About the Institute

Churchill and America

NEH Summer Institute at Ashland University

Sunday, July 23 to Saturday, August 5, 2006

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Our aim in this institute was to provide thirty middle, junior, and high school teachers with a focus for approaching crucial political events of the twentieth century through the life, reflections, and experiences of Winston Churchill. In particular, we concentrated on Churchill’’s views of democratic politics in the United States and of the Anglo-American relationship in peace and in war. The two-week institute took place from Sunday, July 23, 2006 to Saturday, August 5, 2006.

Several months before the institute, participating teachers received copies of texts to read in advance, and copies of other readings that were assigned during the institute. While the curriculum was challenging, the required readings were manageable within the time frame of the institute

Each weekday, began with a session on Churchill’’s autobiography, My Early Life, which we read together over ten sessions, considering how he portrays the events of his early life and his reflections on education, empire, war, democratic politics, and youthful adventure. These daily sessions, in the morning from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m., were conducted as seminar discussions among the participants, moderated by a faculty member. These discussions, which allowed the group as a whole to interpret and debate the readings, provided participants with a model for teaching the same material to their classes.

After these discussion sessions and a break for refreshments and conversation from 10:30 to 11:00 a.m., we had daily lectures about various questions relating to Churchill and America, ranging from Churchill’’s understanding of history and his thoughts on rhetoric in democratic statesmanship to his writings on America and his “Iron Curtain” speech. These daily lectures were delivered by one of the co-directors or visiting faculty members. The lecture period each weekday was 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Each lecture, lasting just under an hour, was followed by a little more than a half-hour of questions. Conversation then continued over lunch immediately afterwards.

Most of the afternoon was left free so that participants have time to read, converse, exercise, and rest. This part of the program was in the spirit of Churchill’’s discovery of the siesta on his early trip to Cuba in 1895, which taught him how to live his day in two marches, separated by a rest, and thereby to do two days’ work in a single day.

We reassembled for afternoon tea at 4:30 p.m., and then embarked on a second daily discussion session, considering Churchill’’s speeches and writings on America in The Great Republic in ten sessions that took up questions ranging from the early English antecedents of American liberty and Churchill’’s account of the American Civil War to his principled objections to Prohibition and his endeavors to persuade Americans to join the struggle against Germany in the Second World War.

Afterwards we had dinner together, assembling at 6:30 p.m. On many evenings, dinner was accompanied by a talk by one of the co-directors or visiting faculty focusing on some feature of Churchill’’s personality or career: writings, speeches, painting, wit, diplomacy, soldiering, etc.

On most weekday evenings, after dinner, beginning about 8:00 p.m., we viewed an episode of the best television portrait of Churchill’’s statesmanship, the Masterpiece Theatre production “The Wilderness Years,” in which Robert Hardy portrays Churchill’’s lonely campaign against the Nazi danger in the 1930s. These hour-long episodes were followed by a brief and informal optional discussion—and so to bed.

The evening activities centered on talks about Churchill’’s remarkable personality and interests. Watching the Masterpiece Theatre reenactment of his “wilderness years,” had two purposes: first, to bring home the range of activities and the great human appeal of the man who in his youth confidently told a lady friend that human beings were all worms, but he was a glowworm; second, to bring to life his lonely struggle against the Nazi menace in the years when he was out of power and out of favor, but nonetheless determined to stop Hitler. His determination and personal achievement stand in stark contrast to the view, all too common today, that political problems are too big for one man to make a difference. To encourage teachers to pursue this subject further, we provided copies of Martin Gilbert’’s history of that era, originally written to accompany the television series, The Wilderness Years (London: Pimlico, 2004).

At the end of each week, the two institute Master Teachers conducted a session on how to incorporate the institute’’s materials into the classroom. During the institute, each participating teacher was expected to develop a set of model lesson plans to be placed on the Ashbrook Center’’s web site for teachers,, and on the Churchill Centre’’s web site, The sessions with the Master Teachers will gave an opportunity to collaborate in producing and evaluating model lesson plans. In addition, throughout all of the sessions, the faculty gave attention to how the material being studied can be used in the classroom.

Participants were assigned a stipend of $1,800, which, in most cases, was sufficient to cover travel expenses to and from Ashland, books and other research expenses, and living expenses for the duration of the period spent in residence.

Professional Development

As the Ashbrook Center does with all of its teacher programs, each participant was given a letter of attendance stating the number of seminar hours and number of pages of assigned readings completed during the institute. Participants could also elect to receive four graduate credit hours from Ashland University at a discounted tuition rate. The credit will be offered through the University’’s Master’’s program in American History and Government. The academic program and the schedule of the Master’’s program are designed for teachers, with courses offered only during the summer. The program’’s course work is in the substance of history and government rather than in teaching methodology. This credit can be transferred to another institution or may be used as a part of a teacher’’s professional development plan.

Thank you for your continued interest in this program, which was a great success.


James W. Muller, Ph.D. and Justin D. Lyons, Ph.D.

Institute Co-Directors

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