The Churchills

Series 1 - 1. The Choice

The Choice
Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

Winston Churchill spent the ten years before the Second World War marginalised from politics and writing a vast biography of his heroic ancestor the First Duke of Marlborough. David Starkey argues here that it was this process of immersing himself in the conflicts of the 17th century that moulded Churchill into a great warrior himself – just in time for the Second World War.

As Starkey puts it with characteristic cheek: “Writing this biography transformed Churchill from a politician – and frankly a rather rackety one – into a statesman.” From this premise, we follow a narrative that our waspish historian unpacks with his usual sure touch, casting familiar events in intriguing new patterns. If you don’t mind the occasional sideswipe, it’s a riveting programme, with two gripping historical tales for the price of one.

About this programme

1/3. Historian David Starkey profiles two of Britain's greatest wartime leaders. He begins by revealing how Winston Churchill came to write a biography of his ancestor John, who led the nation against Louis XIV of France. Starkey also explores how preparations for the Second World War were affected by the prime minister's knowledge of his 17th-century forebear's achievements.

Cast and crew


David Starkey


David Sington
Executive Producer
David Sington
Heather Walsh