These introductions have been written by leading historians to offer overviews of key topics in British and world history alongside a carefully curated selection of documents from the Churchill Archive.

They are aligned with key topics on higher education courses and open up the Archive’s potential for wider research and study for students and academics alike.


Nick Lloyd, King’s College London

The appeasement of Germany is one of the most important periods in the history of the twentieth century. It is, in many ways, still inseparable from the life and reputation of Winston Churchill, whose campaign against Adolf Hitler, and his regular warnings about German motives, proved unerringly correct. Not only did he help to reveal the true extent of Nazi barbarity, but his firm leadership also helped prepare Britain for the inevitable struggle against the Third Reich.

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Mark J Crowley, University of Utah

Churchill and China in the Second World War

This introduction follows the relationship between Britain and China throughout the Second World War and the key role that Churchill played in fostering that connection. Revealing the strategic importance of China in safeguarding British imperial interests and holding back Japanese advances, Mark Crowley describes the turbulent nature of the Sino-British war relations between 1939 and 1945. The documents include examples of correspondence between Winston Churchill and the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, as well as Churchill's personal exchanges with the Duke of Windsor and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the topic of China's role in the Second World War.

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Martin Pugh

Class and Politics

Martin Pugh, formerly Newcastle University

During the first half the twentieth century, the political and social landscape of Britain underwent a significant transformation. The all-encompassing effects of the First and Second World Wars brought about a change in Britain’s electorate, in range and as well as in priority. From the Liberal reforms of the early twentieth century, to the shock victory of the Attlee Labour government in 1945, class had begun to dominate British party politics like never before.

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Gaynor Johnson


Gaynor Johnson, University of Kent

In the decade or so before coming Prime Minister, known as his ‘wilderness years’, Churchill was not in office and had little political support. His lack of support was exacerbated by the British government’s increasing commitment to a policy of reconciliation and accommodation towards Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s. Churchill believed that such a strategy, which was eventually extended to include Italy and the Soviet Union, and often referred to as the policy of appeasement, was fundamentally wrong-headed. The Churchill Archive offers a number of documents relating to this topic and period which shed light on Churchill’s ‘wilderness years’ and the origins of the Second World War.

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Empire and Imperialism

Richard Toye, University of Exeter

Focussing on Empire and Imperialism, we’ve gathered together here relevant material within the Archive. The overview summarises the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ types of Empire and also discusses the concept of ‘neo-imperialism’. It outlines some key aspects of Churchill’s involvement in the British Empire, ranging from his participation in minor colonial wars as a soldier and journalist, to his campaign against reform in India in the 1930s, to his policies as both Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the 1940s and 1950s, before highlighting materials in the Churchill Archive collection that are pertinent to the topic.

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Kenneth L. Campbell


Kenneth L. Campbell, Monmouth University

The rise of fascism in Italy in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, and its related variant of National Socialism in Germany, posed a major threat to the ideals of liberal democracy that had grown in Europe prior to 1914. The strength of fascism in Europe during the interwar years derived from the ability of its leaders to preach an extreme version of nationalism as a solution to the postwar economic and political woes.

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International Organizations and Institutions

Maartje Abbenhuis, University of Auckland

Winston Churchill’s life (1875-1965) coincided with a massive amount of global change, not least in the ways in which states and communities interacted with each other across borders and formed transnational organizations to influence and shape the contours of international life. The Churchill Archives offer numerous insights into the internationalist nature of the first half of the twentieth century and show how ordinary people engaged with major events and mobilized politically in response.

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Post-war Europe

Christopher Knowles, King’s College London

On VE Day, 8 May 1945, much of Europe was in ruins. Millions of people had been killed or were severely injured. Many countries suffered twice. First they were defeated and occupied by the German armies and their economies geared to support the German war effort. They were then damaged again as the Allies advanced on the Eastern and Western fronts and the German armies retreated. There were severe shortages of food and raw materials and a risk of starvation and epidemics of disease. Explore post-war Europe in this Introduction by Christopher Knowles.

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Science and Technology

Graham Farmelo, Churchill College, University of Cambridge

The rate of scientific development in the twentieth century was remarkable. Not only were scientists utilising the energy from the atom less than fifty years after its discovery, but the science of genetics began, along with quantum theory and relativity. Scientists were gaining an increasingly deep understanding of their world, and what could be achieved. These vast technological and scientific advances enabled giant leaps in industry and warfare, including the creation of the most destructive weapons the world had ever seen.

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The Century of the 'Special Relationship': Britain and America in the Age of Churchill

David Woolner, Roosevelt Institute

For much of the twentieth century, Great Britain and the United States enjoyed what came to be known as “the special relationship”— a unique bond of trust and cooperation on the world stage made manifest through the two countries battle against fascism in the 1940s, close cooperation in the decades-long struggle of the Cold War, and in more recent years by the two nation’s joint struggle against international terrorism. Such was not always the case.

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The Cold War and Nuclear Weapons

Kevin Ruane, Canterbury Christ Church University

Here we have gathered together some of the resources that the Churchill Archive offers to students and historians of the Second World War, the Cold War and the origins of the East-West nuclear arms race. The career of Winston Churchill, as both war leader and Cold Warrior, binds the resources together, but the documents we have picked out are not only of great interest in their own right but shed important light on some of the key episodes in twentieth century international history.

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The Origins of the First World War

William Mulligan, UCD Centre for War Studies

In the years before the outbreak of the First World War, Churchill came to play an increasingly important role in shaping British foreign and naval policy. Appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in October 1911, Churchill was primarily concerned with the Anglo-German naval race. The archive documents his efforts to improve Anglo-German relations, his belief in deterrence, and his role in the July crisis.

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Cat Wilson

The Origins of the Second World War

Cat Wilson, independent researcher

Looking at the origins of the Second World War, here we have gathered a number of documents from the Churchill Archive that go some way to explain how this monumental event in human history came to be. Churchill recounted how the war’s origins, from a British perspective, spanned the period 1919 to 1939 as the world lurched from ‘war to war’. This overview summarises the key factors which are almost universally accepted and points towards relevant materials in the Archive; The Treaty of Versailles, the impotence of the League of Nations, unresolved tensions across Europe, and the financial and psychological scars of the First World War which had led to bitterness and resentment amongst the leading protagonists.

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Women and Social Change

Lucy Noakes, University of Brighton

Here we focus on some of the resources that the Churchill Archive offers to social historians, particularly those interested in women, gender roles and social change in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning with a brief overview of some of the major social changes of this period, we highlight some areas of the collection that are particularly relevant. These include ‘Women and Education’, ‘Women in the Workforce’ and ‘Women and the Military’. Unsurprisingly, the collection has particular strengths for the researcher interested in women’s changing roles in wartime, and for material relating to Women’s Suffrage, which Churchill first supported and then opposed.

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