From New York Times bestselling author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt, a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill's extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War
At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament. He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him.
Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner. Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escapebut then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him.
The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned.
Churchill would later remark that this period, "could I have seen my future, was to lay the foundations of my later life." Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters—including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi—with whom he would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from the Boer War would profoundly affect 20th century history.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
CANDICE MILLARD is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and three children.
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Table of Contents
Part 1 Pushful, the Younger
Chapter 1 Death by Inches 7
Chapter 2 The Graven Palm 20
Chapter 3 The Scion 28
Chapter 4 Blowing the Trumpet 37
Part 2 Into Africa
Chapter 5 "Send Her Victorious" 53
Chapter 6 "We Have Now Gone Far Enough" 66
Chapter 7 The Blackest of All Days 77
Chapter 8 Land of Stone and Scrub 86
Part 3 Chance
Chapter 9 The Death Trap 97
Chapter 10 A Pity and a Blunder 108
Chapter 11 Inco the Lion's Jaws 118
Chapter 12 Grim Sullen Death 126
Part 4 Prisoners of War
Chapter 13 To Submit, to Obey, to Endure 139
Chapter 14 "I Regret to Inform You" 153
Chapter 15 A City of the Dead 162
Chapter 16 Black Week 176
Chapter 17 A Scheme of Desperate and Magnificent Audacity 187
Chapter 18 "I Shall Go On Alone" 198
Part 5 In the Heart of the Enemy's Country
Chapter 19 Toujours de I'Audace 211
Chapter 20 "To Take My Leave" 222
Chapter 21 Alone 234
Chapter 22 "Wie Is Daar?" 246
Chapter 23 An Invisible Enemy 256
Chapter 24 The Light of Hope 269
Chapter 25 The Plan 278
Chapter 26 The Red and the Blue 285
Selected Bibliography 357
Illustration Credits 365
Reading Group Guide
1. What were your first impressions of Winston Churchill as a young man? Did you admire his confidence and his “unshakable convictionthat he was destined for greatness”?
2. Were you surprised to learn that Churchill enlisted the services of a “palmist” to predict what the future held for him?
3. In Chapter 7, we learn the provenance of the iconic Burberry trench coat. The average life expectancy of a horse during the Boer Warwas six weeks. What other facts of this nature did you find most interesting or surprising?
4. "Nothing but being shot at will ever teach men the art of using cover," writes George Warrington Steevens from Ladysmith (p. 121). Discuss how the Boer War transformed British military strategy.
5. Class plays an important role in Churchill's exploits during his early life. How does his status as a member of a wealthy, prominentfamily work for--and against--him?
6. What were your impressions of Jennie Churchill? Did you think she was a modern woman ahead of her time or an opportunist?
7. Did you find the circumstances of Churchill's escape from the Staats Model School foolhardy or was Churchill simply taking advantageof what may have been his only chance to escape?
8. Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Are there any books onChurchill's reading list that you would like to try?
9. Several famous names make cameo appearances in the book, from Rudyard Kipling to Mahatma Gandhi. Were you surprised by this intersection of history? Have you read other books, either nonfiction or fiction, in which the lives of historical figures overlap in unlikely ways or places?
10. What additional thoughts did you have about apartheid and the fight for human rights and social justice, later led by men like Nelson Mandela, after reading about the history between the Boers and native Africans, both before and during the Boer War?
11. After Churchill returned to England there was a controversy surrounding his escape, and he was accused of intentionally leaving his friends behind. Do you think he had a choice? Was he wrong to go on without them, or did he find himself in an untenable situation?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1899 at age twenty-five, Winston Churchill was a national hero, forty-one years before he became Prime Minister in World War II. What happened? Candice Millard tells what was perhaps the most harrowing experience of Churchill’s life. First, he helped a battered train of soldiers escape from a brutal attack in the Boer War in South Africa before being captured himself. Then, after a month in prison, he escaped alone without a compass, without a map, and almost no food, through two hundred miles of wilderness to freedom. The nation celebrated ecstatically this piece of welcome news in the midst of war that was witnessing terrible defeat after defeat due to fossilized, overconfident military leaders. Instead of going home to a hero’s welcome, however, he begged, battered, and beat his way to a military command, ultimately liberating the camp his fellow prisoners had been held in. Each stage of this adventure is remarkable, and Millard brings out every bit of drama. She does not, however, indulge in hero worship. She presents a Churchill who is irritatingly self-promotional, even by today’s extreme standards. In his search for glory, to make a name for himself, he intentionally and unnecessarily put himself and others in danger. Once (among many examples) he provocatively paraded in front of troops facing battle on a conspicuous gray horse, hoping something heroic would happen. He also suffered from what we might call ADHD. When two other officers plotted an escape, Churchill demanded he be included. They wisely didn’t want him and didn’t want to give him details for fear he would impulsively blab them to everyone in camp. After he badgered them repeatedly they finally gave him a few bits of the plan, which he promptly told many others about. Indeed, his solo escape was due to him impetuously jumping over the prison fence without getting confirmation from the other two who couldn’t join him due to being closely guarded. What Millard does not tell us is what inner force drove Churchill to such extremes to prove himself. She doesn’t say anything about how Churchill’s father (himself a member of the British cabinet) never gave Churchill any of the approval growing up he so desired. Throughout his life, Churchill was thus subject to depression (anger turned inward) except in one period. During World War II he found a worthy external recipient for all his focused fury. He never felt better.
The author sows the historical facts of Churchill's life into a very engaging narrative. She moves swiftly through scenes of his earlier or later years while holding your interest throughout the book focused on his time in Africa. It was a great read, and very informative. It is accurate history, told as it should be; a compelling and grasping narrative, highlighting significant events, and connecting this specific story's narrative with that of Churchill's larger life, and even the larger narrative of world events. I'd highly recommend the book. It's an easy read, factual, and captivating.
A fascinating, candid portrayal of W. Churchill & his parents in easy-to-read style. Excellent notes, illustrations, bibliography & index, worthy of buying for one's personal library
Brilliantly written with historical backround and great insight into the experiences that helped make Winston Churchill.