Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) is widely considered to have been one of the most important leaders in modern world history.
Born 30 November 1874, Sir Winston Churchill was part of an aristocratic family descended from John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. As a young man, Sir Winston Churchill had planned on a career in the military. He attended the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served his country in India, Cuba, and South Africa.
While Sir Winston Churchill did receive a number of honors for his military service, he soon decided his true passion was politics. Despite suffering from a speech impediment, Churchill was a brilliant orator and a charismatic leader. He held several important positions during his early political career, including President of the Board of Trade, Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for Air, and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Sir Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940. He played a vital role in leading his country though World War II and is widely credited with helping restore the world’s faith in democracy during this difficult time. His good relationship with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt also helped to secure vital food, ammunition, and oil by allowing his people to take advantage of North Atlantic shipping routes.
Aside from his political accomplishments, Sir Winston Churchill was a prolific author and a widely respected historian. In 1953, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his books on English and world history. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples , a four-volume work covering the period between Caesar’s invasion of Britain and the start of World War I, is one of his most noted projects.
After his retirement as Prime Minister in 1955, Sir Winston Churchill’s health began to decline. His lifelong battle with depression became more difficult to manage and he suffered a number of small strokes that greatly impaired his mobility. However, he did find some solace in traveling with his many friends.
Sir Winston Churchill passed away on 24 January 1965 at age 90. The Queen ordered that Churchill be given a state funeral—even though this honor is customarily reserved for members of the royal family. Churchill was later buried in his family’s plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon.
While Sir Winston Churchill was voted the greatest Briton in the 2002 BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, it should be noted that his accomplishments have been recognized throughout the world. He was named an Honorary Citizen of the United States by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. France, Belgium, Egypt, Libya, Nepal, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, and Norway presented various medals and awards to him as well. In addition, there are a number of schools and public buildings in the United States and Canada named in his honor.