Winston Churchill on New Year’s Resolutions

It’s mid-February. If you are like me, most of your new year’s resolutions have already dissipated, been forgotten or pushed to March or April. The smarter ones among you won’t have made any resolutions in the first place.

But if you want to feel really bad, consider young Winston Churchill’s new year’s resolutions, as reported in his autobiography My Early Life:

I therefore planned the sequence of the year 1899 as follows: To return to India and win the Polo Tournament: to send in my papers and leave the army: to relieve my mother from paying my allowance: to write my new book and the letters to the Pioneer: and to look out for a chance of entering Parliament.

These plans as will be seen were in the main carried out.

A year has after all 365 days. Why limit oneself to resolutions regarding exercise, diet or learning a language?

River War ChurchillWhen Winston Churchill made these resolutions he had just turned 24. The planned book was about the war in Sudan. Churchill had requested to take part in that campaign several times but had always been turned down. He eventually paid for his own trip to Africa and financed it by writing reports for newspapers. The River War came out in two volumes comprising around 1,000 pages. Shockingly for someone of Churchill’s age, the book was already his third. It should however be remarked, without the age of the writer or the age of the time being able to serve as an excuse, that The River War includes some crude racist and anti-Islamic passages.

Churchill_&_Mawdsley 1899 OldhamChurchill did indeed run for a seat in the British Parliament at age 24, but did not get elected that year. Of course, he managed to get elected in the same constituency only the following year. It probably helped that he had used the few months in between to work as a war correspondent in South Africa where he, as a civilian, took part in some skirmishes, got captured by the Boers, managed to escape from a POW camp, found some English miners in South Africa (one of whom happened to be from Oldham, Churchill’s constituency) who hid him underground before he managed to escape South Africa hidden on a train, making him a celebrated war hero. Obviously, Churchill also wrote a book about these exploits, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria.

All in all, Churchill published 43 books in 73 volumes, some quite good ones among them (he won the Nobel Prize in Literature). All of this while fighting military and political campaigns, governing an empire and winning World War II. He also found time to paint, to build houses as an amateur bricklayer and to collect butterflies.

So now, please tell us why YOU can’t find the time to go running three times a week or to read one book per week.


Winston Churchill in 1900, unimpeded in his productivity by Facebook and YouTube

(Thanks to long-time reader Ana Alves who mailed me Churchill’s autobiography as part of her annual book package. If you want to support this blog too, here is my wishlist of books. Thank you! – This article was also published by Medium.) 

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Books, History, Life, Military, Politics, Time, UK, World War II and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Winston Churchill on New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Pingback: 250,000 cigars | The Happy Hermit

  2. Miriam says:

    What an incredible man he was.

    • Absolutely!

      I will write another article soon with quotes from the autobiography that show young Churchill’s attitude towards war and one on money in politics.

    • Anonymous says:

      24 and still living off of his mom? How about attitude towards money in general?

    • Churchill tried to portray himself as poor in his autobiography.

      He repeatedly mentions his financial problems, that he had to take out loans to sustain his life as a cavalry officer (I was surprised to learn that officers had to pay their own horses and upkeep for them and were not paid enough to do so), that his father’s estate was reduced to zero by debts. But then he was well-connected, so I don’t think he ever needed to worry.

      Churchill left the military and went into journalism (and giving speeches) because of financial considerations. He loved war, but he wasn’t paid enough to fight. On the other hand, he had negotiated good deals with newspapers and his books sold well. Once he started giving speeches in the UK and the US (his first speaking tour was at age 25), he became financially independent of his mother and quite well off. As a member of Parliament, he wasn’t paid very much, so his focus was on his literary output even in the first stages of his political career.

    • Miriam says:

      Sounds interesting.

  3. Dante says:

    It’s mid-February. If you are like me, most of your new wear’s resolutions have already dissipated, been forgotten or pushed to March or April. The smarter ones among you won’t have made any resolutions in the first place.

    Thank you for calling me smart.

  4. Adaku says:

    This really motivated me. I’ve been reading more about figures like these and how they started out. Most look on the younger ages as having time enough to do anything.

  5. Asha Seth says:

    This is powerful.and one that questions our beliefs towards our limits.

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