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Arms and the Covenant....

Compiled by Randolph S. Churchill.

Availability: In stock

Published: London George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1938

Stock Code: 131350

OR On display in Exhibit


First edition, sole printing. Presentation copy, inscribed on the front free endpaper: "To Shiela Grant Duff from Winston S. Churchill, September 1938". This is a superb association copy: Shiela Grant Duff (1913-2004) "was a dogged champion of Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s when it was confronted by the looming threat posed by Hitler's Germany. Her book Europe and the Czechs 1938 was aimed at a more popular readership than Elisabeth Wiskermann's Czechs and Germans, published around the same time. But it failed to influence events because it came out the day Neville Chamberlain abandoned the Czechs by signing the Munich agreement. Nevertheless Shiela Grant Duff achieved good sales. She also gained some valuable extra publicity by agreeing to forego royalties on the first 50,000 copies in return for Penguin Books sending a free copy to every British MP" (The Daily Telegraph obituary, retrieved 07.01.19). The publication of Europe and the Czechs in which Churchill is mentioned several times chimes with the date of Churchill's inscription, September 1938.

Grant Duff, a granddaughter of Sir John Lubbock and cousin of Clementine Churchill, was still an undergraduate at Oxford when she visited Germany and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia (Eastern Czechoslovakia) in 1932-3. She worked in Paris for the Chicago Daily News (1934) and covered the Saar Plebiscite (1935) for The Observer, which saw an overwhelming vote for the return of Saarland to Germany, bolstering Hitler's burgeoning confidence. She served as Prague correspondent for The Observer (1936-7) but resigned in June 1937, working subsequently for the Manchester Guardian and Spectator (1937-8). She was in Prague during the Anschluss (March 1938) and during the opening years of the war served as Czechoslovak editor at the BBC Overseas Service (1940-2).

Her initial approach to Churchill was unsolicited and quite remarkable: Martin Gilbert notes that on 19 June 1937 she sent Churchill a "long and detailed letter warning Churchill of the growing German pressures inside Czechoslovakia. As France and Russia could not be relied on, she wrote, the only protection left for Czechoslovakia was 'the moral support of England'" (Winston S. Churchill, vol. V, p. 863). Her letter, reprinted in Gilbert's Companion Volume V Part 3, opens "I believe I am a cousin of Mrs Winston Churchill so I hope you will forgive the liberty which it is to write to you when I do not know you, but the matter is itself so important that I think it should justify itself". This was to be the timely beginning of an unsung but vital relationship for Churchill when his persistent warnings of German rearmament created a platform for his re-emergence from the "Wilderness Years". Grant Duff, acting very much as his "eyes and ears" in Czechoslovakia in the run up to the Munich Crisis of September 1938 and beyond, frequently supplied him with information on the developing situation: "Throughout November 1938 Churchill's correspondents kept him informed of the nature of Nazi tyranny inside Germany, and of Nazi intrigue throughout Europe. Ian Colvin from Berlin, Shiela Grant Duff from Prague and Emery Revesz from Paris were among those who sent him full reports of what they had heard and seen" (Gilbert, V, p. 1017). The concluding sections of Arms and the Covenant - "The Annexation of Austria" and "The Danube Basin" both cover developments during March 1938; in the latter, Churchill states "Under the Covenant of the League of Nations we are not obliged to go to war for Czechoslovakia. But we are obliged not to be neutral, in the sense of being indifferent, if Czechoslovakia is the victim of unprovoked aggression" (p. 456).

In her book 'Guilty Women': Foreign Policy and Appeasement in Inter-War Britain (2015), Julie V. Gottlieb, Professor in Modern History at the University of Sheffield, includes a revealing section on Grant Duff, describing her as one of the "the women Churchillians who stands out from the others in terms of her youth and her chosen profession", going on to say that "it was due to her aristocratic status and connections in high places that she was able to become a player in Anglo-German and Anglo-Czech relations, her sex less of a handicap because of these privileges Grant Duff became a devout Churchillian despite her leftist political sympathies and her belief that his views on India were anarchic She quickly came to see him as 'a great Englishman, someone who actually made one proud to be English and set a standard to live up to.' She was proud to be able to be a conduit for intelligence on Czech affairs, and wrote to him with eye-witness accounts and drawing relevant articles to his attention. But as important as these private exchanges were, her real impact can be measured by her work as a self-appointed whistle-blower".

Arms and the Covenant is perhaps Churchill's most important publication, a gathering of speeches "on Foreign Affairs and National Defence" (Preface), representing his contributions to the debate on German rearmament, his stance on which positioned him to emerge from the crisis of May 1940 as premier. A total of 5,000 copies were printed on 24 June 1938; Woods notes that 3,381 were sold at the original price of 18 shillings before June 1940, when the book was re-issued as a cheap edition, priced at 7s. 6d. A contemporary review in the journal of the Royal Institute for International Affairs remarked that "apart from their literary graces" Churchill's speeches were remarkable because of "the restraint of their language" in view of the "blunders and inaccuracies" of the government and for his technical mastery, "There seems to be nothing from Naval Strategy to the jigs and tools in an aircraft factory... on which Mr. Churchill is not an expert".

A highly significant association copy, an acknowledgment by Churchill of Grant Duff's tireless work and the invaluable information supplied by her during the darkening years before the Second World War, the period Churchill would describe as "The Gathering Storm".

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Octavo. Original blue cloth, spine lettered in gilt within triple fillet gilt, rule to front board in blind, top edge blue.


Portrait frontispiece of Churchill from the photograph by Edward Steichen.


Spine and periphery of boards sunned, a few old pale stains and marks to covers, small stain to top edge, scattered foxing. A good copy.


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