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Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

by Candice Millard
Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

by Candice Millard


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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 escape—but 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385535731
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/20/2016
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,201,715
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(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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Excerpted from "Hero of the Empire"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Candice Millard.
Excerpted by permission of Diversified Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

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

Epilogue 299

Acknowledgments 321

Notes 327

Selected Bibliography 357

Illustration Credits 365

Index 367

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?

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