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

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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 ca 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. From the Hardcover edition.


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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 ca 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. From the Hardcover edition.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”I don’t like this fellow, but he’ll be Prime Minister of England one day.” Sir George White regarding one Winston S. Churchill Isn’t he precious? Winston Churchill on the cusp of greatness. Winston Spencer Churchill was an easy man to respect, an easy man to love, but a hard man to like. I don’t know if there has ever been a man more convinced of his own importance or with a clearer vision of his destiny than Winston Churchill. There are contenders throughout history, one being Theodore Roosev ”I don’t like this fellow, but he’ll be Prime Minister of England one day.” Sir George White regarding one Winston S. Churchill Isn’t he precious? Winston Churchill on the cusp of greatness. Winston Spencer Churchill was an easy man to respect, an easy man to love, but a hard man to like. I don’t know if there has ever been a man more convinced of his own importance or with a clearer vision of his destiny than Winston Churchill. There are contenders throughout history, one being Theodore Roosevelt, who was the subject of Candice Millard’s first book. Napoleon comes to mind. Julius Caesar was willing to conquer his own country of Italy to be the man in charge. I’ve known some paler versions. One thing they have in common is that they believe completely in their abilities. They believe without a doubt that fate is on their side. They wake up every day thinking that this is the day that, finally, everyone will recognize how important they are. Because they believe in their own destiny so fervently, their ambition knows no bounds. When we meet Winston Churchill in Hero of the Empire, he has just lost an election for parliament. He is desperate to live up to his family name. He is a direct descendent of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, who never lost a battle. Winston’s own father, Randolph, was a dynamic member of parliament, who unfortunately suffered a debilitating illness, which cut his career tragically short. His mother Jennie Jerome, an American, was considered one of the most lovely and desirable women in the world at the time. Lord d’Abernon once said that “there was more of a panther than of a woman in her look.” Lady Randolph Churchill. It is always interesting to look at pictures or portraits of these great beauties from another era. I find them fascinating because their beauty is not always readily apparent, by our modern standards, from just gazing at their likenesses. Jennie was certainly not a demure British rose and seemed to be one of those women who really enjoyed the company of men. She had many lovers during her marriage, including Bertie, the future Edward VII, who was nicknamed Edward the Caresser due to the number of conquests he had as Prince of Wales and even as king. Like Winston, he was another man who could never seem to get his mother’s attention (Queen Victoria) unless he acted up. So here is Winston, practically being choked by the enormity of fulfilling his own idea of who he is supposed to be, fervently praying that the brimming war with the Boers in South Africa becomes a reality. He needs a means to prove his bravery, which will be the first step in obtaining all his other ambitions. He gets his wish. He quickly obtains a position with a newspaper and heads to South Africa as a correspondent. Not, of course, before spending a small fortune on alcohol and other certain amenities that would insure a certain level of comfort for the young aristocrat. The Boer War, which this is technically the second Boer War, is being fought over some very lucrative gold and diamond mines the Boers control that Britain would like to obtain. The other underlying issue is that, since Great Britain disapproves of slavery, the "slave holding" Dutch Boers in the North do not want to become part of the British Empire. Boers The Boers are not soldiers, just farmers and businessmen. They disdain the thought of wearing a uniform. They are very disappointed to find the British soldiers dressed in a much more prudent khaki than the lobster red uniforms for which they are famous. While the British still march in formation, this is 1899; you would have thought they’d have learned something from 1776, and the Boers, like the American Revolutionaries, fought a guerilla style war from cover. They approach war like a business. They aren’t there for glory or to be remembered for dying valiantly. They are there to win, and the only way they can win is by killing as many British soldiers as they can. They prefer to live to talk about their exploits. One of Winston Churchill’s favorite mottos was ”Toujours de l’audance.” The famous quote of ”Georges Danton, a leader of the French Revolution who was eventually guillotined” translates as ”Always more audacity.” If Winston were to die, which is a ridiculous thought... remember his destiny, then he wants to make sure he dies bravely and oh so spectacularly. Now, I’m not going to go into any detail on Churchill’s capture and escape because that is why you all need to read the book. The only thing that I want to mention about that part is that there is a moment when he is reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and, given his circumstances, he identifies quite strongly with the main character, David Balfour. RLS shows up everywhere! Candice Millard, as always, does an incredible job taking a slice of history and filling in enough details before and after to give the reader what they need to know to understand the significance of the moment. If you don’t know very much about Churchill, this is a great place to start. If you know quite a lot about Churchill, you will still find nuggets of information that you didn’t know before. Millard does a thorough job of researching her subject matter. She puts out a book about every five years, and that is because of the time she spends sifting through original documentation to insure that she has her information as correct as history can be. She has a fluid writing style that had me flipping pages like I was reading a novel. There were these very bright lights shining on her face so I wasn’t able to get a clear picture with my iphone, but as you can see behind Millard, she gives a picture slide with her presentation. I was fortunate to finally meet her at an event at the Watermark Bookstore in Wichita. She lives in Kansas, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I finally caught up with her. I asked her several questions about President Garfield. Her book Destiny of the Republic, about the assassination of the president, was superb. She told me that she was convinced that, had he lived, he would have been one of our greatest presidents. There are a lot parallels between President Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, so it is no surprise that her first book The River of Doubt was about Roosevelt’s journey through the Amazon. Men like Roosevelt and Churchill are fascinating, and writers have written many comprehensive books about them. I think what makes Millard a special writer is that she takes an event in time and defines the person by how they reacted to that event. And here is Candice Millard about to sign the books that are now permanently residing in the stately Keeten Library. So don’t hesitate to meet Winston Churchill or Theodore Roosevelt or James Garfield under the deft guidance of this talented historian. Pamela Plowden, Winston’s first real girlfriend and lifetime friend offered some great advice about Churchill. ”The first time you meet Winston you see all of his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues.” If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    Swaroop Kanti

    Candice Millard`s Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill is an interesting, well-written recount of a young Winston Churchill. Candice Millard has captured the grit, determination and resolve of Winston Churchill very well. Churchill's life is all about identifying your goal/passion and then reaching/achieving it, no matter what! A must-read book by Candice Millard! Candice Millard`s Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill is an interesting, well-written recount of a young Winston Churchill. Candice Millard has captured the grit, determination and resolve of Winston Churchill very well. Churchill's life is all about identifying your goal/passion and then reaching/achieving it, no matter what! A must-read book by Candice Millard!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A young Churchill and the Boar War, neither of which I knew anything about before reading this book. This author does such a great job explaining people and events, making them understandable and exciting. Who the Boars were, their history with Great Britain, why the war was fought and the consequences of this war. Churchill's quest to make a name for himself, his self confidence in his future prospects and ability to maneuver in all situations were shown here, and of course later these skills wo A young Churchill and the Boar War, neither of which I knew anything about before reading this book. This author does such a great job explaining people and events, making them understandable and exciting. Who the Boars were, their history with Great Britain, why the war was fought and the consequences of this war. Churchill's quest to make a name for himself, his self confidence in his future prospects and ability to maneuver in all situations were shown here, and of course later these skills would be paramount. A few surprises, starting with his capture, I was astonished at how well these prisoners were treated. Given a change of clothes, decent food, cots to sleep on, Churchill even purchased a suit while being held captive. The amount of luxeries, the upper class British took to war, everything from gourmet food to a prodigious amount of liquor, servants and even a Butler. Was also surprised that many did not like Churchill, although they recognized he would be somebody someday. He also wasn't trusted to keep his mouth shut about the escape, which he didn't and it didn't happen the way it was planned anyway. His escape was harrowing, a propacious series of events one can chalk up to God, fate or just pure luck. Also enjoyed the few bits of trivia, such as the origins of the trench coat and the word sniper. I enjoy this author and the way history is treated, interesting not dry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book about a young Winston Churchill and his experiences in South Africa during the Second Boer War. If you aren't familiar with the Boer Wars (I wasn't), don't worry, you're in good hands with Candice Millard. She provides background info and explains why Churchill was eager to travel to Africa and gain some notoriety. I thought the book's narrative was strong, and this was an engaging read. I had been meaning to read more about Churchill, and this was a nice introduct I thoroughly enjoyed this book about a young Winston Churchill and his experiences in South Africa during the Second Boer War. If you aren't familiar with the Boer Wars (I wasn't), don't worry, you're in good hands with Candice Millard. She provides background info and explains why Churchill was eager to travel to Africa and gain some notoriety. I thought the book's narrative was strong, and this was an engaging read. I had been meaning to read more about Churchill, and this was a nice introduction to his early life. This is the second Millard book I've read (I also really enjoyed her book on Teddy Roosevelt, The River of Doubt) and she is one of the best narrative nonfiction writers working today. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy history mixed with adventure.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    As she’s already proved in The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey and Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard really knows how to tell a gripping story, and this account of young Winston Churchill’s incredible prison escape during the Boer War made me postpone all other activities as I stayed glued to its pages, but--as with her other titles--the event that inspired the book isn’t the only thing that makes Millard’s te As she’s already proved in The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey and Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, Candice Millard really knows how to tell a gripping story, and this account of young Winston Churchill’s incredible prison escape during the Boer War made me postpone all other activities as I stayed glued to its pages, but--as with her other titles--the event that inspired the book isn’t the only thing that makes Millard’s telling so interesting. For me it’s maybe not even the primary thing, though it’s true that episodes like Churchill desperately leaping onto a moving train and hiding out for days in a pitch-black, rat-infested coal mine were the parts that kept my heart racing. But the insights into the history and cultural norms of the peoples involved in the story were even more fascinating for me than Churchill’s harrowing escapades. Millard gives concise but detailed backstories of the too complacent British and their empire in the waning days of Victoria’s rule, the fiercely independent and resourceful Boers who after a hundred years felt bound and entitled to the lands they’d settled in southern Africa, and the native African tribes of the area, including the Zulu and the Xhosa, some of whom had inhabited the space for thousands and thousands of years. The book also gave me a deeper understanding of Churchill’s character, in all its admirable and infuriating glory. The roles of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela (who lived years after the Boer War) and a number of officers in the British and Boer military are also well described, and the influences or thoughts of Catherine the Great, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Theodore Roosevelt, and the American President William McKinley are noted. All three of Millard’s books cover the late nineteenth century and/or early twentieth century, an era that to the benefit of her readers she seems to know well and is certainly able to bring to life. I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied to me at no cost or obligation by the publisher. Review opinions are mine.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    The man who was born to be PM during Britain's darkest hours...Winston Churchill. As a brash young man, he would tell all who would listen that he was destined for a great future. Although he had been called many things......an opportunist, a braggart, a blowhard....no one ever questioned his bravery. This book portrays Churchill, warts and all, in his youth (age 23) as he was attempting to make a name for himself through any means that he saw as fortuitous. It turned out to be the Second Boer The man who was born to be PM during Britain's darkest hours...Winston Churchill. As a brash young man, he would tell all who would listen that he was destined for a great future. Although he had been called many things......an opportunist, a braggart, a blowhard....no one ever questioned his bravery. This book portrays Churchill, warts and all, in his youth (age 23) as he was attempting to make a name for himself through any means that he saw as fortuitous. It turned out to be the Second Boer War where he went into the battles as a newspaper reporter who acted like a soldier and won the admiration of a nation. The tale of his capture by the Boers, imprisonment in Pretoria, and his daring and almost impossible escape is a rousing tale of courage, determination, and a little bit of luck. Alone is the middle of enemy territory and hundreds of miles from the nearest neutral country of Portuguese East Africa, he started his journey to freedom without a compass, food (except for a couple of chocolate bars) and water and amazingly reached his destination and returned to England where a celebration was awaiting him. Needless to say, he demanded a commission (Churchill always demanded) and returned to the battle in time to be present at the fall of Pretoria and the Transvaal. This is a history that reads like exciting fiction and gives the reader a look at a portion of Churchill's life which is often overlooked. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I love it when I don't have to rack my brain figuring out how to rate a book; this is a clear four star book! All interested in the Boer Wars, particularly the second, should read this book. The first is covered quickly so you are aware of vital background information for the events of the second. All who want to learn a bit more about Churchill should read this book. His personality comes out strong and clear. He was extremely self-assured and determined to make a name for himself in politics. He I love it when I don't have to rack my brain figuring out how to rate a book; this is a clear four star book! All interested in the Boer Wars, particularly the second, should read this book. The first is covered quickly so you are aware of vital background information for the events of the second. All who want to learn a bit more about Churchill should read this book. His personality comes out strong and clear. He was extremely self-assured and determined to make a name for himself in politics. He was goal oriented. He did what he thought was right regardless of others’ opinions. He was compassionate in victory and held out a hand to those vanquished. He never forgot those who had helped him. A man who could be both extremely annoying and yet a great friend. This book is exciting….once you have been given the background information. The author knows how to weave the facts in unobtrusively; the excitement mounts even as you learn. The historical information presented is clear and concise. The title is explicit and to the point. It tells you exactly what the book will be about. The central focus is the exciting story of Churchill’s capture from an armored train of British soldiers carrying out a reconnaissance operation in Natal, his subsequent imprisonment and then escape from a POW camp in Pretoria. This happened in November and December 1899. How these events then shaped Churchill’s career becomes self-evident. The book ends with a great epilogue which summarizes the conclusion of the Second Boer War and the history of South Africa through to President De Klerk who supported the transformation of South Africa into a non-racial democracy. Simon Vance reads the audiobook. He reads too fast for my taste. I can understand he wants the excitement to mount, but the listener needs also to hear the names and dates and treaties so all the historical facts can properly sink in. How much you want to retain of the historical facts and how many notes you want to jot down will determine how often you must rewind. ************************* This author is verygood. I have read all three of her books and gave all four stars. I love that she writes about completely different topics. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey 5 stars Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President 4 stars and now Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill 4 stars

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I am turning into a big fan of Candice Millard. For me, she brings history alive. I thoroughly enjoyed Millard’s other two books: “The River of Doubt” about Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon trip in 1912 and “Destiny of the Republic” about the assassination of James A. Garfield. I read everything I can get my hands on about or by Winston S. Churchill. When I discovered Millard had written her new book about Churchill, I just had to read it. With so much written about Churchill, Millard did what she is I am turning into a big fan of Candice Millard. For me, she brings history alive. I thoroughly enjoyed Millard’s other two books: “The River of Doubt” about Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon trip in 1912 and “Destiny of the Republic” about the assassination of James A. Garfield. I read everything I can get my hands on about or by Winston S. Churchill. When I discovered Millard had written her new book about Churchill, I just had to read it. With so much written about Churchill, Millard did what she is a master of and narrowed the story and I found some hidden pearls of information. The author reviewed briefly Churchill’s adult life up to the Boar War so the reader had no problems following the narrowed scope of the book from that point on. Millard shows how Churchill’s trials and tribulations in the conflict of the Boar War profoundly influenced Churchill. When he escaped from the prison camp and crossed over to Portuguese Angola, Millard implied that Winston was not only physically free but, for the first time in his life, psychologically free from his father Lord Randolph Churchill. Millard attempted to be unbiased about WSC. She pointed out his strengths and faults. I appreciated this more realistic portrayal of him. Churchill never attempted to conceal his driving ambition. If you read his books it comes through in his writings. The book is well written and meticulously researched. Millard provides a brief history of the Boar War so all events are in perspective for the reader. Millard has a great talent of bringing history to life. Simon Vance does an excellent job narrating the book. Vance is a British actor and award winning audiobook narrator. He is one of my favorite narrators.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    It’s interesting to see how this young, rash, courageous man of action became the great Winston Churchill. From the loss of his first local election, to his outrageous escape from a Boer POW camp and then his return to fight in that same war, Millard gives us insight into Churchill’s personality and what prepared him for the future. Instilled in Churchill were the very British characteristics of character and courage, and this war provided him all the opportunities to hone his abilities in confl It’s interesting to see how this young, rash, courageous man of action became the great Winston Churchill. From the loss of his first local election, to his outrageous escape from a Boer POW camp and then his return to fight in that same war, Millard gives us insight into Churchill’s personality and what prepared him for the future. Instilled in Churchill were the very British characteristics of character and courage, and this war provided him all the opportunities to hone his abilities in conflict, danger, and risk taking. Overall, a very detailed but small slice of Churchill’s life for which the Allies ultimately became very grateful.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    I really enjoyed this book by Candice Millard. This is about as good as narrative histories get. The drama around Churchill’s capture and escape and this year of his life was intense but not overwrought. I won’t provide a plot summary here as this story is about the drama of the unknown. Interestingly enough I read the Manchester biographies on Churchill. Manchester did not do justice to this most exciting portion of Churchill’s life from the capture to the escape. This was very close to a five st I really enjoyed this book by Candice Millard. This is about as good as narrative histories get. The drama around Churchill’s capture and escape and this year of his life was intense but not overwrought. I won’t provide a plot summary here as this story is about the drama of the unknown. Interestingly enough I read the Manchester biographies on Churchill. Manchester did not do justice to this most exciting portion of Churchill’s life from the capture to the escape. This was very close to a five star rating for me but I felt the explanations around the broader Boer War and historical figures such as Krueger and Kitchener were a little weak. I guess this is the balancing act that Millard faced when focusing on a narrow narrative in the context of a war that most people don’t know that much about and which requires at least some explanation. 4.5 stars. FWIW Destiny of the Republic is another one of Millard’s narrative history books that was outstanding.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dax

    A worthy edition to the corpora on Winston Churchill. Millard gives us the birth of the larger than life celebrity of Churchill with clean prose and an entertaining story. It quickly becomes obvious that not only was Churchill a supremely ambitious and talented individual, but also an incredibly lucky one. My knowledge on the Great Boer War was nonexistent before this reading, therefore I found 'Hero of the Empire' vastly informative as well. This was a transitional war for the British, in which A worthy edition to the corpora on Winston Churchill. Millard gives us the birth of the larger than life celebrity of Churchill with clean prose and an entertaining story. It quickly becomes obvious that not only was Churchill a supremely ambitious and talented individual, but also an incredibly lucky one. My knowledge on the Great Boer War was nonexistent before this reading, therefore I found 'Hero of the Empire' vastly informative as well. This was a transitional war for the British, in which they graduate from their long standing method of classic warfare into the modern technique of guerilla warfare. This war also represents a black mark in England's history. The Brits were the first to adopt concentration camps for non-hostiles; four decades before one Adolf Hitler would utilize the same concept on a much more horrific scale. Excellent work from Millard.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    Author Candice Millard’s recent successes include RIVER OF DOUBT: THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S DARKEST JOURNEY which chronicles the former president’s exploration of the Amazon River, and DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC: A TALE OF MADNESS, MEDICINE AND THE MURDER OF A PRESIDENT that categorizes the life and assassination of President James A. Garfield. She has followed these works with her latest book, HERO OF THE EMPIRE: THE BOER WAR, A DARING ESCAPE AND THE MAKING OF WINSTON CHURCHILL that introduces the read Author Candice Millard’s recent successes include RIVER OF DOUBT: THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S DARKEST JOURNEY which chronicles the former president’s exploration of the Amazon River, and DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC: A TALE OF MADNESS, MEDICINE AND THE MURDER OF A PRESIDENT that categorizes the life and assassination of President James A. Garfield. She has followed these works with her latest book, HERO OF THE EMPIRE: THE BOER WAR, A DARING ESCAPE AND THE MAKING OF WINSTON CHURCHILL that introduces the reader to Churchill’s early career exploits during the Boer War, a war which brought Churchill to the attention of a British public that was shocked by the difficulties that Her Majesty’s soldiers experienced in fighting the Boers. Churchill found himself in South Africa hoping to achieve the military fame that had eluded him previously in Cuba, India, and the Sudan. He was driven by an insecure ego that hoped to make a name for himself so he would not only be known as the scion of a rich of an aristocratic family. Early on, Churchill would inform others that soon he would soon earn a seat in Parliament, and eventually would become Prime Minister. In England at the time he was considered a “self-promoter par excellence.” Churchill’s sense of his own destiny is well known and was reinforced by his experiences in witnessing British troops fighting the Pashtuns in what today is Pakistan, and Madhists in the Sudan. Churchill used family connections to be placed in whatever colonial war England was engaged in at the time, and was able to build a resume as an important figure in British politics as he felt the weight of his ancestor, John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough who throughout the last 17th and early 18th century never left a battlefield unless he was victorious. After being defeated in his run for a seat in Parliament at the age of twenty-five, Churchill realized he needed a “good war” to propel his career and events in South Africa presented a unique opportunity with its reserves of gold and diamonds. Storm clouds in the region gathered throughout the second half of the 19th century and by October, 1899 the Boer (a combination of Dutch, German, and British people who had migrated to the area since the 17th century) had enough of London’s encroachment into what they deemed to be their “republics” and war became official on October, 11, 1899. Millard is a wonderful stylist who provides enough detail that the reader gains a true understanding of the makeup of Boer society and politics, along with an accurate portrayal of local topography, Boer villages, and culture. The author captures British military arrogance from the outset of the first Boer attack in Dundee, an attack that was designed by Boer commander, Louis Botha to shake British confidence. For the British the goal of defeating the Boer by Christmas was no longer a forgone conclusion. Millard’s comparison of Boer and British fighters is priceless as she described the British as moving at a “glacial pace,” and the Boer being “astonishingly mobile.” Millard explains the background history of the region before Churchill’s arrival from the Dutch extermination and removal of local tribes, the British settlement of the Cape Colony, and the Boer “trek” to the Transvaal, and wars against the Xhosa and Zulu. The importance of the war against the Zulu cannot be underestimated because it provided the Boer with military lessons and strategy which allowed them to fight like no Europeans had previously and gave the British such difficulties. Once Churchill zeroed in on South Africa he had to use family connections to gain an appointment as a journalist to enter the war zone since he was no longer a member of the military. It is interesting that the future First Lord of the Admiralty hated to travel by sea which was how he reached Cape Town! The author provides a number of mini-biographies of the major players in her narrative. Aside from Churchill and his coterie of friends like Adam Brockie and Aylmer Haldane, she explores the lives of important Boer figures like Louis Botha, the Boer commander, and Boer President Paul Kruger. Her discussion of Boer leadership is especially important because her discussion of their leadership and strategic skills takes the reader inside their movement and when she compares it to the British approach it explains the poor showing of Her Majesty’s forces. Further, if one projects into future Boer methodology, it is useful to imagine the decline of the “Empire” beginning between 1899 and 1902 in South Africa. The narrative recounts Churchill’s experiences and exploits during the Boer War and its implications for Churchill’s future career and the effect on Britain’s political and military history. Millard explores Churchill’s captivity and treatment and how he was able to acquire the many amenities that he had been used to as a member of the aristocracy. Churchill’s argument with the Boers rested on his “status” as a journalist for the Morning Mail, demanding that he be released immediately. When the Boers realized the type of prisoner they possessed there was no way they would restore his freedom. The Boer reaction to his escape was one of obsession and the need to recapture him, and humiliate him to the point that for a period his recapture was more important than the war itself. We witness the planning that went into his escape, his life as a fugitive, and his final arrival in Portuguese East Africa, a trek of over 300 miles to freedom. Millard lists the advantages that Boers had at the outset of combat and the desperate measures the British employed, (i.e.; concentration camps that resulted in the death of 22,000 women and children out of a total of 26,000 total death) to finally bring about an end to the war in 1902. The Boers had felt no shame in conducting a war based on staying hidden, not pursuing personal glory, fighting to the death, applying superior knowledge of the veld, and their ability as sharpshooters. For the British, war was about romance and gallantry as they viewed guerilla tactics as cowardly, and believed they were engaging in an adventure until they realized their approach was a failure. Their arrogance had been self-defeating and proved very detrimental to their cause until Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener introduced an unprecedented level of savagery to the conflict. In the end Churchill achieved the level of heroism he sought and gained election to Parliament soon after the war. A war that taught him many important lessons that he would employ during his marvelous career that followed. Millard has written a stirring narrative that should interest the general reader and students of Winston Churchill equally. This is her third straight successful literary venture, and I look forward to the fourth no matter what subject she chooses to tackle.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    The early years of Winston Churchill's life are creatively retold in this book from our perspective of the twenty-first century. Churchill's actions during this time of his life can be correctly described as a buccaneering, attention-seeking journalist and soldier. Blessed with more than his share of good luck he was able to be successful at becoming well known for his feats. The 24-year old Churchill arrived in South Africa in October 1899 as a correspondent for the Morning Post to report on the The early years of Winston Churchill's life are creatively retold in this book from our perspective of the twenty-first century. Churchill's actions during this time of his life can be correctly described as a buccaneering, attention-seeking journalist and soldier. Blessed with more than his share of good luck he was able to be successful at becoming well known for his feats. The 24-year old Churchill arrived in South Africa in October 1899 as a correspondent for the Morning Post to report on the Second Boer War. He was captured by the Boers but managed to escape to Delagoa Bay, now Maputo Bay in Mozambique, having travelled many miles alone over enemy territory. Later he returned to the Natal front as an officer and liberated the men with whom he was imprisoned. Along the way there were a number of times when he was the beneficiary of abundant good luck to come through all this still alive. One of the fascinating aspects of this book is that it gives an insight into the personality of Churchill as a young man. Certainly he was ambitious and particularly energetic towards things military. Already at the young age of 24 he had been involved in three previous military actions, one as newspaper correspondent (Cuba 1895), one as cavalry officer (India 1896), and one in the duel roles of both officer and correspondent (Egypt 1898). He had also unsuccessfully run for Parliament in 1899. So by the time of the Second Boer War in late 1899 he was already a retired military person now serving as a well paid newspaper correspondent. When the armored train he was riding on was ambushed he quickly shed his civilian demeanor and ran from the armored car to the locomotive while under fire in order to assume command of the engine by ordering the train engineer to force his way though obstacles on the tracks. After being taken prisoner he protested that he was a civilian. But the Boers had witnessed his actions during the fire fight, and they knew better than to believe his claim. Another insight into his young personality became evident in the prisoner-of-war camp. When some of his friends began planning an escape, they were reluctant to share the details with Churchill because of his reputation of talking too much. And indeed he did talk too much and word got out. Also, he had a reputation for being out of shape (not exercising), and his friends were worried that he wouldn't have the necessary stamina to endure the rigors of escape. In the end he jumped over the wall, and his friends were unable to join him. So Churchill had to complete his escape by crossing over hundreds of miles of hostel terrain on his own. One bit of trivia that I learned from this book is that the term "concentration camp" came into wide spread use in the English speaking world during the Second Boer War. The British evacuated Boer civilians together with prisoners of war to numerous concentration camps in order deprive guerrilla fighting forces of logistics and support. The action was successful in ending the war, however over 26,000 Boers died in the concentration camps from inadequate food and shelter. The following link is to an excerpt from this book: https://delanceyplace.com/view-archiv... The author, Candice Millard, has a knack for bringing to life relatively overlooked stories from history. This book compares favorably with her previous books The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic .

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    In 1899, Winston Churchill was twenty four. A young man burning with ambition and a sense of his brilliant future. All this despite the fact that he has just failed to be elected as an MP, after standing for Oldham, and the continuation of the difficult relationship with his mother, who was heading towards marriage with a much younger man; considered unsuitable by her own sons, his family and the Prince of Wales. Always desperate for approval, Winston wrote, asking his mother to campaign with hi In 1899, Winston Churchill was twenty four. A young man burning with ambition and a sense of his brilliant future. All this despite the fact that he has just failed to be elected as an MP, after standing for Oldham, and the continuation of the difficult relationship with his mother, who was heading towards marriage with a much younger man; considered unsuitable by her own sons, his family and the Prince of Wales. Always desperate for approval, Winston wrote, asking his mother to campaign with him, but his entreaties fell on deaf ears. Still, he had, “faith in my star,” and believed, “that I am intended to do something in the world.” As Winston himself admitted, he did not need prodding into action and, having failed at his first attempts in politics, he decided he needed to distinguish himself first. With whispers of a war in the air – a European war on African soil – he decided to head for South Africa. With his batman and, more than a few, luxuries to accompany him, he found a position as a war correspondent. “’As far as you can as quickly as you can’, must be the motto of the war correspondent,” he wrote and hoped for some action as quickly as possible. It is fair to say that many were not enamoured of this headstrong, arrogant young man. This included future politician, Leo Amery, who recalled Winston’s kicking him into the swimming pool at Harrow. However, as the young woman, Pamela Plowden, who he was in love with at the time was later to write, “the first time you meet Winston you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues.” Certainly, Churchill caused those around him to often rage in frustration, but there was grudging respect for his obvious lack of fear and his obvious desire to succeed. As Winston champed at the bit, held back by the Boers (who were underestimated and sneered at by the British), he risked a trip on an armoured train and ended up as a prisoner of war. His bravery during the attack meant that the news reported on the reporter and, unknown to him, Winston Churchill was making the headlines he had always hoped for. This is the thrilling tale of his capture and escape, hunted through enemy territory. I found this a gripping read and really enjoyed the author’s writing style. This is very much Boy’s Own stuff, with fate taking a hand more than once. It is also, in many ways, the beginning of his political career, his success and his ability to become a fixture in the newspapers – but as the subject of the stories, rather than the journalist (although he always wrote, and published, throughout his life). A wonderful read and an interesting episode in Churchill’s fascinating life, often overlooked, as most books tend to concentrate on WWII.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Oh, Candice Millard, please won't you tell me ALL THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING and make it all this palatable and fascinating and edifying? I'm not a great reader of nonfiction, but this is the gold standard as far as I'm concerned: simply yet grippingly written, impeccably researched, with an eye to contemporary social mores. Millard places the extraordinary story of young Churchill's capture and escape in South Africa squarely in the center of its historical context, explaining much about the Boe Oh, Candice Millard, please won't you tell me ALL THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING and make it all this palatable and fascinating and edifying? I'm not a great reader of nonfiction, but this is the gold standard as far as I'm concerned: simply yet grippingly written, impeccably researched, with an eye to contemporary social mores. Millard places the extraordinary story of young Churchill's capture and escape in South Africa squarely in the center of its historical context, explaining much about the Boer War and events leading up to it and succeeding it, but never failing to entertain. I kind of wish I could have made myself read this one more slowly. I guess it's about time I went back and enjoyed a reread of her first two tours de force, though - I'll have to space them out a bit over the next few years it will take her to write another, I'm afraid.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Candice Millard's book on young Winston Churchill and his part in the second Boer War reads like a real-life "Boy's Own" adventure. As exciting as any thriller and endlessly interesting, Ms Millard covers Churchill's childhood, his ambitions and reasons for travelling to South Africa, and his adventures while there. Along the way we also get a brief history of South Africa, the origins of the Boer Wars, Gandhi, Apartheid, and the birth of concentration camps. Great fun!

  17. 4 out of 5

    happy

    Ms. Millard has once again delivered an excellent look at the late 19th/early 20th century. This time she chooses to look at a young Winston Churchill and at the same time British Imperialism. Not only does she try to explain the overwhelming confidence of the young Winston and his activities leading up to his going to South Africa at the outbreak of the war, but she also explains just what was going on in South Africa that caused a war between the descendants of the early while setters of the r Ms. Millard has once again delivered an excellent look at the late 19th/early 20th century. This time she chooses to look at a young Winston Churchill and at the same time British Imperialism. Not only does she try to explain the overwhelming confidence of the young Winston and his activities leading up to his going to South Africa at the outbreak of the war, but she also explains just what was going on in South Africa that caused a war between the descendants of the early while setters of the region and the British. In looking at Winston’s early life, Ms. Millard does her usual excellent job of exploring some of the physiological reasons that were driving him. These include the desire to live up to and surpass both his father, a prominent politician, and his great whatever grandfather, the first Duke of Marlborough and one of the greatest generals in British history. She also looks at why his academic performance is spite of his brilliance left much to be desired and led him to Sandhurst – the British West Point, instead of Oxford or Cambridge. She also looks at how his spending habits led him to become a newspaper correspondent while on active duty. He basically had Champaign tastes and a beer budget and had to find some way to makes ends meet. Ms. Millard also looks at his impulsiveness. Sometimes this worked out well, but often not. One example she sites is his decision to resign his commission and stand for Parliament against all advice. He had absolute confidence that he would win, but he lost. This bravado led to the main story of the book – his capture by and later escape from the Boers in the Second Boer War. In looking at the Boer War, the author explains its causes, the lack of understanding of the British military of how the war should be fought, the culture of the Boers and how they fought. This underestimating of the Boers or over confidence by the British led to a string of military defeats that shocked both the British Nation and its army. Since he was no longer a soldier, Churchill got himself hired as a war correspondent and arrived in South Africa shortly after the initial British defeats. The author does a good job of illuminating Churchill’s desires to be both recognized and gain glory on the battlefield – in spite of not being a part of the Army at that time. He volunteers for a recon mission on an armored train that ends with most of the people being either killed or captured, Winston be captured. During the battle Churchill takes charge of the defense and this ultimately leads to his not being released as a noncombatant after his capture. In telling the story of his incarceration at Pretoria, Ms. Churchill once again highlights his impulsiveness. As two other inmates/friends plan an escape, he is reluctantly included in their plans. They don’t trust him to keep his mouth shut and don’t tell him many of the details of their plan until the last moment. When the time to escape comes, he is the only one to make it over the wire and is left to make his way out of Pretoria without supplies or detailed knowledge of how to get to Portuguese East Africa. What follows make the best thriller seem staid and boring. As Ms. Millar looks at his escape, she tells of several remarkable strokes of luck that had no business benefiting from. These include knocking on the door of about the only British sympathizer, a coal mine manager, in the Transvaal on the way to Portuguese East Africa. He hides Churchill in a coal mine until he can figure out a way to get him to his destination. This part is worthy of the best thriller novels. Once safely out of Boer Controlled territory, Churchill volunteers to join the Army and is accepted in one of the Militia regiments, as long as he serves with no pay. In this position, he is with the Army as it captures Pretoria and is with the liberators of the POWs with whom he was interred. In addition to Churchill’s personal story, the author does a good job of explaining the problems the British Army had in defeating the Boers. These included over confidence, the Boer’s superior weapons and tactics, the determination of the Boers fight for their homeland and their way of life. It took 2 failed British commanders to finally find a winning strategy. However that strategy horrified the civilized world – the concentration camp. Churchill leaves South Africa before this strategy is implemented and Ms. Millard does not really go into it. For anyone interested, here is a link to Ms. Millard talking about the book. https://www.c-span.org/video/?417592-... While had a basic understanding of the war and what happened, I really didn’t know just how deeply Churchill was involved. This really was a fascinating read and definitely a 4+ stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    “Hero of the Empire” is a vignette from the life of Winston Churchill that reveals the great statesman as being as reckless on the battlefield as his mother was in love. What the book lacks in substance, it more than compensates for in verve and charm. “Hero of the Empire” covers the 12 month period in the life of Winston Churchill beginning in June 1899 when he loses in his first attempt to win a seat in the in the House of Commons to June 1900 when he departs from South Africa a hero of war des “Hero of the Empire” is a vignette from the life of Winston Churchill that reveals the great statesman as being as reckless on the battlefield as his mother was in love. What the book lacks in substance, it more than compensates for in verve and charm. “Hero of the Empire” covers the 12 month period in the life of Winston Churchill beginning in June 1899 when he loses in his first attempt to win a seat in the in the House of Commons to June 1900 when he departs from South Africa a hero of war destined to win a seat in his next electoral contest. Millard’s book does not in any meaningful way address causes of the Boer War, the parliamentary politics of the era or Britain’s Imperial expansion. It is about how Churchill used a colonial war to launch his career in the house of commons. Millard clearly understands all the issues that she pushes aside. Her goal is not to suppress but to remain focussed on her main tale, Churchill’s capture by the Boers in his first sortie as a war correspondent and his subsequent spectacular escape. The only sub-plot that Millard permits herself is to recount the story of the romance of Churchill’s scandalous, widowed mother Jennie with her second husband George Cornwallis-West. Churchill emerges as a relentless self-aggrandizer willing to push aside ethical concerns in order to pursue his own personal agenda. Even Churchill’s most sympathetic biographers concede that indeed Churchill was like this. However, they invariably choose to put less stress on this side of the great man and focus on his remarkable accomplishments. Millard has every right to present Churchill in the way she does. For all the focus that she puts on Churchill’s relentless self-promotion, she still leaves the reader admiring him.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Behle

    Winston Churchill makes good book. Larger than life, we all know the images, the famed "V sign" and his jaunty cigar jutting from that jowly face. He lived long enough ago to be a pillar of history, yet recently enough that many people can talk about working with him. I toured his estate, Chartwell, in Kent and met several of those good people with living Churchill stories. In retirement, WSC painted landscapes in his garden. Here is an early chapter in that celebrated life. How many of us have t Winston Churchill makes good book. Larger than life, we all know the images, the famed "V sign" and his jaunty cigar jutting from that jowly face. He lived long enough ago to be a pillar of history, yet recently enough that many people can talk about working with him. I toured his estate, Chartwell, in Kent and met several of those good people with living Churchill stories. In retirement, WSC painted landscapes in his garden. Here is an early chapter in that celebrated life. How many of us have thought of the Second Boer War lately? What was the world up to in 1899? How are race relations in South Africa? Candice Millard is a best selling author, historian and observer of human emotive spirit. Most of all, lucky for us readers, she weaves these skills that results in a highly readable work. Millard chooses the key, twines the chords, places the notes and orchestrates a melody that I feel is solid five star-- it was amazing. More than a mere raconteur, she conducts a symphony of virtual eye witness chronology. Who needs novels? No fiction can top this tale of adrenaline adventure. One need not be a war historian or even a Churchill buff to delve into this goodread. It took me less than a crisp November week to enjoy this rugged drama. I chose the CD audiobook with the velvet hammer narration of actor Simon Vance. When the young WSC is on the run as a POW escapee, odds are you will sense, as I did, the drumming pulse, furtive eyes and hot sweat of this Hero of the Empire.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean O

    This was a pretty good read. I like the part of this book that shows Churchill as a entitled prick. Too many biographies shine up the halo. It’s nice to see flaws once in a while. I didn’t know much about South Africa. For instance I had no idea that Ghandi lived here and formed his non violence ideals trying to get rights for Indians in South Africa. It tells you a lot about the Boers that he gave up here and went to try again in India.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    I'm about to go on a rant and criticize Millard, possible unfairly, so before I get going... Candice Millard has made something of a name for herself as full time mom in the Kansas City who is also a serious historian and, from an office in her husband's business, authors best selling history books. A one time National Geographic writer, she has excellent pen and writes history as adventure, capturing Theodore Roosevelt in South America, the assassination of James Garfield and, here in Hero of th I'm about to go on a rant and criticize Millard, possible unfairly, so before I get going... Candice Millard has made something of a name for herself as full time mom in the Kansas City who is also a serious historian and, from an office in her husband's business, authors best selling history books. A one time National Geographic writer, she has excellent pen and writes history as adventure, capturing Theodore Roosevelt in South America, the assassination of James Garfield and, here in Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, a prison of war escape by a very young Winston Churchill that may have been the event he needed to catapult himself into British national politics. I should also point out that she is well regarded and that reviews mostly glow with praise talking about her books, noting the research and extensive notes (with the cranky exception of The Times, here). If you can catch her in online interviews, she talks about her research and in how she has learned how to find experts and has made terrific use of them and she shares credit. In this book she gives a lot credit to William Manchester. She also talks about what it takes to make a book out of all this research. (In the same interviews, she dodges the question as to why she has only written about dead white men.) I found this an ok, well paced, very readable and somewhat, if not entirely, pointless and forgettable book of history and biography. Yes, this is an exciting story in Churchill's life, one that is largely forgotten, despite his own book on it. And yes it takes place in an exotic historical war of forgotten significance, marked by a wide array of fascinating characters and cultural oddities. The Boers never should have had a chance and they fought beautifully and with dignity, and they suffered greatly, including in early British concentration camps...then later they instituted apartheid. What Millard does is take Churchill's own story and re-wrap it in the history of the times (with a slight American interest tilt). She manages to bring in a connection with Teddy Roosevelt and Churchill in Cuba, which I thought was a terrific touch. The problems here are that first of all she doesn't bring in anything new. This is well known history and Churchill's account is available in his own arrogant-adventurer language (which she quotes extensively). She has no new perspective to bring, just a few detailed touches. And second, what bothered me a great deal, is that she trusts Churchill blindly. No one questions that Churchill was self-serving for his career in everything he did, often being very brave, but always with politically ambitious intent. He says this himself. So, how can you possible take his word as pure truth for anything? He should be questioned and studied for motive and wondered about. What was real here? What can we believe? Millard could have at least included the phrase, "Churchill later claimed". She could have added that phrase in 100 times. For example, did Churchill really, in the middle of the Boer country surrounded by patriotic civilians and running blindingly from an intense manhunt, stumble completely by accident at the door of a British-sympathizing member of an organization that helped escaped British soldiers? It's outrageous that Millard would not challenge this assertion of impossible blind luck that conveniently protected the individuals involved. What would Jill Lepore say? I, at least, can't forgive that. The third problem, and harshest criticism, is that I think Millard in effect blesses the accepted historical narratives, unchallenged. She writes in an tone which prevents questioning. It's an omniscient tone, as if everything is known and certain and there is no need to question anything. This is ok in fiction, but (listen up Nathaniel Philbrick and Erik Larson) gives a false impression of historical certainty. It also makes it very difficult to work in hard and uncertain historical queries. Recommended for those who want a fun forgettable history book and who are free from concerns on petty details such as uncritical belief in the words of original sources, and who aren't as uptight and bothered by this as I am. /rant ----------------------------------------------- 50. Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard reader: Simon Vance published: 2016 format: Overdrive Audiobook, 10:14 (~284 pages. Hardcover, with notes, is 400 pages) acquired: Library download listened: Nov 14-28 rating: 3

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    I had difficulty parsing my present-day sensibilities from those of Victorian England, the period that shaped Winston Churchill's ideals. The unapologetic hubris of imperialism, the careless disregard for human life, and the obsession with testosterone-fueled proofs of masculinity continue to haunt us today. Its legacy is a world filled with post-colonial resentment and rigid gender stereotypes. It is perhaps easier to evade these problems in fiction. Characters either wrestle with the presumpti I had difficulty parsing my present-day sensibilities from those of Victorian England, the period that shaped Winston Churchill's ideals. The unapologetic hubris of imperialism, the careless disregard for human life, and the obsession with testosterone-fueled proofs of masculinity continue to haunt us today. Its legacy is a world filled with post-colonial resentment and rigid gender stereotypes. It is perhaps easier to evade these problems in fiction. Characters either wrestle with the presumptions into which they have been born, or pursue their interests oblivious of the fact they are captives of a particular historical mindset. Millard, however, has written a work of non-fiction, focusing on the youthful Winston Churchill's eager participation in the second Boer War. He was captured and, against all odds, escaped from a Boer prison camp. While the story of his capture and escape make for thrilling reading, the backdrop of the Boer War itself frequently upstages her protagonist. The War was the culmination of a century of accumulated rancor: British control of the Cape in 1806, Britain's abolition of slavery in 1833 (the Boers were slave-owners), the exodus of the Boers in “The Great Trek” from British rule in 1835, the discovery of the Eureka Diamond in 1867 and the subsequent “Diamond Rush,” the Boer victory over the British in the Battle of Mejuba Hill which conluded the First Boer War in 1881, the abortive 4-day Jameson Raid which began on December 29, 1895, and finally, the Boer Ultimatum issued in October 1899. One cannot help being struck by the continued failures of Britain's military commanders. “Home for Christmas” was the cheerful refrain as troops boarded their ships bound for the Transvaal. Training was more suitable for the parade ground than an actual battlefield. The frontal assault was a favored plan of attack. Commanders disdainfully ignored a study of the terrain. The preparedness of the Boers as well as their tenacious defense of their homeland were grossly underestimated. “For the British, war was about romance and gallantry. They liked nothing more than a carefully pressed uniform, a parade ground and a razor-sharp fighting line. At most, British soldiers spent two months of the year actually training to fight. The other ten were devoted to parading, attending to their uniforms and waiting on their officers, for whom they were expected to serve as cook, valet, porter and gardener.” (p.120) Millard repeats again and again how Churchill believed he was destined for greatness. It was to this end that he persuaded the DAILY MAIL to hire him as a journalist. Once at the front, he dreamed of winning military glory. There is no doubt that Churchill was daring, courageous and quick-thinking. On the other hand, his many flaws are painfully apparent. He was impetuous, impatient and impulsive. His fellow captives at first hesitated to share their escape plan with him, fearful he would accidentally expose the plan prematurely. As it happened, he was able to escape from the prison camp alone without the two companions who had devised the plan. Time after time, he owed his life to luck as he made his way from Pretoria to Portuguese East Africa where he could find safety at the British Embassy. The subtitle of this book reads: “the Making of Winston Churchill.” However, this episode in Churchill's life is not deeply connected with his political inclinations. What it did make was an immediately successful launch of his career. In 1900 he won a seat to the House of Commons, representing the district of Oldham. Psychologically, Churchill seems to have been more influenced by the circumstances of his birth. At Blenheim Palace he was surrounded by reminders of his ancestor John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. He idolized his emotionally distant father Lord Randolph Churchill who had forged a meteoric rise and fall in the House of Commons and died when Winston was 19. He had a sense of entitlement that emboldened him based on his aristocratic connections and frequently turned to his socially influential mother to open doors for him in his early youth. His achievements, it is true, were of his own making. He honed his rhetorical skills and was a superb writer. Much of Millard's book relies on entries from his journals. Millard's research was extensive and her writing is engaging. She cuts through complexity like a hot knife through butter, and that is her strength and weakness. Churchill's writings on the incidents in the book are taken at face value. To me this was an entertaining bit of history lite.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard is a riveting tale of adventure, providential happenstance, and determination. At age 24 the pampered, dandy Winston Churchill believed he was destined to become Prime Minister of England and set out to be a war hero in the Boer War as his way to fame. Although offically a war correspondant he dived in to help when the British troop transport train he was on was wrecked; consquently when the Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard is a riveting tale of adventure, providential happenstance, and determination. At age 24 the pampered, dandy Winston Churchill believed he was destined to become Prime Minister of England and set out to be a war hero in the Boer War as his way to fame. Although offically a war correspondant he dived in to help when the British troop transport train he was on was wrecked; consquently when the Boers captured Winston he had been witnessed acting as a soldier. The capture of Lord Randolph Churchill's son was a glorious coup for the Boers, especially as the Lord had been very critical of the Boers. Chaffing at imprisonment, even with the luxury of haircuts, ordering new suits, and gracious 'hosts', Winston forced his way into friends' escape plans. Sadly, Winston escaped but his friends were unable to join him, leaving him to face traveling 300 miles through enemy territory alone, unarmed, and without water or compass. He was a very sure young man who relied on his intuition. Yet finding himself alone in the veldt and uncertain of how to proceed he broke down and prayed for guidance. The answer was to continue to follow his intuition. He walked to the lights of what turned out to be a Boer owned mining camp. I was surprised to find myself laughing outloud by the amazing luck Churchill had during his escape. More amazing is that after reaching safety Winston turned around and returned to the war! It was the stepping stone he had hoped for, bringing him fame, and after the war he was elected to Parliment. The British treatment of the Boers and the resulting war was not Britain's finest moment. Then, the Boers were not the finest example of colonists, either; they developed aparthied after all. Churchill was a prolific writer and Millard allows us to hear Churchill's own words concerning his experiences. Previously I also enjoyed reading Millard's River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelts post-presidential exploration into the Amazon which nearly killed him. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I wanted to like this one or two stars more, but I was left scratching my head a little. The story's hero is presented in great detail, in a non-fiction tale that reads like a novel. But for the thorough coverage of the Boer War battles that took place while Churchill was in hiding, the conflict appeared to be over with a snap of the fingers once he completed his escape, and I never felt a connection between his presence in the action and its results. Yet ultimately the story did it's job: Descr I wanted to like this one or two stars more, but I was left scratching my head a little. The story's hero is presented in great detail, in a non-fiction tale that reads like a novel. But for the thorough coverage of the Boer War battles that took place while Churchill was in hiding, the conflict appeared to be over with a snap of the fingers once he completed his escape, and I never felt a connection between his presence in the action and its results. Yet ultimately the story did it's job: Described the ugliness of war between two proud peoples, presented several likable secondary characters along the way, and in the end made it all about the titular scene stealer: Winston Churchill. I only wish there was more meat than a cold leg of mutton in the final chapters.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    Millard truly is brilliant in making history entertaining. I knew nothing about the Boer war before this book and now I know a bit more. Was I interested in learning about Winston Churchill? Not really but this part of his life was fascinating (due to Millard). He was a completely British, pompous ass, born into a life of privilege and with a sense of importance only found from that privilege. His claim to fame was escaping a fairly lax prison camp during a time the British were getting their as Millard truly is brilliant in making history entertaining. I knew nothing about the Boer war before this book and now I know a bit more. Was I interested in learning about Winston Churchill? Not really but this part of his life was fascinating (due to Millard). He was a completely British, pompous ass, born into a life of privilege and with a sense of importance only found from that privilege. His claim to fame was escaping a fairly lax prison camp during a time the British were getting their asses kicked which made his escape some of the only good news going, completely inflating its importance. Possibly Churchill would have ended up right where he did end up without this miraculous coincidence, because of his inability to imagine himself as anything but great, but maybe not. Fortune and being in the right place at the right time have much more to do with success than I am usually willing to admit. The war and the Boers were more interesting to me as the book got going, than Churchill, but both were good. A fairly easy, quick read. 3 books by Millard, three great stories. Like a few other authors, I will read just about anything she writes at this point.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Book Haunt

    Sir Winston Churchill was an accomplished, larger-than-life, somewhat pompous and unlikeable, yet oft-revered historical figure. He was born a British nobleman, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and his wife, Jennie Jerome, an American socialite. As such he was a direct descendant of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and his parents were personal friends of the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria’s oldest son and heir. For a member of Churchill’s high Sir Winston Churchill was an accomplished, larger-than-life, somewhat pompous and unlikeable, yet oft-revered historical figure. He was born a British nobleman, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and his wife, Jennie Jerome, an American socialite. As such he was a direct descendant of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and his parents were personal friends of the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria’s oldest son and heir. For a member of Churchill’s high social class, the highly bold and unabashed ambition he had was a novelty, if not an outright scandal. Every move Churchill made from early adulthood was in conquest of glory and the strong belief that he would someday be Britain’s Prime Minister. Indeed, not only did Churchill serve two separate and very memorable terms as Britain’s Prime Minister, he has also been remembered through time as a brave soldier, a great journalist and a riveting orator. Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill concentrates on Churchill at the age of 24. He had already served in two wars and while working as a journalist he wheedled his way to the frontlines of south of Africa during the Second Boer War. The Boers were Dutch-speaking settlers, mostly farmers, who had lived in southern Africa for centuries, but rose up to defend their land against annexation by the British in the 19th century. The Boer Wars had turned out to be more of a challenge than the British expected. Having lived, fought and learned alongside the fierce Shaka Zulu of the Zulu Nation, the Boers were more accomplished in military tactics than the British understood. Churchill proves himself to be a man of courage while accompanying a scouting mission on an armored train that is ambushed, but he is subsequently captured by the Boers and interred as a POW. Churchill, who was absolutely used to being master of his own fate, manages to escape from the prison and cross 300 miles on his own. When he reaches safety, he wants only one thing, a commission, so that he can go back and wreak revenge on those who held him. This, despite the fact that he knew the War Office had a rule barring correspondents from being soldiers and soldiers from being correspondents. This was my first foray into any kind of bio on Churchill and it was a great place to start. This particular glimpse into the history of Churchill definitely gives us a deep understanding of who the man was. Winston Churchill was definitely a man to be remembered and Candice Millard managed to not only gave me a fantastic primer on the man himself, she also broadened my knowledge of South African history and the Boer Wars. I have to say I really admire her writing style. She managed to bring the adventure, the tragedy and the terribly inhumane conditions of the experience to life for the readers. This author paints beautiful scenes and her background research is impeccable. This is not a bio to be slogged through, it is thoroughly enjoyable. I want to thank the publisher (Doubleday Books) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Audio book read by Simon Vance. Subtitle: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill Millard writes an interesting and detailed biography of the young Winston Churchill. Long before he became the statesman who shepherded his nation through the darkest days of WW2, he was a young, somewhat rash man eager to make his mark in the world. Working as a journalist and war correspondent, he was captured during the Boer War. He connected with a couple of other prisoners of war and pl Audio book read by Simon Vance. Subtitle: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill Millard writes an interesting and detailed biography of the young Winston Churchill. Long before he became the statesman who shepherded his nation through the darkest days of WW2, he was a young, somewhat rash man eager to make his mark in the world. Working as a journalist and war correspondent, he was captured during the Boer War. He connected with a couple of other prisoners of war and planned a daring escape. Churchill was the weakest member of the team and his comrades considered leaving him out of the escape, but he was the one who managed to get across the fence. Unfortunately, he had no idea what came next. His propensity to talk out of turn had resulted in his mates keeping the complete plans secret from the talkative Winston. Also, they had the maps and supplies that would sustain them on the hundreds of miles of dangerous and wild terrain. So there he was – facing miles of unfamiliar territory, and without food or water to sustain him. He did the only thing he could … he started going forward. It’s a fascinating story and gives a somewhat different picture of the man most of us know only from his prominence during WW2. Yet, the reader gets a sense of the man he will become. Simon Vance does a marvelous job narrating the audiobook. His pace is good and he has the skill as a voice artist to differentiate the many male characters.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Holmes

    A surprisingly fast and gripping read about Winston Churchill's role in the Boer War. Churchill's good friend, Pamela Plowden said, "The first time you meet Winston you see all his faults and the rest of your life you spend discovering his virtues." Candice Millard allows us to meet young Churchill at the beginning as a brash, racist, egotistical man whose certainty that he is meant for greatness places him, and often those with him, in danger. He epitomized the British Empire which also saw its A surprisingly fast and gripping read about Winston Churchill's role in the Boer War. Churchill's good friend, Pamela Plowden said, "The first time you meet Winston you see all his faults and the rest of your life you spend discovering his virtues." Candice Millard allows us to meet young Churchill at the beginning as a brash, racist, egotistical man whose certainty that he is meant for greatness places him, and often those with him, in danger. He epitomized the British Empire which also saw itself as god-like and god-blessed, undefeatable and always right. By presenting us with Winston in the Boer War, Millard provides us with a fascinating snapshot of a part of history most don't know about or understand and a chance to see a glimpse of the man Churchill would become. Using Winston's capture and escape during the war, Millard's writing has the drive of a thriller along with the details of a history book. Even Gandhi has a cameo. The epilogue emphasizes the mistake too many victors make of punishing the defeated so harshly that they become permanent enemies. The Boers are sympathetic for much of the book, but we know who they become later. This will make a good book discussion book as do Millard's other works.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    In River of Doubt, Candice Millard crafted a unique biography of Theodore Roosevelt by focusing on one of the lesser known episodes of his life, a post-Presidential exploratory trip to the Amazon. In Hero of the Empire, Millard takes the same approach to Winston Churchill. Rather than devoting pages to Churchill's famous role leading up to and throughout World War II, Empire describes Churchill's experiences in the Boer War as a young man. The result is a glimpse of a great man from a less famil In River of Doubt, Candice Millard crafted a unique biography of Theodore Roosevelt by focusing on one of the lesser known episodes of his life, a post-Presidential exploratory trip to the Amazon. In Hero of the Empire, Millard takes the same approach to Winston Churchill. Rather than devoting pages to Churchill's famous role leading up to and throughout World War II, Empire describes Churchill's experiences in the Boer War as a young man. The result is a glimpse of a great man from a less familiar angle, and a thoroughly entertaining read. Like Millard's previous efforts, this book’s excellent pacing, strong authorial voice, and eye for just the right amount of detail makes this an easy, enjoyable read. I particularly liked learning about the Boer Wars, which I knew next to nothing about. The same can be said for Churchill’s early life. Millard has now released three books, all three of which are very good to great, and she is quickly becoming one of the most popular nonfiction authors in the country for good reason. I would recommend all of her books to history buffs, and her latest effort is no exception. 4.0 stars, recommended!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I went into this book skeptical as my last Millard read was lackluster. For the first half of the book, I waffled on making this a "DNF". However, I am glad I stuck with it because the second half of the book was much better. This is a biography of Winston Churchill in his youth and early adulthood: his aristocratic upbringing, his love of battle, and his tenure as a war correspondent in the Boer War. All of this is detailed in full (and every letter he writes to his love interest and his mother I went into this book skeptical as my last Millard read was lackluster. For the first half of the book, I waffled on making this a "DNF". However, I am glad I stuck with it because the second half of the book was much better. This is a biography of Winston Churchill in his youth and early adulthood: his aristocratic upbringing, his love of battle, and his tenure as a war correspondent in the Boer War. All of this is detailed in full (and every letter he writes to his love interest and his mother from the frontier) in the first half of the book, and while somewhat interesting, it was a slog to read. Churchill and some other British troops are captured by the Boers as POWs. In the second half of the book, we follow as Churchill makes his escape from the POW camp, hiding in ditches, mine shafts, and train cars, making his way to the freedom of Portuguese-controlled South Africa. Much more action in the second half, and a quicker pace too. Millard could have teased some of that later action earlier to keep the reader engaged. 3.5 stars

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