UNESCO Honors Winston Churchill’s Writings With the Equivalent of World Heritage Status

Churchill’s papers join the ranks of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Anne Frank’s diary and the Magna Carta

Winston Churchill
"History will be kind to me," wrote Winston Churchill, "for I intend to write it myself." Corbis

During his 90 years, Winston Churchill became one of the most heralded statesmen and writers of all time. But what does he have in common with the Magna Carta, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis? As of today, a lot: As David Barrett reports for The Telegraph, Churchill’s papers were just made part of the prestigious UNESCO International Memory of the World Register.

Think of the list as the equivalent of UNESCO World Heritage status, but for documents. The program, which seeks to save mankind’s most important memories, helps to identify, register and facilitate access and preservation of historically significant documents. Among its ranks are works like The Diary of Anne Frank, the Gutenberg Bible, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Phoenician alphabet and a register of slaves from the British Caribbean.

Now, Churchill’s papers will join the collection, along with 46 other important submissions. The papers will remain at Cambridge University, which holds the archive. In a release, archive officials write that the collection includes more than a million documents.

Allen Packwood, director of the archive, tells Barrett that one highlight is the draft of Churchill’s famous “this was their finest hour” speech. The speech, which was delivered before the British House of Commons in 1940, expressed the moral imperative of freeing Europe from Nazi rule. The draft - which braced England for hard times ahead - “looks like poetry,” Packwood tells Barrett. Indeed, Churchill was such a respected writer that he was awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Churchill's brilliant turns of phrase didn’t come easily, however. As Tom Vitale writes for NPR, the great orator said that it took an hour of work to write a single minute of a speech. 

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