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His inquiries were exhaustive: Churchill’s resignation telegram to Asquith was not among the official records or in either man’s papers, and he eventually tracked it down in the Beaverbrook Library.
A committed Zionist and a proudly observant Jew, Gilbert’s writings about the travails of his people drew their force – to the annoyance of some co-religionists – from the enormity of the facts rather than an emotional involvement.The precis, Churchill: A Life, appeared in 1991, and the most recent companion volume, covering the year 1942, in 2014. Gilbert – a Fellow of Merton College for 32 years, then from 1994 an honorary fellow – continued his own research alongside his work on Churchill, initially with Randolph in Suffolk.His first task on taking over was to shepherd into print the companion volumes to those Randolph had completed; these appeared under Randolph’s name.He undertook to complete the outstanding six volumes for a flat fee of £80,000 – out of which he would finance research – instead of royalties.By the time the final volume of the main series appeared in 1988, the project had taken Gilbert 26 years and generated nine million words over 25,000 pages.Gilbert’s non-judgmental portrayal of Churchill led to disputes with other historians.
His thoroughness, too, aroused comment, notably when he ascertained from a 1930s laundry list that Churchill had paid a hitherto unknown visit to Beirut.
Randolph had delivered only the first two volumes (an immense task in itself) when he died in 1968, leaving Gilbert £250.
Churchill’s grandson, Winston, and Lord Birkenhead, the son of F E Smith, were keen to take over, but the Chartwell Trust stuck with Gilbert.
He acted in George Bernard Shaw's play, "Arms and the Man," in a Chichester Festival Production at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Chichester, Sussex, England with Laurence Harvey, Sarah Badel, Judith Arthy, Margaret Courtenay, Richard Kane, and Charles Lloyd Pack in the cast.
Roseanne Barr, John Goodman and Sara Gilbert appeared together in a still released on Tuesday from the upcoming Roseanne revival.
The main protagonist was a working mother in a blue-collar family and gay characters also came out.