Sir Martin Gilbert

Sir Martin Gilbert (1936–2015) was a leading British historian whose work covered many aspects of twentieth-century history.

He is renowned for his unparalleled work on Sir Winston Churchill, which includes six volumes of the official Churchill biography and fifteen other books on the former Prime Minister. Sir Martin is also celebrated for his writing on the World Wars and the Holocaust, Jewish history, as well as for his historical atlases.

Born in London in 1936, Sir Martin was evacuated to Canada at the age of 3, returning to England after the war and attending Highgate School where he developed a love of geography. Having been persuaded by a teacher to focus instead on history, Gilbert studied the subject at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Modern History. In 1999 he was awarded a DLitt for his collective body of work.

While working as a postgraduate student at St Antony’s College, Oxford, Sir Martin was approached by Randolph Churchill to assist with Sir Winston’s biography. Little did Sir Martin know that this would be a pivotal moment in his career. He went on to spend the following two decades on the monumental task of the Churchill biography.

Sir Martin’s experience with archives is evident in his work, into which he seamlessly weaves primary sources and eyewitness accounts. Celebrated for his thorough and meticulous approach, Sir Martin was also a gifted educator and communicator who was able to bring his students and listeners along with him.

Admired for his formidable grasp of contemporary history and politics, Sir Martin was elected to the Privy Council and was a member of the British Government’s Iraq Inquiry. He advised several Prime Ministers, including Harold Wilson, John Major and Gordon Brown. Sir Martin was awarded a CBE in 1990 and a knighthood in 1995 for “services to British History and international relations”.

His widow, Lady Esther Gilbert, and close friend Sir Harry Solomon set up the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre in 2018, with the aim of bringing history alive to new audiences and continuing Sir Martin’s legacy.

Please visit for more about Sir Martin and to discover his vast array of books.

Above: Sir Martin with a group of friends, July 2007, in front of a mass grave for those who died in the siege of Leningrad, in the Preobrazhensky Jewish Cemetery, St Petersburg, Russia.

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