Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver by Stephen R. BownMadness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver by Stephen R. Bown

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

byStephen R. Bown

Hardcover | May 3, 2008

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The tragic story of Captain Vancouver, a great explorer whose triumphs were overshadowed by public humiliation.

From 1792 to 1795, George Vancouver sailed the Pacific waters as captain of a major expedition of discovery and imperial ambition. Britain had its eyes on Pacific North America, and Vancouver valiantly charted four thousand miles of coastline from California to Alaska. His voyage was one of history’s greatest feats of maritime daring, scientific discovery, marine cartography and international diplomacy.

Vancouver’s triumph, however, was overshadowed by bitter smear campaigns initiated by enemies he made on board, in particular Archibald Menzies, the ship’s naturalist, and Thomas Pitt, a well-connected midshipman whom Vancouver flogged and sent home. Both men were members of the governing elite and, once back in London, they destroyed Vancouver’s reputation. Pitt publicly challenged Vancouver to several duels and then beat him in a London street with a cane when he declined. The ailing Vancouver was lampooned in the press as a coward and a bully. Unable to collect back pay, he was left impoverished and ill. He died just after finishing the manuscript of his voyage, scrawling out the final pages on his death bed.

In this gripping tale of maritime daring and betrayal, Stephen Bown offers a long-overdue re-evaluation of one of the greatest explorers of the Age of Discovery.

Stephen R. Bown has been writing about adventurers, travellers and explorers for many years. His book Scurvy was an international critical success and was selected as one of the Globe and Mail's Top 100 books of 2004. Madness, Betrayal and the Lash was shortlisted for the Lela Common Award for History and won the BC Booksellers Choice ...
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Title:Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George VancouverFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:May 3, 2008Publisher:Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1553653394

ISBN - 13:9781553653394

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous story Combine the Canadian story-telling ability of Pierre Berton with the global socio-economic insight of Simon Winchester and you have Stephen Bown's account of Captain Vancouver, most appropriate historical background reading for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Date published: 2009-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vindicated after 200 years Little had been written about George Vancouver until Ernie Coleman's excellent and uncomplicated biography in 2000, and Stephen 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 four parts plus great photographs which delve into great 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 have 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.
Date published: 2009-03-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Missed Opportunity In "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.
Date published: 2008-08-08

Table of Contents

Prologue: Science, Exploration, Diplomacy and the Fate of a ContinentPART ONE: Science and DiscoveryChapter One - A Hero ReturnsChapter Two - With the Master MarinerChapter Three -The China TradePART TWO: The Gathering StormChapter Four - HMS EuropaChapter Five - The Nootka Sound IncidentChapter Six - Discovery and ChathamPART THREE: Agent of EmpireChapter Seven - Far Side of the WorldChapter Eight - The Greatest Marine Survey of All TimeChapter Nine - A Meeting of MindsChapter Ten - Winters in HawaiiChapter Eleven - Alaska and IllnessPART FOUR: In the Most Faithful MannerChapter Twelve - Powerful EnemiesChapter Thirteen - Sovereignty and FateEpilogue