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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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Chapter 1: Mr Secretary Churchill, 19 February 1910 1


chapter 1 Mr Secretary Churchill, 19 February 1910 The Path to Home Secretary Following the Liberal Party’s re-election in January 1910, Herbert Asquith made several alterations to his cabinet. The most significant of these was his appointment of Winston Churchill as Home Secretary in place of Herbert Gladstone, who had occupied the position since December 1905 and was now bound for South Africa to serve as its first Governor-General. Churchill’s appointment came in recognition of his parliamentary con- tributions since May 1904, when he had deserted the Conservative Party, his contributions as a minister in the Liberal governments which had held office since December 1905,1 and most recently his contributions to the Liberal Party’s electoral campaign of January 1910.2 Churchill was delighted with his promotion. It enhanced his prospects of achieving even higher office. Like his father, Lord Randolph Church- ill, whose egotism and ambition he replicated, he had the premiership in his sights. He was determined that what had eluded his father should not elude himself.3 There was more to his delight than this, though. An important contributory element was the opportunity it afforded of real- izing an ambition nurtured during his brief experience of imprisonment in the South African War (1899–1902), while serving as a newspaper cor- respondent attached to the British Army. Between 15 November and 12 December 1899, he was detained in the Model School at Pretoria, before escaping and eventually making his way to safety in Durban on 23 Decem- ber.4 While admitting...

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