Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver

Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver

by Stephen R. Bown


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He led the greatest sailing voyage of all time: five years at sea, across 65,000 miles of ocean, the equivalent of twice around the world, visiting every continent and mapping tens of thousands of miles of coastline. Yet he died in disgrace, shunned and in debt. How did the hero of Nootka Sound end up the laughingstock of London society?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781553653134
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.
Publication date: 02/23/2010
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part 1 Science and Discovery

1 A Hero Returns 7

2 With the Master Mariner 16

3 The China Trade 33

Part 2 The Gathering Storm 4

4 In the Caribbean 51

5 The Nootka Sound Incident 62

6 Discovery and Chatham 82

Part 3 Agent of Empire

7 The Far Side of the World 101

8 The Greatest Marine Survey of All Time 121

9 A Meeting of Minds 141

10 An End and a Beginning 159

11 Hawaii, Alaska and Illness 177

Part 4 In the Most Faithful Manner

12 Powerful Enemies 201

13 Sovereignty and Fate 220

Epilogue 234

Sources 238

Selected Bibliography 242

Acknowledgements 246

Index 247

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Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Richmond-Chambers More than 1 year ago
Little had been written about George Vancouver until Ernie Coleman's excellent and uncomplicated biography in 2000, and Bown's new, detailed and scholarly work in 2008. Bown's work is a re-evaluation of Vancouver's life and work - it's excellent in every respect. And it fills an important gap in 18th century naval history and surveying in North West America. I live where Vancouver spent his last days in Petersham, Richmond, Surrey. We celebrate his life annually at a service in the churchyard where he is buried at St Peter's Church, Petersham. I have also visited beautiful Vancouver and the island, and travelled part of the North West coast of Northern America being married to a Vancouverite. Therefore, I have a special interest and regard for this man and the area he explored! Let's get a few things straight about Vancouver! He was an experienced sailor, having served on the last voyage of Captain Cook as a midshipman. However, Vancouver was not an experienced diplomat, but his record as Master and Captain of HMS Discovery from 1792-5 was very good for the times. Only one person died during the voyages and I can see from Bown's work that Vancouver cared for his men although he had an inexperienced crew and some malevolent officers including Sir Joseph Banks, the aristocrat Thomas Pitt, and the ship's surgeon. You can't do much against this sort of list! Vancouver's reputation was shattered and he died alone with little money on the completion of his surveys and diaries at the age of 40. Our services in Petersham over the 25 years I have attended are often sad occasions for me as I reflect on his life during the commemorations. Bown's book is one of the best I have read for ages about this unpleasant period of British naval history when Captain Vancouver's name and contribution were smeared ... and he vindicates him. It is a well researched and referenced book with many recorded stories which give light onto the problems of the times. And one gets the feeling of the period with this book brilliantly. It has 13 chapters in 4 parts plus great photographs which delve into substantial detail with a splendid list of sources and a bibliography at the back. Bown paints Pitt, in particular, as the baddie (rightly) with few redeeming features, and he exposes the aristocratic establishment of the time hard for their unjust behaviour towards Vancouver. I would probably not liked to have served under Vancouver as I can see some of the leadership problems he had to deal with - challenging behaviour from senior officers is difficult at the best of times, and I've had my fair share of them in the past. However, I have a tremendous regard for George Vancouver which remains strengthened by Bown's biography, ending with this tribute: "He accomplished great things and, as our historical and cultural ancestor, he deserves a greater place in our collective memory." He just got it here from Stephen Bown! So thank you very much Mr Bown from an admirer where Vancouver now rests.
Superior_Shores More than 1 year ago
After visiting Vancouver Island and the Coty of Vancouver, I wanted to know more about this beautiful area. This book is captivating and the conclusion fascinating. I learned so much about this hero and surveyor of the Pacific Northwest coastline. It is a sad story about an inept government system bent on self-destruction and about a man who followed the letter of the law to a "T" and received only rebuke upon his return several years later. After reading this book I just had to download more about the exploration of this area. A must read for history buffs!
bruchu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Missed OpportunityIn "Madness, Betrayal and the Lash" popular historian Stephen Bown recounts the biography of British explorer George Vancouver with specific attention to his voyages up and down the pacific coast of North America as part of the British Navy.As a primer to the life of George Vancouver, Bown has done an admirable job putting together the known facts into a concise narrative. His writing is fluid and the story is genuinely intriguing. However, there are a few areas where the book falls short of expectations.The first would be a lack of citation. Bown includes a bibliography but only a "Note on Sources" section and not a proper endnotes section. Call me a stickler for details, but if I read anything that purports to be "history" it must have footnotes/endnotes so the reader can see exactly where all the information is coming from. I realize that Bown includes the source in his writing on most occasions such as: "[t]he [H]istorian Barry Gough writes...." (p74) but I still expect to see notes (maybe that's just the academic in me talking).Which brings me to my second point that Bown relies so much on the secondary source material of other historians that the book is neither a complete biography nor a new historical interpretation. Bown admits as much writing: "I have not gone through archives scouring for new documentary evidence of Vancouver's voyage ... What I have attempted to do is place Vancouver's life and defining voyage in a broader historical setting than previous biographies" (p238). What I interpret this to mean is that Bown does not intend the book to be a full biography of the man (which the book certainly is not), but rather to explain the significance of his "defining voyage" (which is only partial in this case).The book is stuck between the kind of stirring historical narrative of a David McCullough book and an academic text. I think Bown was aiming for McCullough but Bown never really gets the reader into the head of Vancouver. For example, the unique triangulation between Spain's Bodega y Quadra and Mowachaht's Maquinna would've made for a fascinating character study but instead what we get is just a newspaper-style recount of the negotiations.In my opinion, Bown is at his best in the sections in between his narrative where he offers us his historical interpretation of the events which I realize is not the true intent of his book.It is unfortunate that this book does provide any new information or unique interpretation for the brief late 19th century period where "Vancouver Island was one of the most important and talked-about places in the world" (p1-2). As a strictly summertime read to learn about some obscure figure by the name of "Vancouver" that happens to bear the same name of two cities and an island, this book does the job. For anyone looking for something more in depth, you'll have to keep on searching.