Martin Gilbert
Martin GilbertReuters

Sir Martin Gilbert, official biographer of Winston Churchill and a leading authority on modern history, the Holocaust, Jewish and Israeli history, has passed away Wednesday in London after a long period of ill-health.

Gilbert authored more than eighty books.

Born in 1936 in London, Gilbert graduated studied imperial British history as a Research Scholar at St. Anthony’s College in Oxford. In 1961, he was elected a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College at Oxford, and a year later, Churchill’s son Randolph asked Gilbert to join his five-person research team dedicated to documenting the monumental life of his father.

From 1962-1968, Martin lived and worked at Merton College, studying the life and accomplishments of Churchill with Randolph’s team. Upon Churchill's death, Gilbert wrote a short single-volume biography of the great leader, called Winston Churchill.

His numerous honors include a knighthood for his contributions to British history and international relations, and a Doctorate from Oxford University for his collective published work. In 2009, Sir Gilbert was appointed as a member of the British government's inquiry into the Iraq war.

In addition to many works about Churchill, Sir Martin has written on other historical topics including histories of Israel, atlases, and books on various periods in Jewish history, including A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century and Churchill and the Jews.

He often wrote in The Jewish Chronicle, London’s Jewish newspaper, and he has told the JC he considers Israel to be “the country I have lived in, taught in, played in, seen my children grow up in – and hold in the highest esteem, for all its faults, which are in my view far outweighed by its virtues.”

In March 2012, Sir Martin, with fellow historian Robert Conquest, won Israel’s prestigious $1 million prize named for philanthropist Dan David, for his extraordinary achievements in writing history.