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Churchill and Orwell

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Churchill and Orwell

The Fight for Freedom

Penguin Press,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Winston Churchill and George Orwell confronted a pivotal moment in history with moral clarity and personal courage.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging


The 1930s gave rise to totalitarianism in Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Both threatened democracies like Great Britain. Thrust into the forefront of an apocalyptic moment in history, British political leader Winston Churchill and writer George Orwell responded with intellectual clarity and moral courage. They deciphered the facts of the crisis and trusted their higher principles. In response to today’s political and economic crises, historian Thomas E. Ricks offers lessons for contemporary leaders from their rigorous analysis and high standards of integrity. 


Winston Churchill devoted his early years to power and status – George Orwell, to confronting the abuse of power.

The young Winston Churchill was an undisciplined, poor student, but a virtuoso with the English language. That served him as a writer and political orator. Like many of the less intellectually gifted members of the British aristocracy, he was sent off to join the army. It took him three tries to gain admission to Sandhurst, the British military academy devoted to infantry and cavalry.

Liberated by the death of his abusive father, Churchill embarked on a brilliant, glamorous career that took him to India, Afghanistan, Sudan and South Africa. He educated himself by reading Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He wrote about his experiences. His first book, about a skirmish along the Afghan border, was well-received. He gained sufficient confidence to take a leave from the army and launch a literary career he hoped would garner sufficient attention to let him start a government career.

Like Churchill, George Orwell didn’t have much of a relationship with his father, who worked in...

About the Author

Thomas Edwin Ricks specializes in writing about military and national security issues. He wrote the bestseller Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (2006) and its follow-up, The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq (2009).

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