Frontiers and Wars
by Winston S. Churchill

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

His Four Early Books
Covering His Life as a Soldier and
War Correspondent
edited into one volume

Eyre & Spottiswoode: London, 1962

Harcourt, Brace, & World: New York, 1962

567 pages; 36 photos, 32 maps

October 2008


Frontiers and Wars is a substantial — although abridged — collection of Winston S. Churchill's four early books of his personal experiences on warlike frontiers of the British Empire, during the years 1897 to 1900.

The books are:

The Story of the Malakand Field Force covers a campaign on the Northwest Frontier of India (northern Pakistan). The River War covers the Revolt of the Mahdi in the Sudan, and the British response up the Nile and across the desert. London to Ladysmith and Ian Hamilton's March cover the Boer War in South Africa as Britain and its colonies clash with the Boer republics.

These are abridged versions. As a rule I prefer unabridged editions of books, but this volume is the form in which I first read all four of these books, and I consider it a fine introduction to the early Churchill; to the frontier challenges of the British Empire, especially for the Army on the spot but also for politics at home; and to the complex and violent history of these three regions.

All these aspects are well handled. Churchill is writing vivid personal adventure: he was under fire in all three areas, and even had a price on his head in South Africa. Secondly, the challenges of war and peace in difficult and eruptive regions are sharply observed and thoughtfully described. And thirdly, Churchill is sensitive to the complex histories and cultures of the clashing peoples. He is a very clear writer and always easy to follow, and the generous provision of maps and plans gives us the invaluable bird's-eye overview.

If you enjoy this volume, you may want to seek out the full editions, although even today, The River War in its unabridged form is very hard to come by. Detailed edition information may be found in Richard Langworth's A Connoisseur's Guide to the Books of Sir Winston Churchill.

Northern Pakistan, Sudan and environs, South Africa. You may find it instructive to compare these regions of the world: then and now.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

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