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Before the Wars

Churchill as Reformer (1910 – 1911)- With a Foreword by Sir Martin Gilbert


Alan Baxendale

Winston Churchill will be forever known as the great statesman who bravely led Britain through the war years, but what led the young Churchill down this path to greatness? What motivated him to become the future leader?
Delving into documentary records in the Home Office archive, Alan S. Baxendale brings to light the young Churchill’s war at home while Home Secretary from February 1910 to October 1911. Passionate about reforming prison treatment and sentencing, Churchill engaged with his senior Home Office staff and His Majesty’s Prison Commissioners in a daily discussion of the business of criminal justice. With a focus on his working methods and relationships with his staff, Baxendale offers a new look at Churchill as a young and talented politician whose leadership led to innovative reforms that are still influential today.
This book makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the criminal justice system, providing a crucial addition to our understanding of the history of prison reform. It also gives us valuable insight into Churchill as a person, shedding light on his formative years as a minister and providing us with important clues to how he became one of the most successful politicians of modern times.


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Foreword by Sir Martin Gilbert vii


Foreword Churchill was Home Secretary from February 1910 to October 1911, the shortest ministerial appointment of his career. It was also one of his most productive periods. The penal reforms he envisaged, and in many cases carried out, were a high point of his imagination and achievement. Alan Baxendale looks at the evolution of these reforms and examines the think- ing that underlay Churchill’s motives. His book is a study of enduring importance to our understanding of Churchill. As a former civil servant, who from 1967 to 1985 was Chief Education Officer in the Home Office Prison Department, the author is well-placed to look at Churchill’s working methods during his twenty-one months at the Home Office, and at his relationships with his staff – relationships that shaped his thinking and the nature of what he sought to do. ‘All too often’, Baxendale writes, ‘Churchill’s humanity in terms of prison manage- ment and sentencing tends to be overlooked.’ It is not overlooked here, but examined with careful attention to detail, to motive, to method and to results, thanks to the author’s archival research over many years, exploring in depth the Home Office records at The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office). They have proved a treasure trove. A Cabinet Minister who approaches a new ministerial position with a sense of the urgent need for reforms must work with and win over his senior officials and expert advisers. Baxendale shows how Churchill did this by enthusiasm, determination and a careful marshalling of...

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