Martin Gilbert, who documented the life of Winston Churchill, the events of World War II and the Holocaust, the founding of the state of Israel and the course of the 20th century in more than 80 volumes that made him known as a preeminent historian of his era, died Tuesday in London. He was 78.

The cause was sepsis, according to his wife, Esther Gilbert. Gilbert had previously suffered a brain injury caused by a heart arrhythmia.

The grandson of Eastern European Jews, Gilbert grew up in England during the momentous events that he would later document, meticulously and tirelessly, as one of the most prolific scholars of modern history. “He writes books,” a reviewer once observed, “the way the rest of us write shopping lists.”

“He had a unique way,” said Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, “of absorbing a plethora of details, personalities, facts, figures and weaving them into a coherent whole and making them utterly accessible both to the historian who would learn tremendous detail from his work and to the layperson who . . . would be captivated by his style.”

Gilbert’s oeuvre encompassed British, European, Jewish and Israeli history. In the realm of biography, he was regarded as a foremost expert on Churchill, Britain’s wartime prime minister.

Churchill selected his son, the writer Randolph Churchill, to be his official biographer. As a young Oxford don, Gilbert assisted the younger Churchill on the first two volumes of the biography, covering the period from Churchill’s birth through his years in the early 1900s as a young statesman.

Randolph Churchill died in 1968, three years after his father, having covered only four decades of his father’s 90 years. Gilbert confessed to some trepidation when he was confronted with the chance to be the prime minister’s official biographer and pick up where Randolph Churchill had left off.

“I knew this phrase ‘official biographer’ would be tacked on to it,” he once told an interviewer, “and therefore it would be assumed that it would contain an element, or even a dominance, of apologia.”

Gilbert also said that if he had known the task would consume the better part of 20 years, he might have declined. “The Challenge of War, 1914-1916,” the first volume written by Gilbert alone, appeared in 1971. Later volumes covered the interwar period, Churchill’s leadership during World War II, and his later years. The eighth and final volume in the series, “Never Despair, 1945-1965,” was published in 1988.

Gilbert said that at no time did the Churchill family ask to approve his writing. He also noted that the project required a degree of sleuthing as he sorted through a reported 15 tons of material. One stash of correspondence was unearthed at the New York Public Library, filed under the American novelist also named Winston Churchill.

After their publication, the contents of the eight volumes, containing some 9 million words, were condensed into a one-volume edition, which the writer and journalist Herbert Mitgang described as “the most scholarly study of Churchill in war and peace ever written.”

Gilbert produced shelves of books documenting Jewish history and, in particular, the Holocaust. Those volumes included “Auschwitz and the Allies” (1981) and the thousand-page book “The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War.”

Widely regarded as a master of archival materials, Gilbert also availed himself of the privilege, unique to modern historians, of interviewing people who witnessed the events he documented. A London taxi driver who told Gilbert that he survived the Holocaust later was mentioned in one of the author’s books.

His marriages to Helen Robinson and Susan Sacher ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 10 years, the former Esther Goldberg of London.”