Martin Gilbert

Martin Gilbert

Sir Martin John Gilbert, CBE, PC (born 25 October 1936[1]) is a British historian and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford. He is the author of over eighty books, including works on the Holocaust and Jewish history. Gilbert is a leading historian of the modern world, and is known as the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill.[2]


Education and personal life

Gilbert was born in London to Peter and Miriam Gilbert.[3] Nine months after the outbreak of the Second World War, he was evacuated to Canada as part of the British efforts to safeguard children. Vivid memories of the transatlantic crossing from Liverpool to Quebec sparked his curiosity about the war in later years.[1] After the war he attended Highgate School, and then completed two years of National Service in the Intelligence Corps before going on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1960 with a first-class BA in modern history.[3] One of his tutors at Oxford was A.J.P. Taylor. After his graduation, Gilbert undertook postgraduate research at St Antony's College, Oxford. In 1963, he married Helen Constance Robinson, with whom he had a daughter. He had two sons with his second wife, Susan Sacher, whom he married in 1974. Since 2005, he has been married to the Holocaust historian Esther Gilbert, née Goldberg.[3] Gilbert describes himself as a proud practising Jew and a Zionist.[4]


After two years of postgraduate work, he was approached by Randolph Churchill for help in writing a biography of his father, Sir Winston Churchill. That same year, 1962, he was made a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and he spent the next few years combining his own research projects in Oxford with being part of Randolph's research team in Suffolk, working on the first two volumes of the Churchill biography. When Randolph died in 1968, Gilbert was commissioned to take over the task, completing the final six main volumes of the biography. Gilbert spent twenty years on the six narrative volumes, releasing a number of other books throughout the time. Each main volume of the biography is accompanied by two or three volumes of documents, and so the biography currently runs to 24 volumes (over 25,000 pages), with another 7 document volumes still planned. In the 1960s, Gilbert compiled some of the first historical atlases. His major works include a definitive single-volume history of The Holocaust, as well as single-volume histories of The First World War and The Second World War. He has also written a notable three-volume series called A History of the Twentieth century. Gilbert describes himself as an "archival historian" who makes extensive use of primary sources in his work. Interviewed by the BBC on the subject of Holocaust research, Gilbert said he believes that the "tireless gathering of facts will ultimately consign Holocaust deniers to history." [5]

In 1990, Gilbert was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1995, he was awarded a Knighthood "for services to British history and international relations".[6] In 1995, he retired as a Fellow of Merton College, but was made an Honorary Fellow. In 1999 he was awarded a Doctorate by Oxford University, "for the totality of his published work". He lives in London. Since 2002, he has been a Distinguished Fellow of Hillsdale College, Michigan, and between 2006 and 2007 he was a professor in the history department at the University of Western Ontario. In October 2008, he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Churchill College. He continues to lecture around the world on Churchill and Jewish history. Gilbert was appointed in June 2009 as a member of the British government’s inquiry into the Iraq War (headed by Sir John Chilcot). His appointment to this inquiry was criticised in parliament by William Hague, Claire Short, George Galloway, and Lynne Jones on the basis that Gilbert had once compared George W. Bush and Tony Blair, to Roosevelt and Churchill.[7] The same year, Gilbert was appointed to the Privy Council.[8] In January 2011, the inquiry into the Iraq War was resumed, and Gilbert continued to interrogate with Blair about his motives and decisions to the war.

Praise and criticism

Many laud Gilbert's books and atlases for their meticulous scholarship, and his clear and objective presentation of complex events.[9] His book on World War I is described as a majestic, single-volume work incorporating all major fronts - domestic, diplomatic, military- for "a stunning achievement of research and storytelling." [10] Vatican sources describe him as a "fair-minded, conscientious collector of facts." [11] Michael Foot, reviewing a volume of Gilbert's Churchill biography in The New Statesman in 1971 praised his meticulous scholarship and wrote, "Whoever made the decision to make Martin Gilbert Churchill's biographer deserves a vote of thanks from the nation. Nothing less would suffice."

Gilbert's portrayal of Churchill's supportive attitudes to Jews (in his book Churchill and the Jews) has been criticised, for example by Piers Brendon.[12] Also, Tom Segev writes that although Gilbert's coffee-table book The Story of Israel is written with "encyclopedic clarity," Segev is critical of the absence of figures from Arab sources.[13] In Israel's Border Wars, historian Benny Morris disputed that Gilbert's accounting of Israeli casualties from Fedayeen attacks in the 1950s was inflated.[14]

Sir Martin Gilbert (center) being awarded Hon. Doctor at Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel


Biography of Winston Churchill

(Volumes One and Two were written by Churchill's son Randolph Churchill, who also edited the two companions to volume one. Gilbert's first work as official biographer was to supervise the posthumous publication of the three companions to volume two, but these were published in Randolph Churchill's name, and indeed, Randolph had already compiled most of the material in his lifetime)

  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Three: The Challenge of War: 1914-1916, (1971)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Four: The Stricken World 1917-1922, (1975)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Five: Prophet of Truth 1922-1939, (1979)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Six: Finest Hour 1939-1941, (1983)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Seven: Road to Victory 1941-1945, (1986)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Eight: Never Despair 1945-1965, (1988)

Companion Volumes to Biography

  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Three, Documents (in two volumes), (1972)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Four, Documents (in three volumes), (1977)
  • Winston S Churchill, The Exchequer Years, 1922–1929, Documents, (1979)
  • Winston S Churchill, The Wilderness Years, 1929–1935, Documents, (1981)
  • Winston S Churchill, The Coming of War, 1936–1939, Documents, (1982)
  • The Churchill War Papers, Volume One: Winston S Churchill, 'At The Admiralty': September 1939-May 1940, (1993)
  • The Churchill War Papers, Volume Two: Winston S Churchill, 'Never Surrender': May–December 1940, (1995)
  • The Churchill War Papers, Volume Three: Winston S Churchill, 'The Ever-Widening War': 1941, (2000)

Other books on Winston Churchill

  • Winston Churchill, (1966), a short biography for use in Schools
  • Churchill: Great Lives Observed, (1967)
  • Churchill: A Photographic Portrait, (1974)
  • Churchill: An Illustrated Biography, (1979)
  • Churchill's Political Philosophy, (1981)
  • Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years, (1981)
  • Churchill, A Life, (1991)
  • In Search of Churchill, (1994)
  • Winston Churchill and Emery Reves, Correspondence 1937-1964 (editor), (1997)
  • Churchill at War: His 'Finest Hour' in Photographs, 1940-1945, (2003)
  • Continue to Pester, Nag and Bite (2004) retitled Winston Churchill's War Leadership
  • Churchill and America (2005)
  • Will of the People (2006)
  • Churchill and the Jews (2007)

Other biographies and history books

  • Britain and Germany Between the Wars (editor), (1964)
  • The Appeasers (with Richard Gott), (1965)
  • The European Powers 1900-1945, (1965)
  • Plough My Own Furrow: The Life of Lord Allen of Hurtwood (editor), (1965)
  • Recent History Atlas, 1860-1960, (1965)
  • The Roots of Appeasement, (1966)
  • Servant of India (editor), (1966), A Study of Imperial Rule in India from 1905-1910 as told through the correspondence and diaries of Sir James Dunlop-Smith, Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India
  • Lloyd George: Great Lives Observed (editor), (1968)
  • British History Atlas, (1968)
  • American History Atlas, (1968)
  • Jewish History Atlas, (1969)
  • The Second World War, (1970), for use in schools
  • First World War Atlas, (1971)
  • Russian History Atlas, (1972)
  • Sir Horace Rumbold: Portrait of a Diplomat, 1869-1941, (1973)
  • The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Its History in Maps, (1974)
  • The Jews of Arab Lands: Their History in Maps, (1976)
  • The Jews of Russia: Their History in Maps and Photographs, (1976)
  • Jerusalem Illustrated History Atlas, (1977)
  • Exile and Return: The Emergence of Jewish Statehood, (1978)
  • The Holocaust, Maps and Photographs, (1978), for use in schools
  • Final Journey: The Fate of the Jews of Nazi Europe, (1979)
  • Children's Illustrated Bible Atlas, (1979)
  • Auschwitz and the Allies, (1981)
  • Atlas of the Holocaust, (1982)
  • Jews of Hope, The Plight of Soviet Jewry Today, (1984)
  • Jerusalem: Rebirth of a City, (1985)
  • The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy, (1986)
  • Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, (1986)
  • The Second World War, (1989)
  • Atlas Of British Charities, (1993)
  • The Day the War Ended: May 8, 1945, (1995)
  • Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century, (1996)
  • The Boys, Triumph Over Adversity, (1996)
  • First World War, (2002)
  • A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933, (1997)
  • Holocaust Journey: Travelling in Search of the Past, (1997)
  • Israel: a history. Doubleday. 1998. ISBN 9780385404013. 
  • A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume Two, 1933-1951, (1999)
  • A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume Three, 1952-1999 (1999)
  • Never Again: A History of the Holocaust, (2000)
  • From The Ends of the Earth: The Jews in the Twentieth Century, (2001)
  • History of the Twentieth Century, (2001), condensed version of his three volume history
  • Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and their Faith, (2002)
  • The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust, (2002)
  • D-Day, (2004)
  • Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction, (2006)
  • The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War, (2006)
  • The Story of Israel, (2008)
  • Atlas of the Second World War, (2009)
  • In Ishmael's House: A History of the Jews in Muslim Lands,Yale University Presse, New Haven, CT 2010 ISBN 978-0-300167153


  1. ^ a b Martin Gilbert, author's message
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Janus: The Papers of Sir Martin Gilbert
  4. ^ Brown, David (2010-01-22). "Chilcot inquiry member Sir Martin Gilbert praises Gordon Brown". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  5. ^ Berg, Raffi (2005-04-14). "The fight against Holocaust denial". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  6. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54066. pp. 1–2. 1995-06-16. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
  7. ^ "Parliamentary Debates" (pdf). c 808. Hansard. 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  8. ^ "Privy Council Members". Privy Council Office. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  9. ^ Book Reviews: Oxford Mail, Library Journal, Middle East Review, Booklist Chicago, British Book News, Society of University Cartographers Bulletin, The Diplomatist, Jewish Chronicle, Scunthrope Evening Telegraph, Glasgow Jewish Echo, Geographical Magazine
  10. ^
  11. ^ A Rare Kind of Historian
  12. ^ Independent book review
  13. ^
  14. ^ Morris, Benny (1997). Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War. Oxford University Press. p. 101. ISBN 0198292627. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 

External links

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