Churchill’s Confidant: Jan Smuts, Enemy to Lifelong Friend

Written by Richard Steyn
Review by Chiara Prezzavento

Winston Churchill and future South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts first met on the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer War, as two remarkable and very different young men. They made no great impression on each other then, but later, as each rose through the ranks of their respective countries, they met again as statesmen, worked together through two world wars, all kinds of difficult international situations, and the fall of the Empire, and developed a fast and warm friendship that went on for decades. In this book Richard Steyn charts the two men’s long, eventful and stormy careers, and draws on a wealth of private correspondence and diaries to shed light on the relationship between the two, showing how the mercurial and fiery Churchill and the ascetic, philosophical (but equally wilful) Smuts genuinely liked and admired each other. Indeed, Smuts seems to have been the one person in the world to really hold sway over the famously intractable PM. A fascinating glimpse of the human side of two complex men who had a major part in shaping world history.