University Archives

Description: Winston Churchill Inquires about Maps for His Biography of the Duke of Marlborough

In this brief letter to the chief copy editor for his publishers, Winston Churchill asks about maps for his four-volume biography of his ancestor, John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). George G. Harrap & Company published Volume III later in 1936.

His references to maps of Oudenaarde and Lille relate to battles during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). At the Battle of Oudenaarde on July 11, 1708, the Duke of Marlborough led the armies of the Grand Alliance of Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, and the Holy Roman Empire to a great victory over the French at Oudenaarde (now Belgium). Victory in that battle led the allies to besiege Lille, the strongest fortress in Europe, from August 12 to December 10, 1708, when the French garrison surrendered the city and citadel to the forces commanded by Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy.

WINSTON CHURCHILL, Typed Letter Signed, to Charles C. Wood, June 16, 1936.  1 p., 8" x 10", on “Morpeth Mansions, Westminster” stationery.  Expected folds; two small rust stains at top edge; otherwise very good.


“I have now reached a series of chapters beginning with the Seventh Campaign which have been so recently revised that they do not require immediate reprint. Before I send them in I am anxious to have the maps especially of Oudenarde and Lille.... Could you accelerate as much as possible the completion of the others which are passed finally in ink.”

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was born to a British father and American mother at his family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire, England. After education at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Churchill served as an army officer in India and Africa and became an accomplished writer. Over a political career that spanned fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions, including First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915 and again from 1939 to 1940. In 1922, Churchill bought the manor house of Chartwell in Kent, and he later spent most of his retirement there. During the 1930s, he took the lead in warning against Nazi Germany’s hostile ambitions. He served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. His speeches inspired British resistance to Nazi Germany, especially in 1940-1941, when the United Kingdom stood almost alone against Adolf Hitler. After suffering a serious stroke in 1953, he retired from political office in 1955. In 1963, he became the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

Charles C. Wood (1875-1959) joined the publishing firm of George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., in 1912. He served as chief copy editor on Churchill’s monumental biography, Marlborough: His Life and Times, published in four volumes between 1933 and 1938.  In 1948, Churchill hired the retired Wood to proofread his massive multi-volume work, The Second World War. Wood joined Churchill’s staff of secretaries, research assistants, and advisors. Wood became “an essential member of the team and no error escaped his eye.” Wood was as abrasive as Churchill was demanding, and Churchill once called Wood “indefatigable, interminable, intolerable.” The process of proofreading both The Second World War and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was called “wooding.”

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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