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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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Author’s Preface xi


Author’s Preface Historians of Winston Churchill’s career customarily mention his innova- tions, whether realized or not, in prison treatment and sentences during his Home Secretaryship between February 1910 and October 1911. Little mention is made, however, of what motivated him, apart from what he himself conceded in an oft-quoted passage taken from his speech to the House of Commons on 20 July 1910. In this he drew attention to what Radzinowicz and Hood have subsequently described as ‘the balance of con- siderations which should guide the penal system of a progressive country’.1 Churchill’s speech prompted me to try to identify the detailed thinking which underlay his motives. My chosen approach has been to study the evolution of his thinking as it has survived in the documentary records of his Home Secretaryship held in the Home Office archive, together with other evidence, both primary and secondary. This evidence incorporates the exchange of views concerning specific prison treatment and sentencing issues in which Churchill engaged with his senior Home Office staff and His Majesty’s Prison Commissioners in the course of their day-to-day transaction of criminal justice business. These issues are still relevant today, given the ongoing debate about modification of the criminal justice system, the internal organization and management of the Home Office as its overseer and more particularly prison treatment and sentencing. Such matters are of perennial interest the world over and will remain so for as long as imprisonment retains its place in the table of sanctions for the punishment...

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