How Winston Churchill Changed the World

Course No. 8400
Professor Michael Shelden, PhD
Indiana State University
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Course No. 8400
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn how Churchill's passion for literature and history informed some of his greatest public speeches.
  • Examine Churchill's early career as a liberal statesman trying to establish a social safety net for the working class.
  • Study some of Churchill's political blunders, including the miscalculated adventure" in Gallipoli."
  • Discover how Churchill collaborated with, and fought, political peers like Arthur Balfour and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • Follow Churchill's postwar struggle to solve the emerging Cold War through his characteristic personal diplomacy.

Course Overview

Few individuals personify the tumultuous story of the 20th century more than Winston Churchill. Great Britain’s most celebrated statesman, Churchill didn’t just live history—he made it. His was a fascinating journey that would take him from the dawn of the Edwardian Age to the dawn of Beatlemania; from the days when the British Empire ruled the seas to its twilight as the preeminent global power; and from the chaos of two world wars to the equally fraught tensions of the Cold War era.

To follow Churchill on his epic course as a politician is to experience, on an intimate scale, the dramatic highs and lows of world history. It’s also a chance to honor the concepts of democracy and liberty he held so dear. Churchill’s life offers a stirring reminder of how, in times when freedom is threatened, people can still stand up to defend it.

Even still, too many biographies of Churchill are hagiographic, choosing to gloss over the many equally intriguing complexities of a man who both shaped and was shaped by the world around him. Just as important as Churchill’s championing of freedom were his moments of weakness, his political failures, and his personal struggles. Taken together, they all offer an invaluable context to both Churchill the man and Churchill the legend.

“Churchill rose to the occasion because that’s what great leaders do,” notes preeminent biographer, Professor Michael Shelden of Indiana State University. “That’s why his life will always be worth our attention. Whatever our political persuasion, we can learn from him.”

In How Winston Churchill Changed the World, enjoy a thorough, multifaceted exploration of Churchill’s life, accomplishments, complexities, and legacies. Over the span of 24 lectures that unfurl like a great story, you will delve into Churchill’s military leadership during World War I and World War II; his personal relationships with family and friends; his abiding passion for history, literature, and public speaking; and his political relationships with historical giants like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Queen Elizabeth II. With Professor Shelden as your authoritative guide, you’ll embark on an unforgettable adventure through the 20th century in the footsteps of the one man who helped not just Great Britain but all of humanity prevail during violent, dangerous times.

The Life and Times of a Master Statesman

Professor Shelden provides a biographer’s keen insights into Churchill and uses this course to help you arrive at an amazing conclusion: No matter how much you reveal about the man, Churchill in every way lives up to his legend.

How Winston Churchill Changed the World guides you chronologically through the life and times of this master statesman, taking you from the dawn of his political career to his final years in a much-changed geopolitical landscape.

  • The Early Years: Follow Churchill from his beginnings in the early 1900s as a young liberal statesman, his rise to the Admiralty in 1914 and his relentless push for an imposing naval force, and some of his disastrous miscalculations during World War I.

 

  • The Second World War: Discover why, more than any other British politician, Churchill denounced the rise of Adolf Hitler and why, after the breakout of war, he led the fight against the Nazis and refused to make peace with Hitler even when it seemed most prudent.
  • A Postwar Britain: Examine Churchill’s equally dramatic postwar career, when he was voted out of office and caught up in a time of political, social, and economic crisis, as well as two different cold wars—one with the Soviets and one with Britain’s Labour party.

 

As you tour the 20th century from Churchill’s perspective, you’ll get fascinating insights into his accomplishments and triumphs, including:

  • His diplomatic maneuverings with allies and foes;
  • His iconic public speeches (including his celebrated “Finest Hour” speech, which draws on lines from an Andrew Marvell poem);
  • His investment in Britain’s military (including his early championing of tanks and seaplanes); and
  • His early realizations of the dangers of both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

 

Learning from Failure

Central to all 24 lectures of How Winston Churchill Changed the World is the profound sense of history that was so important to Churchill’s philosophy as a politician and a leader.

As Professor Shelden puts it, “Knowing what happened—and where it happened—was not trivia for Churchill. It was part of the process of knowing your place in time, of understanding how what you do today will affect tomorrow and how it will measure up to events of yesterday.”

These lectures offer a more contextualized perspective on Churchill’s life and career with an appreciation of this kind of historical knowledge. As a result, Professor Shelden doesn’t shy away from examining Churchill’s failures and how, on occasion, his preference for the backward glance of history distorted his view of the future, leading to missteps and disasters, including his failure to understand the rise of independence movements in the British colonies, his underestimation of Japan’s strength in the Pacific Theater, and his controversial World War II bombing campaigns in German cities like Dresden.

 

Both “Great Man” and “Everyman”

One of Professor Shelden’s skills in these lectures, aside from his incomparable scholarship, is his ability to make Churchill feel both bigger than life and entirely relatable, both a “great man” and “everyman.”

A celebrated biographer, Professor Shelden is the author of Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, as well as several other biographies of writers like George Orwell and Mark Twain. His literary background makes him the perfect biographer of Churchill, who himself was a celebrated and respected writer who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

“It’s not too bold a thing to say that it was Churchill who admirably filled the post of poet laureate without any official reason to do so,” says Professor Shelden, “taking his prose to poetic heights in his best speeches, and moving his audiences in the way that great verse often does.”

Poet, historian, statesman, soldier, prime minister, husband—Winston Churchill played many roles throughout his life. And How Winston Churchill Changed the World brings all these varied roles together to create a fascinating, multilayered biography.

By the end of the final lecture, you’ll discover that Churchill’s most enduring legacy is anchored in something deeply personal and timeless: his individual stance as a champion of freedom when the world was at a tipping point between darkness and light, and as someone whose voice and courage helped to shift the balance toward the light.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Churchill and the Muse of History
    First, establish a strong sense of how Winston Churchill looked at the world, and what he brought to politics that made him stand out from the start of his career. Then, learn how the connecting thread of history helped inspire Churchill to deliver his iconic Finest Hour" speech." x
  • 2
    Young Churchill
    Survey the remarkable accomplishments of Winston Churchill's life before he turned thirty. Follow the future statesman as he fights on the frontier of India, takes part in the British army's last great cavalry charge, survives capture in South Africa's Boer War, and wins a seat in Parliament. x
  • 3
    Churchill, the Edwardian Titan
    Few British politicians have risen as far-and as fast-as Winston Churchill did during the first decade of his parliamentary career. Examine Churchill's meteoric ascent, including his conflicts with political veterans Arthur Balfour and Joseph Chamberlain, his time as a liberal statesman, and his relationship with Violet Asquith. x
  • 4
    Churchill's Rise to the Admiralty
    Focus on Churchill's career as First Lord of the Admiralty and his efforts to make sure the British navy could win battles in the North Sea. Central to this were technological developments (including a massive new gun for ships) and his knowledge of the newest twist in naval warfare: aviation. x
  • 5
    Churchill and Failure in World War I
    With the military disaster in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles during World War I, Churchill pushed his luck too far. Discover what led to this major failure and his subsequent resignation from government, as well as how he overcame this fall from grace by joining the fight on the Western Front. x
  • 6
    Churchill in War and Peace
    Gain insights into Churchill's return to government in 1917 as Minister of Munitions and, after the end of World War I, as War Secretary. Then, examine Churchill's fraught relationship with Prime Minister Lloyd George and the publication of his grand, four-volume history of the war years: The World Crisis. x
  • 7
    Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer
    As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill's primary job was to maintain Britain's economic prosperity. Here, learn how his efforts to cut wasteful spending, implement modest tax cuts, and return to the Gold Standard hurt the British economy in a way that would undermine most of his good work elsewhere. x
  • 8
    The Rise of Tyranny in the 1930s
    Take a step back to investigate just how tangled the relationship between Britain and Germany was becoming in the 1930s. Professor Shelden reveals how Churchill led an uphill battle to persuade his country about the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis-even as his fellow countrymen turned against him. x
  • 9
    Churchill as Author and Historian
    During the 1930s, Churchill kept his name and fame alive through his books and essays. In this lecture, explore some of his greatest works from the period, including Great Contemporaries (a dazzling study of major leaders of the day) and Marlborough: His Life and Times (a multi-volume biography of a famous ancestor). x
  • 10
    The Gathering Storm in Nazi Germany
    As international danger loomed on the horizon, Churchill knew the Royal Air Force would be the key to Britain's future. Learn how Churchill set in motion a chain of events that led to the legendary (and revolutionary) Spitfire, then examine how Churchill tried to save King Edward's monarchy from scandal. x
  • 11
    Churchill in the Age of Appeasement
    Explore just how pitifully disunited and disorganized the British government was as it stood on the verge of war with Hitler. How did the "age of appeasement" begin? What made Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain think he could do business with Hitler? How did Churchill continue to prepare for war? x
  • 12
    The Road to Dunkirk
    On May 8, 1940, a speech by David Lloyd George validating Churchill's premonitions of war with Germany led to Chamberlain's defeat-and Churchill's succession to the role of prime minister. But, as you'll learn, within a month of taking office Churchill faced one of his most serious challenges at Dunkirk. x
  • 13
    Churchill in Power
    When Churchill took power over the government, he knew he'd not only have to fight the Germans but also the simmering resentments within the Conservative Party. Take a closer look at cabinet battles and the famous speech to the House of Commons after the Dunkirk miracle" that effectively crushed Churchill's defeatists." x
  • 14
    Surviving the Nazi Blitz
    Explore how Churchill responded to the terror of the Blitz and how his long history of experience with aviation had a major impact on the war in the air. Then, conclude with a look at the wisdom of a particular-and overlooked-sentence from his famous speech of June 18, 1940. x
  • 15
    Turning the Tide against Hitler
    When did the course of war with Germany take the decisive turn for England that Churchill had hoped for? Why did his attention wander to Malaysia and Singapore? Why was the Suez Canal such an important lifeline for Britain? What was Churchill's long-term strategy for facing down the German juggernaut? x
  • 16
    Churchill and Roosevelt
    Learn how another historical giant-U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt-became the one vital person Churchill needed at his side to win the war. You'll learn what made these two men such effective partners, including their strong wills, their love of attention, and their hatred of being on the sidelines. x
  • 17
    Churchill and Stalin
    Turn now to Churchill's relationship with another historical giant: Russian leader Joseph Stalin. Why was Churchill's August 1942 trip to Moscow one of his most difficult wartime challenges? How did he and Roosevelt balance their desire to help an enemy of Hitler's without allowing Stalin more leverage than was prudent? x
  • 18
    Debating Churchill's Wartime Leadership
    Take a look at some of the more controversial decisions of Churchill's war record, including his possible delay of the D-Day invasion and the bombing campaign against Dresden and other German cities. Also, consider Churchill's early public stance against the threat to Jews under the Nazis. x
  • 19
    Churchill from Tehran to Yalta
    At the Tehran Conference, Churchill realized how small Britain was compared to the rising world powers of Russia and the United States. At the Yalta Conference, he discovered the only bond of victors is their common hate. Here, go inside Churchill's experiences at these critical diplomatic events from World War II. x
  • 20
    Peace, Churchill, and the British Voter
    In July 1945, at the height of his triumph over Hitler, Churchill was kicked out of office by the British electorate and replaced with Clement Attlee. Examine how Churchill's struggle to save Europe from despotism left Britain a minor world power instead of the major power it once was. x
  • 21
    Churchill on the Iron Curtain
    In this lecture on the dawn of the Cold War era, investigate how Churchill grew increasingly disappointed with Britain's postwar future-including its reduced power, influence, and economic prospects-and his realization that another ominous threat loomed over the world: Stalin and the Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe. x
  • 22
    Churchill and Britain's Postwar Crisis
    As prime minister, Churchill had shared his government with Labour leaders. Learn what happened once Labour assumed power and walked away from that spirit of partnership. From a fiscal meltdown to rationing to British troops at war in Asia, ceaseless opposition became the rule of the day. x
  • 23
    Churchill's Return to Power
    Churchill devoted as much energy as possible in his second period as prime minister to cementing ties between the United States and Britain in response to the Soviet Union's rise as a superpower. Discover how he became a powerful, persuasive advocate for peaceful coexistence in the face of atomic destruction. x
  • 24
    Churchill and the Legacy of Freedom
    Was Winston Churchill really the indispensable man of the 20th century? Can one person even make that much of a difference in the course of history? Professor Shelden concludes his lecture series with a pointed consideration of provocative questions that most academic historians won't even go near. x

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  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 177-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 177-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Answer Key
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Michael Shelden

About Your Professor

Michael Shelden, PhD
Indiana State University
Michael Shelden is Professor of English at Indiana State University, where he has won the top award for excellence in scholarship, the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research/Creativity Award, three times. He earned his PhD in English from Indiana University. Professor Shelden is the author of six biographies, including Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, which has been translated into Russian, Chinese, and...
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Reviews

How Winston Churchill Changed the World is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 71.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Overview The course provided a great overview of Churchhill and gave some very good anecdotes that provided an insight into his character. I particularly liked the overview of his relationship with Roosevelt and Stalin. The authors presentation style is very easy to listen to and has good pace. At times some of the lessons are very repetitive and I found myself fast forwarding through part of them. And example would be the reasons of the failure of the labor government post World War II. Overall, the course is well worth the money for both those unfamiliar with Churchhill or even those that have some level of familiarity.
Date published: 2019-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb and moving I have very extensive knowledge of history including European history, the history of WW I and WW II, and the life of Winston Churchill. And I found this course wonderful: informative, richly textured, and quite moving. I recommend it to anyone interested in history. Prof. Shelden is an excellent lecturer; I hope he does more courses for the TC. He deftly weaves in the times, Churchill's early life and the shaping of his personality, his struggles and triumphs, and the supreme contribution that Churchill made to civilization. I hadn't thought before this course of the excellent parallel that Prof Shelden makes between Churchill being an early and accurate voice about the threat of Hitler and the Nazis in the 30s and then Stalin and the Soviets in the late 40s and 50s. It was also very interesting to see just how badly the 1945 Labour government bungled its handling of the UK economy, resulting in Churchill becoming Prime Minister again in 1951. It's a wonderful course.
Date published: 2019-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title is well suited for what a single person was An excellent addition to the Great Courses library and a welcome addition to the Winston Churchill storyline. I am at the last few lectures of this course and the reference to Winston Churchill saying “ know your history, know your history”..is well placed in his day and equally apples today.
Date published: 2019-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! This was a great introduction to Winston Churchill. It made my commute to and from work very enjoyable. I found myself driving home from work slower than normal just to get extra time to listen to the lectures.
Date published: 2019-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Tale of Leadership Styles Having taken the late J Rufus Fears' fabulous course "Churchill", it seemed impossible that anyone else could do equal justice to the subject, much less a Professor of English. But therein might lie the magic of this course: Sheldon's bio credits have more to do with the related works he has produced and less to do with "academic title". This may represent a new way that the Great Courses has found to bring us not only academic accuracy but to emphasize the author's proven free market passion for his subject. The best way I can think to describe my own passion for Sheldon's work is to compare his portrayal of leadership with that portrayed in TGC's 60-lecture excellent "Critical Business Skills for Success" course. In Sheldon's course, the leader is a man driven to reveal the terrors of both Nazi and Soviet socialism's central "purity" as they choke societal complexity into submission to humanism's linear tyrannical rule. The Churchill, portrayed by Sheldon, is a heroic-tragic figure, constantly struggling for a people who wanted desperately to believe in the new (Nazi-created) art of propaganda used to extol the benignity of central control. Sheldon, who does not spare Churchill's personal mistakes, creates enormous tension with his storyteller emotive reading of the roller coaster career Churchill buffeted between his hard-edged prophetic accuracy and a non-caring public led by soft-edged, vindictive bureaucratic panderers. In Sheldon's work, a leader foresees problems, tells the truth without sparing reality, and takes the hits except for the few grand moments when he saves the world. In the excellent (for different reasons) TGC "Critical Business Skills..." a leader is portrayed much differently. Here leaders deal with our current "profit by moving stuff around" economy. 4/5 professors depict leaders via photos showing them at one end of an uncluttered white table attentively surrounded by beautifully coiffed, smiling millennials. Without a thought except how to push more stuff cheaper, they bask in the handsomely dressed, physically fit leader's "team-based" lingo. Any unkempt, stressed, physically unfit Churchill who would dare address corporate America's (74% of GDP) debt is covered as a least desirable in the Thomas-Kilmann Resolution Model of L45. Do we need both types of leaders? ...well, yes we do. Have we too long ignored and begun to look down upon those who question central control (in business and government)? My suggestion is to take both courses and decide where the pendulum should swing.
Date published: 2019-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lectures have you on the edge of you seat Recently completed Andrew Roberts book on Churchill. It was very informative but like listening to a listing in daytimer. What a difference these lectures were. Extremely focused, a great compliment to Robert’s book but much, much more. The lectures on the blitz and world war II were riveting. Can’t recommend this course enough.
Date published: 2019-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding complement to the earlier course This 2018 course wonderfully complements Rufus Fears’s shorter course on Churchill, released 17 years earlier, with more historical and political detail and a more dispassionate, objective, and traditional presentation. Professor Shelden gives a balanced, academic, and thoughtful account of the life and career of Winston Churchill, describing his shortcomings, mistakes, and humiliations as well as his brilliant insights, unsurpassed eloquence, and epochal achievements. When I watched the earlier course, in 2013, I noted that “Fears is definitely one of a kind, and he doesn’t please everyone, as shown by the negative comments of some reviewers. He’s clearly biased, and presents in the context of his own world view. However, I’m not bothered by this (what professor isn’t biased?) and I think he’s a treasure. He clearly identifies with Churchill, and yes this is a bit of a hagiography, but it’s truly great stuff.” Reviewing several of Dr. Fears’s lectures after finishing the new course, I agree fully with my earlier comments, and also with the notion that the two offerings are complementary and present a more complete picture of their subject than either could alone. Dr. Shelden’s new course is more comprehensive and structurally quite different from its predecessor. Its staging is novel and worthy of comment. It is presented in an unusually spare setting, with a low podium in front of a wall-to-wall screen, on an otherwise empty stage. The changing camera placement and slow, continual movement of the backdrop image produce a subdued, calming, remarkably effective visual environment that focuses one’s attention on the presented material. Dr. Shelden’s delivery is well paced, expressive, and appropriately animated, and the frequent visual supplements—still photos, maps, and film clips—made each lecture continually interesting. Although an imperfect human being, Winston Churchill comes across as fully deserving of his designation, by both Professors Shelden and Fears, as perhaps the most influential single individual of the western world in the 20th Century.
Date published: 2019-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Of the Best It is difficult to present anything on Winston Churchill that hasn’t been presented before. He has been considered one of the, if not the best statesman in the history of Western Civilization, and his exploits are well known. Therefore I started viewing my course with a little apprehension that maybe I would be disappointed in its content. I am pleased to report that I was not only pleasantly surprised but Dr Sheldon far exceeded my most optimistic expectations. His presentation style was excellent and his knowledge and insights into Churchill’s life and political exploits greatly enhanced my ideas toward him both as an individual and politician. The adage that “he was the right man, at the right time and the right place” was borne out by Professor Sheldon. I greatly enjoyed the course and highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in history and or politics. You will learn a lot.
Date published: 2019-05-10
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