was imminent. Called for talks. Iranian officials have rejected them. New York Times Trump approves strikes on Iran, but then abruptly pulls back. Wall Street Journal US plans strike on Iran after downing of drone, but called off mission. What say you, Dr. Arnn?  

ARNN: Well, the first thing I say is that we don't know. You know? Somebody's is talking that Trump called for a strike, and then said not. I haven't read anything that explains why. And I doubt if anybody knows why, if it even happened.  

I can only say why one would do it and why one would be reluctant to do it. One would do it, because they are engaging in state-sponsored piracy in various ways in the Gulf, and they have threatened, explicitly, to close the Gulf. And if anybody is going to keep the Gulf open against them, we are.  

Also, another reason you would do it is they say that they're going back to their nuclear program. Who knows how far advanced that is, but wouldn't this be a great time to whack them? The reason it's not? Well, we have the example of Winston Churchill, who didn't want to get involved there after the Second World War. And after the First World War, too, for that matter.  

And his idea was to get out of there as quick as we could. And remember, Britain had major oil positions, because Churchill had made the decision in 1912 to change the British fleet from coal-fired ships to oil-fired ships. And now, those ships, oil-fired ships, were faster, and could be refueled faster, and they were lighter.  

But Britain had lots of coal. And all the oil was in the Gulf. And so he set up the companies that later became they were later nationalized. But the Anglo-Arab Oil Company, and about the same time, the American-Arab Oil Company, that became Amoco.  

So anyway, it's an important place. But it's also a hard place. The regimes are violent, and terrible, and unstable. The Iranians are the worst of all. We have a coalition of effectively, the Arab world is split right now between the friends of Saudi Arabia and the friends of Iran. And so we're on the side of the friends of Saudi Arabia.  

I wonder if they want us to attack. I wonder if they're afraid. I know that they're building up their military and getting American weapons to do it. So that's a long-winded way of saying there's a lot of factors. I don't know which ones are prevailing.  

HEWITT: Now, I want to explore a little bit longer. If he had said nothing and done nothing, I would say nothing and would not be critical. Because Ronald Reagan said nothing. For four days after an Iranian mine struck the United States ship in 1980, he said nothing, did nothing for four days. Then he sunk the Iranian Navy in about 12 hours.  

And so saying nothing, doing nothing keeps everybody nervous. But the president said big mistake, big mistake, big mistake. And all these press reports in fairly comprehensive detail the sort of thing you can't keep secret when you got air wings ready to go, and missiles launched and loaded. And then they stop.  

If in fact the reports are true, what message does that send? And I want you to couple that answer in regards to Churchill. Did he ever make public threats that he didn't follow through on?  

ARNN: No. No, and so you're right. This all just happened, so I haven't absorbed all the articles, though I've read a few of them. Did Trump say out loud that he was going to attack them?  

HEWITT: Let me play for you what he said. It is cut number this is the first thing that he said. Cut number do you guys got it? The big mistake clip 

TRUMP: Iran made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters, clearly. We have it all documented. It's documented scientifically, not just words. And they made a very bad mistake. OK?  

REPORTER: Mr. President, how will you respond?  

TRUMP: You'll find out.  

REPORTER: Are you willing to start a war with Iran over this?  

TRUMP: You'll find out. You'll find out.  

Obviously— obviously, you know, we're not going to be talking too much about it. You're going to find out. They made a very big mistake.  

HEWITT: What do you think?  

ARNN: Yeah, well, I hope that he vindicates those words. And if you just listen to the man, he knows better than to make a threat and let it be empty. And so one hopes that he will vindicate those words.  

HEWITT: Yeah, I'm just hoping I'm being head-faked, like Patton in the north of England looking at Pas-de-Calais. I hope I'm in the stands on Monday morning, eating crow, and saying, boy, did Donald Trump fake me out. He's so unpredictable. Because it's important to be unpredictable. I'm curious, in your tour of Churchill sites across England, if Churchill's unpredictability and strategery came up?  

ARNN: Oh, yeah, well we talked so I might state the occasion of why we actually went to England on this trip. In 1962, Winston Churchill and his son Randolph launched what became the official biography of Winston Churchill. And it has had the exclusive access to all of the Churchill papers.  

It had that until about 1988, when the final narrative volume was finished. Randolph Churchill was the first biographer. Martin Gilbert, my teacher, was his research assistant. Randolph died in '68. Martin Gilbert took over. In '77, I went to work for Martin Gilbert, met my wife Penny, worked on it. And have been involved with it myself since 1977.  

And the thing is 57 years old. And about three weeks ago, on a Sunday night at midnight, I finished it. And it's 15 million— if you count the narrative volumes and the documents— the narrative volumes by themselves are 9000 pages long. Churchill lived a really big life.  

And so these questions you're asking me, by the way more than anyone who ever lived, we know the answer about Winston Churchill, because he wrote everything down. Makes a virtue of that fact in memos, for example, to Clement Attlee in 1946. The story is told the best in the documents.  

So first Randolph Churchill, and then Martin Gilbert, and now what we've done at Hillsdale College, we are the publishers of this thing. That we've brought all the books back up to print. All 31 volumes can be punished not can be punished.  

HEWITT: Purchased.  

ARNN: Can be published and be purchased from Hillsdale College. And there are e-books coming out. And so it's a huge thing, and I've been working on it for 40 years  

HEWITT: You know what it reminds me of? Andrew Roberts has got a new book out on Napoleon. And it was only 10 years ago that Napoleon's 33,000 letters were published. So it's really only 10 years ago that scholars could really begin.  

ARNN: That's right. Andrew Roberts has written that you've had him on your show that really fine biography. He came to our event in London. We had a dinner to celebrate, and it was because that's why he went to the Gladstone Club. It's one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the world.  

HEWITT: Pause right there, because I want to hear about that whole dinner, uninterrupted. Because I can imagine it in my mind. And I'm sure that Jeremy Corbyn wasn't there, despite Gladstone Club being the sort. I'm sure he wasn't there. We'll be right back. Maybe Boris Johnson was there. We'll find out.  

Dr. Larry Arnn is my guest. It is the Hillsdale Dialogue. All things Hillsdale available at All of my conversations with Dr. Arnn his colleagues dating back to 2013, available at But go watch the video course on Churchill that Dr. Arnn teaches. Congratulations to him on the completion of this epic undertaking. Don't go anywhere, America.  

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. The Hillsdale Dialogue is underway with Dr. Larry Arnn, who is just back from a magnificent trip commemorating and recognizing the completion of the Winston Churchill official biography. Both the narrative and the documents put to bed. And they went off sailing around London.  

And then they had a great big dinner at the Gladstone Library. Which I have never been to, so would you take four, five min and just set this up for us, Dr. Arnn.  

ARNN: So I'll try to do that fast. Between about 1840 and 1910, Britain became a broadly representative country, a democratic country. Before that, the aristocracy had controlled much of it. And the two political parties that we've been praising, or I've been praising them both. And the two leaders, Disraeli and Gladstone, combined in opposition to each other and taking turns to make that transition. Winston Churchill's father was part of it, too 

And so the Liberal Party and the Liberal Club came into prominence in the second half well, in the middle of the 19th century. And in 1882, the great William Gladstone, the wonderful leader he'd been a High Tory, and he switched. And he started a club. And by 1888, they had built one of the most important buildings of that age in London right on the river, about a quarter of a mile from the Houses of Parliament. And it was the National Liberal Club.  

And there are hardly any National Liberals today, but if the Conservatives keep up what they're doing, there may be a lot of interest, because there might not be any conservatives.  

ARNN: And it's a beaut and you know, it's magnificent. It's huge. The dining room  

HEWITT: Which part of town is it in?  

ARNN: What?  

HEWITT: Where is it in London?  

ARNN: Well it's in central London. It's a quarter of a mile from the Houses of Parliament, right along the river.  

HEWITT: Oh, my goodness.  

ARNN: So you can walk. It's in Whitehall Place. We stayed there, too. There's a hotel right next to it. And you can walk half a block one full block, and you'll be in Horse Guards Parade.  

HEWITT: You didn't go near the window, did you? When Charles went near the window, they lopped his head off.  

ARNN: Yeah, yeah, there you go. I did do that, yeah. My head appears to be on, although not very well today.  

It's a room the whole club is very beautiful, but this dining room is 14 feet high. And got bookshelves floor to ceiling, except for the windows, all the way around. And we had about 160 people. And the speakers were Martin Gilbert's widow, Esther, and Michael Dobbs that is to say, Lord Dobbs of Wiley, who is the author of several historical novels about Winston Churchill, and also of the TV show House of Cards.  

HEWITT: Oh, no kidding.  

ARNN: Yeah, and he's a delightful man. And if they'd let him run the Conservative Party, none of this would have happened. And then Randolph Churchill, the great-grandson, spoke. And I spoke. And the great-grandson is a charming man. Looks exactly like somebody who comes from Winston Churchill. The Churchill family, and Randolph in particular, they've been the partners that we've done all this work with for so long.  

HEWITT: You know, I once heard you talk about Churchill at a dinner commemorating his visit to the California Club an exact recreation of the dinner. And it was one of the most wonderful after-dinner talks. You don't want evenings like that to end. I'm just curious, when did it end? How late did you go?  

ARNN: It was almost rudely late. It went till almost 10:00, and then there was drinking and talking after.  

HEWITT: Very Churchillian.  

ARNN: And it was a bunch of see, remember that we had like 130 Americans. So I began the thing. I had quite a bit to say, because I did it. Among the people who are still alive, anyway.  

I began by saying this is a terrifying moment for me. I said, because I've got these English here and I've got these Americans here, and I've got my in-laws here.  

HEWITT: That is a very intimidating gathering.  

ARNN: Yeah, they were. And the in-laws, you know, so the next morning I thanked our group, the people who were on our cruise, for helping me impress my in-laws.  

HEWITT: I'm coming right back with Dr. Larry Arnn. And we're going to talk about Gladstone, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Jeremy Corbyn, and all of his buddies in England. Because it's a mess. Hopefully Boris will sort it all out. We'll talk with Dr. Arnn on this week's Hillsdale Dialogue.  

Meanwhile, head over to, for all things Hillsdale. I'll be right back. Take care.  

Welcome back, America. Hugh Hewitt with Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. This is the Hillsdale Dialogue. Once a week, the last radio hour of the week, we go very high and very deep in some subject matter. Sometimes we are in the current headlines, and we are watching President Trump's U-turn with great interest.  

But we are also watching British politics. I think it's just poetic justice that your trip to London coincided with a leadership election for the Tories that has ended up with Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, after allegations that Boris Johnson's whip people used the dark arts to knock Michael Gove out of the final runoff. Jeremy Hunt looks like James Bond, sounds like James Bond to Americans.  

Boris Johnson, I don't quite know what to make of. What was your assessment of these goings-on, and what do you think is going to happen next, Dr. Larry Arnn?  

ARNN: Well, I'm for Boris for two reasons myself, but one, because people I know in London, whose opinion I respect, are for him. And were for him last time, by the way, when Theresa May was made the one.  

And I'm also for him because he has a record, now. He's made a public record of standing for Brexit. And that means he quit the May government over that subject and put his political career at risk. And so that means he's and he was for it during the campaign, too. And he's a colorful guy, who wrote a pretty good biography of Winston Churchill.  

And he's the only hope. I mean, Hunt, who is not so well-known, and not so committed about this, he could come out and be a fireball. But the reason I think Boris is going to win is that they really have no choice.  

The Remainers among them as against the Leavers, they both have to look out on the world and see that there is no Conservative Party unless they get out. And there's no real option to get out except to be prepared to just walk out, which is what I thought that they should've done a year ago.  

Because why? Because the conservatives, most of whom I mean the elected members of the Conservative Party and almost all of the cabinet, they were on the side Remain in the EU. But A, country voted for it by four percentage points, 52-48. And that's close. But that's a victory.  

And then the great majority of the conservative constituencies voted for it. And that means that they called this election. And David Cameron, the previous conservative PM, actually called for a referendum to try to get this thing put to bed. Because the United Kingdom Independence Party, under Nigel Farage, who's a very colorful man, was eating away at their vitals.  

And now it's worse. I mean, if you just look at the opinion polls, the new party, whose name has escaped me, that Farage has started  

HEWITT: I think it's called the Brexit Party.  

ARNN: They're just growing, right? And the conservatives have sunk to a low point. Well, Cameron said, the only right way to solve this is a referendum. And he called for an election. And then it didn't go the way he wanted. So he did the right thing and resigned, and said that he would now support exit, leave.  

And Theresa May, who'd been a Remainer, as Cameron was, also said she would do it. But you know, she's done it so ham-fistedly. I mean, if Donald Trump had a public failure of nerve, first of all, I don't believe that. It'll need proving. But that would be devastating to him, because he has nerve. And so if he's lost it over this, that'd be terrible.  

But Theresa May, she did everything exactly wrong. Because first of all  

HEWITT: From the beginning, I want to emphasize from the first day when they said we have to have a deal.  

ARNN: Yeah, she delivered herself. They have every reason to punish her, because why? Europe is full of political parties that make up considerable minorities in a country of two majorities who want to get out of the European Union. And they're worried about that, because it's a big bureaucracy. And nobody likes that kind of thing.  

And so they've got to show, if they can, that it's foolish to vote to get out. It'll hurt you. See? So they're trying to punish them. Well, once you understand that, and if you just read the paper one day, you'll understand that's what they're going to do. Then what you do, after the vote passes, is OK, we're going. I'm giving notice. Here's the day. And just say that. And then  

HEWITT: And you're not getting the $38 billion, or 38 billion pounds that you asked for, and we accommodatingly agreed to.  

ARNN: And if they say before any talk of that money, they just should have said, I'm giving notice on this day, and we'll be out on this day. And stop. And then the press says, well, what are the terms of the deal? And you say, the terms of the deal are the British people, a sovereign people, have voted to go. And we're going.  

And they'd say, what do you need from the European Union? And you say, nothing.  

HEWITT: Nothing.  

ARNN: And then they say, well, they want to talk to you. And you say, great. Love to talk to them.  

HEWITT: Well, Maybe Boris will do that. I note the Times of London this morning, has Tory leadership the only way Jeremy Hunt can beat Boris Johnson is to run against him on character. Which leads me I don't think he's going to beat him. Boris has had an interesting private life, I'll put it that way.  

I read last night a fascinating analysis that compared Jeremy Corbyn to the Roundheads and Boris Johnson to the Cavaliers. And that there's a considerable streak in England that likes their Royals, or their prime ministers, to be, if not licentious, then loose. They do not mind it so much. Is that true?  

ARNN: Well  

HEWITT: Colorful, I think, is what they said.  

ARNN: So first of all, I don't think that people are making up their minds about this about things like that. Boris Johnson has weird hair. Do you know any other world leader who has that?  

HEWITT: No. Just down the road, here.  

ARNN: So I think that people are looking now, because this is disgraceful, right? It's a national embarrassment, whether you're a Leaver or a Remainer. And so they're looking for somebody who will do something decisive. And I think that people the Members of Parliament, how are they going to decide?  

Well, their charge is they're supposed to try to keep their seats. And so they've got to be listening to their constituencies. And the constituencies think that this is disgusting. And so they need to do something strong, and they've got to figure out who is going to do that.  

HEWITT: To the Tory's 160,000 members, some of whom were at your dinner at the Gladstone Library, I'm sure.  

ARNN: That's right. By the way, one of the members of the House of Lords who came is a Remainer and was in the House of Commons I won't say his name for 30 years. And Michael Dobbs, who spoke, and Jamie Borwick, who spoke, Lord Borwick. Borick, you say it you know, they're big Leavers. And that's one reason why I know them. There was a difference of opinion at our dinner about that.  

HEWITT: That's like Trump divides every room you go into for the same reason. But I come back to this point. After voting to leave, David Cameron resigned, but the Members of Parliament put forward Theresa May.  

And they selected a Remainer who pretended to be a Leaver. Jeremy Hunt was a Remainer, who now is committed to leaving. You would think, wouldn't you? That having done that twice, you don't do it again.  

ARNN: That's why Boris is in the lead, see. And they probably remember, we get the virtue of being wise after the fact. Although, of course, we always know better, even before. But on the day when that happened, when the election went the way it went, that was shocking.  

They knew it was going to be close and they were astonished at that. Right? And then it came out the way it came out. That was shocking. And so of course, Theresa May looked like somebody who would do it as gently as possible. And that's where the fault lies. They didn't understand that that was dangerous.  

Because these guys you know, first of all, these guys are power brokers, right? How do you climb to the top of the bureaucracy in the European Union? Is it like you pass a test at Sunday school and get gold stars on your report? Are you good at the use and organization of power? Because that's what this thing is about.  

And you have to remember, the decisive force in the halls of the European government, as it's become, is not public opinion, because it's almost impossible to measure that. Right?  

HEWITT: Well, it's actually public choice theory. They're always making decisions based on their own perceived best interests. And the parties of Europe that are conservative are in fact no longer conservative. Angela Merkel is not a conservative. She's a bureaucrat.  

ARNN: Yeah, that's right. And another thing is, they know there's a lot of dissent out there. But the dissent can only be organized through the foreign ministers and prime ministers of the constituent countries, because they are the only effective representation of their countries. And remember, the European Union has not been formed by popular vote.  

The Constitution of the United States was ratified by state ratifying conventions elected for the purpose by the people. This is not that way. This is formed by a bunch of international treaties, where the people and most of the places, by the way, where people were actually asked to vote on the Constitution that currently rules Europe it failed. So that's why they did it by treaty.  

HEWITT: You ought to be teaching this and the history behind it inside the Beltway. Not just in Michigan, you ought to be bringing credentialed teachers who can bestow degrees upon students who follow a designed core curriculum to teach them the lessons of history and the dangers of this. You ought to be doing this inside the Beltway, Dr. Arnn.  

ARNN: Well, you know, that's a really good idea. Maybe we'll start a graduate school on Capitol Hill at our Washington, DC campus. And maybe we'll do that come August of this year.  

HEWITT: Well, wouldn't that be something worth talking about?  

You got to go see Matt Spalding, now, and tell him I told Hugh that he could do that.  

ARNN: I don't know what probably Matt has a very good reason for what he does. But I seldom know what is.  

HEWITT: It's very hard to discern. But I just listen to him and nod, and then talk to the number one and the number— he's like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to you. Who wants to be Boris's chancellor, by the way? That's going to be— we got less than a minute. That's going to be the hardest job in the government, isn't it?  

ARNN: Yeah, well, you know, it's a mess. Right? And I think the conservatives are going to take a drubbing, whatever they do. And I think but you never know. Boris could hit a homer and become popular.  

HEWITT: And don't you invite Nigel into the cabinet? Don't you do that?  

ARNN: Oh, yeah. And you need so it would be wrong of me to talk about my family, but professional people in London, the kind of people who know MPs, they're almost all Remainers, right? It's just regular people you know, like people who voted for Trump over here. Most of them are Leavers, right? And most of them that's the backbone of the Tory party.  

So Farage will offend. Oh, let's say I had some conversation with my in-laws. I had a drink after this dinner. And I made some points about Brexit. And they see it in a new light, you know? And we've been talking about it off and on since it happened.  

But professional London, and the south, they don't want to go. And that's the people the biggest and greatest city in the country is also the place where the government is. That's different from America.  

HEWITT: To which we respond, this is a sovereign country led by the people. Dr. Larry Arnn, More coming up next week. Thank you, my friend. for knowledge, and news about events and unfolding of happenings on Capitol Hill. Take care.