When looking for quotable 20th century leaders, Sir Winston Churchill should make anyone’s list.
The former British prime minister on two occasions certainly had the gift of words. He made strong friends as well as strong enemies. He was tough on his political rivals and generous with his friends.
He also became the symbol of British strength and resilience during World War II – though he had already been voted out of office when the war ended, he spent most of is inspiring the nation and encouraging them to keep believing, even during the darkest times.
Those who have the opportunity to read his letters will have even more respect for his ability to be pleasant as well as stand his ground.
Luckily, some of these are more accessible thanks to Of Lost Time, an online project that has a goal of collecting historical letters and providing them to online visitors.
Each historical letter is interesting from a research perspective but also could be personally inspiring. They often contain words of wisdom that may not have made it into most history books or biographies, which mostly focus on the larger issues of the day.
Of Lost Time works to provide these primary sources and each historical letter so people can learn more about noteworthy figures as well as find relevance from them to their own life.
Part of the collection of more than 100 historical letters is a series of communications between Churchill and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
Like Churchill, both were instrumental in making the tough decisions during World War II.
Roosevelt was especially interesting. He was elected in 1933, so and had nearly a decade of experience running the country and helping it recover from the Great Depression.
Churchill was elected in 1940. Neither of them was in office at the war’s end – Roosevelt died in April 1945, and Churchill’s party was voted out of office in July 1945.
Each historical letter showed that an interesting friendship and mutual respect had developed. Though they were both different in terms of their demeanor and presence – Churchill was brash ad bold, while Roosevelt was cautious and well-mannered – both of them found mutual agreement and respect, especially the great responsibility involved in keeping their country safe while committing their soldiers around the world.
Only World War I had such a unified effort taken place, with different countries under the command of other countries, and multiple campaigns rather than one battlefield.
One of the more interesting observations in the letters was shown in 1940 and 1941. Great Britain had been at war since the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. But the U.S. didn’t enter until the end of 1941, after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.
Many of the letters involved Churchill encouraging the U.S. to enter the war, and barring that, to provide material to help Britain’s effort. They also acted as sounding boards to discuss top-secret strategy as well as anticipate Hitler’s actions.
Roosevelt faced political pressure at home, with some groups encouraging him to keep the U.S. out of this foreign engagement and others to lend direct troops. It wasn’t until a direct attack on U.S. forces that war was declared.
The correspondence between the two served as a great way to learn about an interesting time in history and an unexpected friendship.