Bookshelf / Madness, Betrayal and the Lash

Madness, Betrayal and the Lash

The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver


"A fascinating adventure story with vivid descriptions of 18th century geopolitics and native and British societies . . .Stephen Bown is emerging as Canada's Simon Winchester."

– The Globe and Mail

"This is no pure high seas adventure. Just as engaging is Bown's account of the scourging Vancouver received back in England at the hands of higher-class shipmates who had endured his onboard discipline."

– Toronto Star

"[Madness, Betrayal and the Lash] is a story with a strong human narrative of how one man successfully battled against nature and the elements only to suffer ignominy and defeat at the hands of his 'peers'. ...The inter-personal conflicts on board Discovery provide a strong storyline and are just as fascinating as the naval challenges encountered on the voyage."

– Cook's Log, Journal of the Captain Cook Society

"[Bown] reminds us that our knowledge isn't always entirely accurate. Often, the people who get credit in history aren't the ones who deserve it. Such mistakes need to be corrected. …Thanks to him, we learn that George Vancouver was ‘at heart, a good man. He accomplished great things and, as our historical and cultural ancestor, he deserves a greater place in our collective memory.'"

– Vancouver Sun

"In Bown's popularly written and accessible retelling, Vancouver is erratic but brave; he is reproving but not vindictive; he remains slightly opaque (he left no frank diary to mine), but glimmers of fallibility endear. If Bown's task is to better place him in our collective memory, then he has ably done so."

– Canadian Geographic Magazine

"Bown's book is, however, a good rallying point for native claims and if one was to read this book for that purpose only they would be well rewarded. …this is a book all Vancouverites, native or converts, and indeed all British Columbians, should read."

– The Tyee

"... it's obvious that [Bown's] ambition is to elevate Vancouver to the pantheon occupied by his contemporaries James Cook and Horatio Nelson. And he makes a good case, especially given that Vancouver completed a four-year circumnavigation of the globe without losing a man to scurvy, the curse of the mariners during that era. Nonetheless, the explorer is well served by this Alberta-based historian's clear-eyed, respectful charting of his life and times."

– Georgia Straight

"Bown creates an intricate psychological case for Vancouver's erratic behaviour – flying into extraordinary rages if commands were not followed to the letter, flogging sailors for relatively minor offences like waving to women onshore, etc. – and ostracism, citing the conditions of the voyage, exhaustion, and isolation as likely causes. Bown's book provides a portrait of Vancouver as a kind of modern man –essentially flawed and slavishly devoted to a military institution that would ultimately reject his accomplishments. … Bown's account makes an excellent case for the pressure that isolation and perfectionism can exert on a high-strung, seemingly compulsive individual."

– Quill & Quire

"Bown reviews the captain's early career and ably sketches out the diplomatic and cartographic context of the final expedition. Well written and well paced, the book will please readers who like their history presented as old-fashioned narrative. …Madness, Betrayal and the Lash is an entertaining and fair-minded presentation of the events of George Vancouver's life."

– Literary Review of Canada

"[Madness, Betrayal and the Lash] transcends the dry historical works most of us slogged through in our school years. With Bown as the animator, the key figures in these remarkable moments in human history spring to life, dragging the reader along on their exploits like those in a good novel."

– Rocky Mountain Outlook