Born at Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill was a descendent of the first famous member of the Churchill family: John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Winston's father, Randolph Churchill, was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough.
The first notable appearance of Winston Churchill was as a war-correspondant in the second Anglo-Boer war between Britain and self-proclaimed Afrikaaners in South Africa. He was captured in a Boer ambush of a British Army train convoy, but managed a high profile escape and eventually crossed the South African border to Lorenzo Marques (now Maputo in Mozambique).
Churchill used the status achieved to begin a political career. At first a member of the Conservative party, he soon crossed to the Liberals and entered cabinet in his early thirties. His early career was distinctly unimpressive. He was one of the political and military engineers of the tragic and disasterous Gallipoli landings on the Dardanelles during World War I, which lead to his description as "the butcher of Gallipoli". He was a signatory of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 which established the Irish Free State. Later, during the general strike of 1926, Churchill again gained notoriety, this time due to his suggestion that machine guns should be used on the unarmed miners.
Churchill came to the fore of British politics during the cumulation of World War II. Having crossed the floor back to the Conservatives, he was a fierce critic of Neville Chamberlain's political handling of Adolf Hitler. On Chamberlain's resignation in early 1940, Churchill formed the next government.
His speeches at that time were a great inspiration to the embattled United Kindom. His famous "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech was his first as Prime Minister. He followed that closely, prior to the Battle of Britain, with "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
He paid the Royal Air Force the highest compliment after the Battle of Britain with "Never in field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many, to so few".
His good relationship with U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt secured the United Kingdom vital supplies via the North Atlantic Ocean shipping routes. Churchill had also established the Special Operations Europe (SOE) that attempted guerilla operations in occupied France, with notable success.
Although the importance of Churchill's role in World War II was undeniable, he produced many enemies in his own country. His expressed contempt for ideas such as public health care and for better education for the majority of the population in particular produced much disatisfaction amongst the population, particularly those who had fought in the war. Immediately following the close of the war in Europe Churchill was heavily defeated at election by Clement Attlee.
Churchill is believed by several writers to have suffered from Bipolar Disorder; certainly he suffered from fits of depression that he called his "black dogs".
At the beginning of the Cold War he coined the term the "Iron Curtain," a phrase that entered the public consciousness after a 1946 speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri when he famously declared "From Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere."