This isn't quite literature, but a quote from Winston Churchill:

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

Is he referring to the fact that he will be writing a history of the time he lived in (as he was a prolific writer of history)? Or, more that his actions will dictate the historical record? Perhaps it is both, but I'd like to know a bit more about why.

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    I assume he refers to his actions. Do you know where he said (or wrote) this? Adding context will greatly help potential answerers to evaluate Churchill's intent. – Shokhet Apr 14 '17 at 22:21
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    @Matrim No. Questions about speeches are on-topic here, and this one is even potentially relevant to written literature. – Rand al'Thor Apr 15 '17 at 10:58
  • The quote resembles (and is perhaps a mutated version of) a sentence from a speech by Churchill to the House of Commons on 23rd January 1948: "it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself." – Gareth Rees Jan 17 '19 at 16:36

1) I searched for the quotation. It seems to be pretty doubtful that Churchill said it. And it's hard to see how it is meaningful at all to ask what Churchill meant by the words if he did not actually say them.

2) This page seems to take it for granted that the Churchill of this story refers to his literal writing of history, not to "writing" history in the sense of doing historically significant things.

3) It's hard to see how Churchill could have meant that simply by doing historically significant things he could be sure that he would be remembered kindly. Of course he knew of lots of people who had done historically significant things but who are remembered as monsters or fools, or who are forgotten altogether.

4) The quotation would be funny on the view that he meant to refer to literal writing. Then his confidence seems sly and in a way self-effacing, because it suggests that he is only confident of favorable recollection because he will write the record. If we take him to mean "History will be kind to me for I'm just so awesome," the remark seems like silly boasting and not appropriate to the mythic persona of Churchill.

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    "not appropriate to the mythic persona of Churchill" - there, see, even you've bought into the history written by him and his victors. – Rand al'Thor Jul 4 '17 at 14:56
  • @Rand al'Thor Well we're discussing the meaning of the words "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." And I'm asking WHOSE meaning. So my point is not that I believe the mythic persona to be Churchill's real personality; my point is just that people attribute words to Einstein and Groucho and Yogi Berra because they think the words represent those people. So it seems more likely that they think words that they ascribe to Einstein are wise, words that they ascribe Groucho are a wisecrack, words that they ascribe to Yogi are an amusing blunder, etc. – Chaim Jul 4 '17 at 16:27

The quote -- whether correctly attributed or not -- counts as a wisecrack. The speaker implies that "victors write the history" works in both directions: by keeping the log, he could keep the log favorable. Indeed, after the blood has been let the only lasting significance of a battle is what the history books say about it, which is why (for instance) nobody can agree on the Liancourt rocks. (D'ok-do, a part of S. Korea, or Takeshima, a part of Japan, according to whose history books you read.)


He means that he will engrave himself on the pages of history, and mind you the good pages of history, because he will be so powerful, that historians, who "write history" will know only his good deeds, and maybe what he doesn't want to show the world will be buried. Hence he WRITES his own history, and he will always be on the good side of it, or rather, the PERFECT side of history


This is just a species of wit and one that ought not be taken too seriously. Churchill is riffing on the claim that history is written by the victors. However, history far outlasts the victories of the victors - where the Pharoahs, the Caesars and the conquistadors now?

Is he referring to the fact that he will be writing a history of the time he lived in (as he was a prolific writer of history)?

The Nobel Prize award committee was kind to Churchill, they awarded him the 1953 prize for literature for his history of the World War II in six volumes.

Or, more that his actions will dictate the historical record?

History herself and historians has been unkind, in that these volumes have remained largely unread and ignored, particularly by historians.

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