Martin John Gilbert

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Martin Gilbert
Iraq Inquiry

Sir Martin John Gilbert, (born October 25, 1936) is a British historian and the author of over eighty books, including works on the Holocaust and Jewish history. He has been a pioneer of historical atlases, and is best known as the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill.


Martin Gilbert was born in London to Peter and Miriam Gilbert.[1] He spent some of the war years in Canada as part of the British programme to protect children from the German blitz. After the war he attended Highgate School, and then completed two years of National Service before going on to study modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1960 with a BA.[2] 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 has two sons with his second wife, Susan Sacher. [3]


After two years of postgraduate work, he was approached to assist Randolph Churchill, who was writing the 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. Gilbert receives no royalties for the biography, but only a small stipend.

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." [4]

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".[5]. 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. He continues to lecture around the world on Churchill and Jewish history.


The Israeli historian Benny Morris has described Martin Gilbert as a propagandist who uses inflated casualty figures.[6]

Peter Wright

Robert Armstrong arranged for Peter Wright to meet Gilbert in the early 1970s in order to consult the Churchill diaries as part of his research into wartime Soviet espionage.[7]

Harold Wilson

According to journalist David Leigh, Gilbert attended a dinner party in 1974, at the home of his relative Michael Sacher, where it was claimed that Marcia Williams, the Secretary of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, was leading a Communist cell at Downing Street. Gilbert told Wilson about the incident. George Weidenfeld later told Wilson that an MI5 officer had been present. Leigh concludes that it was 'clearly someone more senior' than Wright.[8]



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)
  • Winston Churchill's War Leadership (2004)
  • 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, (1998)
  • 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)


  5. LondonGazette issue=54066 page=1-2 1995-06-16 accessdate=2008-07-17
  6. Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War, Benny Morris accessdate=2008-06-22|isbn=0198292627|pages=p.101|year=1997|publisher=Oxford University Press
  7. Peter Wright, Spycatcher, Viking, 1987, pp.352-353.
  8. David Leigh, The Wilson Plot, Mandarin, 1989, p.248.