Churchill in 1940–1: The Fragility of Charisma

  • David Aberbach


Politically outcast in the 1930s, Winston Churchill was far from being a charismatic leader. Not long before he became Prime Minister, he was one of the least popular leaders in Britain. Only with the outbreak of war did he rise to power in two stages: first, when war was declared on 3 September 1939, to First Lord of the Admiralty; then, eight months later, to Prime Minister on the eve of the German invasion of France. Now, with virtually unanimous support in Parliament, Churchill was given a rapturous welcome wherever he went and treated at times almost as if he had talismanic qualities. His oratory which a few months before had been put down as the overblown antiquated ramblings of a man whose career as a politician had already ended in failure, now held Parliament in thrall. Rarely has the elusive nature of charisma been illustrated so dramatically. At this moment, and at this moment alone, Churchill and Britain found one another to be at one, and Churchill’s inner world and motives and the national will coincided.


Prime Minister Charismatic Leader Political Career British People Talismanic Quality 
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Copyright information

© David Aberbach 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Aberbach
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.McGill UniversityCanada
  2. 2.London School of EconomicsUK

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