Insane or Inspired: Winston Churchill

Published September 2, 2015 4:08AM (EDT)

  (Library of Congress)
(Library of Congress)

There’s a saying that genius is close to madness, and in this four-part profile series presented by Hand of God on Amazon Prime we’re celebrating those legendary figures who have left us debating where they sat on the spectrum of sanity.  Looking back at history’s most controversial figures, we’ll ask the question: were they insane, or were they inspired? Click here to explore more stories in the "Insane of Inspired" series.

Madman or Mastermind: Winston Churchill
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. –Winston Churchill

The Story: One of the greatest leaders in world history, Winston Churchill’s strategic vision saw Britain through its darkest days of World War II—but his unconventional style and often-brash demeanor made him a polarizing figure in his time.

The Scandal: Winston Churchill had a penchant for seeing what others couldn’t—including the growing threat of Hitler in 1940. Was he a visionary, or did the darkness of a mind prone to fits of depression and steeped in alcohol open his eyes to unthinkable evil?

The Evidence Against Him: He referred to it his “black dog:” fits of melancholia that followed Churchill throughout his life and often left him bedridden, suicidal and unshakably depressed for months at a time. With a family history of mental illness and symptoms of what we now recognize as clinical depression, Churchill was often regarded as grandiose and brash; he would often spend excessively and beyond his means; he burned with a manic energy before spiraling into a deep depression for which he would self-medicate with alcohol and cigars. In fact, in preparation for a stateside visit during Prohibition, Churchill had his doctor write a note explaining that consumption of alcohol was a medical necessity.

The Evidence For Him: An officer in the British Army, a historian, a Nobel Prize winner (for literature) and an iconic leader, Winston Churchill’s brilliance is not a matter of debate. In retrospect, many experts believe that the depression that dogged him his entire life may have helped him when it came to wartime leadership: his mania may have helped enhance his creativity and allowed him to see hope where others felt it was all but lost. His penchant for empathy and sadness meant that he could understand the very worst of what could happen—and as a result he was one of the first to recognize Hitler’s potential for destruction.

The Verdict: Not Guilty
One of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Churchill was able to take the challenges he faced—including crippling depression—and use them to his advantage as a leader.

Insane or Inspired?
On days when he was feeling his worst, Winston Churchill managed to think of those who were suffering more than he was, and he made it his mission to end their pain. He’s not just inspired—he’s inspiring.

The day of reckoning has arrived in San Vincente, California, and Judge Pernell Harris is the modern day Soloman who is determined to mete out justice. On an obsessive quest to avenge a family tragedy, Pernell is receiving divine inspiration to chart his path—or is he? As his friends and family work to hide what they see as his unraveling, Pernell pursues a course of brutal righteousness. Starring Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy), Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives), and Andre Royo (The Wire) Hand of God was created by Ben Watkins and marks the television debut of filmmaker Marc Foster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland).

Stream all episodes on Amazon Video September 4th. Free with Amazon Prime membership.

By Presented by Amazon Prime's Hand of God

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