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After the triumphant end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the British took it upon themselves to complete something they had been trying to do since the sixteenth century: find the fabled Northwest Passage. For the next thirty-five years the British Admiralty sent out expedition after expedition to probe the ice-bound waters of the Canadian Arctic in search of a route, and then, after 1845, to find Sir John Franklin, the Royal Navy hero who led the last of these Admiralty expeditions. Enthralling and often harrowing, The Man Who Ate His Boots captures the glory and the folly of this ultimately tragic enterprise.




From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: Random House Publishing Group on Mar 2, 2010
ISBN: 9780307592903
List price: $13.99
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A very readable history of the 19th century British attempts to discover a NorthWest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific over the northern coast of Canada, through the Arctic ice. The focus of the story is John Franklin who searched for the Passage several times and was lionised by the British public as an intrepid explorer. His failure to return from his last expedition generated a stream of rescue missions both privately and publicly funded through the rest of the century. Brandt is excellent at the geography and the history of exploration. His descriptions of the cold and the privations of the exploring teams adds enormously to our understanding of the implications of such expeditions and to the tensions arising from the rescue missions. His knowledge of 19th century British cultural customs is a little shakier, but does not detract from an overall exciting if ultimately tragic boy's own story.read more
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I know quite a lot about polar death, so it's remarkable that this book kept me relatively riveted despite treading familiar ground. It gives some fascinating insights into British imperialism while managing to tie itself to present day issues of global warming--always nice to read a history book that explicitly states its relevance. (I am being slightly facetious with this last comment but I do mean it: I am not a historian, just an interested freelancer, and I appreciate mightily when history is made relevant without bombarding me with a constantly restated thesis. Brandt struck a really nice balance, making a lot of larger connections that illuminated my own [very literature-centric:] experience with the British Empire while expanding my existing knowledge of polar death. Frankenstein is suddenly a lot more interesting when placed in its proper historical context and for that alone I am indebted to Brandt.)read more
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Writing about the fate of John Franklin is always difficult. The man failed. Simple as that. But much of it was not his fault. Could a better man have done better? We cannot know.On the whole, this is a kind biography of a man who had many genuine abilities and equally many weaknesses -- a man who was genuinely kind, genuinely open to new ideas... and genuinely easy to push around. Franklin led one successful and two unsuccessful trips to the Arctic. His naval record was good. He was beloved in Tasmania, where he was governor -- but the civil service hated him.And, as it turned out, he died before he could know the disaster that faced his final expedition.This book tries hard to present the latest research and to see both sides. We do not know all we would like to know about Franklin's final expedition. But most of what we do know is here.read more
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A very readable history of the 19th century British attempts to discover a NorthWest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific over the northern coast of Canada, through the Arctic ice. The focus of the story is John Franklin who searched for the Passage several times and was lionised by the British public as an intrepid explorer. His failure to return from his last expedition generated a stream of rescue missions both privately and publicly funded through the rest of the century. Brandt is excellent at the geography and the history of exploration. His descriptions of the cold and the privations of the exploring teams adds enormously to our understanding of the implications of such expeditions and to the tensions arising from the rescue missions. His knowledge of 19th century British cultural customs is a little shakier, but does not detract from an overall exciting if ultimately tragic boy's own story.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I know quite a lot about polar death, so it's remarkable that this book kept me relatively riveted despite treading familiar ground. It gives some fascinating insights into British imperialism while managing to tie itself to present day issues of global warming--always nice to read a history book that explicitly states its relevance. (I am being slightly facetious with this last comment but I do mean it: I am not a historian, just an interested freelancer, and I appreciate mightily when history is made relevant without bombarding me with a constantly restated thesis. Brandt struck a really nice balance, making a lot of larger connections that illuminated my own [very literature-centric:] experience with the British Empire while expanding my existing knowledge of polar death. Frankenstein is suddenly a lot more interesting when placed in its proper historical context and for that alone I am indebted to Brandt.)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Writing about the fate of John Franklin is always difficult. The man failed. Simple as that. But much of it was not his fault. Could a better man have done better? We cannot know.On the whole, this is a kind biography of a man who had many genuine abilities and equally many weaknesses -- a man who was genuinely kind, genuinely open to new ideas... and genuinely easy to push around. Franklin led one successful and two unsuccessful trips to the Arctic. His naval record was good. He was beloved in Tasmania, where he was governor -- but the civil service hated him.And, as it turned out, he died before he could know the disaster that faced his final expedition.This book tries hard to present the latest research and to see both sides. We do not know all we would like to know about Franklin's final expedition. But most of what we do know is here.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A fine history of the fabled, and nutzoid, 19th-century explorations of the Arctic. The author gets a little preachy about the diminishing ice of the polar region, though his point is certainly valid: In perhaps not many years at all, a Northwest Passage won't be the least bit hard to navigate and the days of boats being entrapped for years on end will seem even more inconceivable. Anthony Brandt aptly sums up the hubris and folly of the British expeditions and tells well the fascinating story of how the region was mapped by the many many ships sent in search of the lost Franklin Expedition and its 129 noble but idiotic men. One major failing: This book desperately needs more and better maps!
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Well-written and compelling book about the politics, enthusiasms, intellectual background too, and the human misery of the search for the Northwest passage. Rather hard on poor Sir John Franklin, perhaps not undeservedly so, and another long overdue attempt to rescue the immense reputation of John Rae from the dustbin of history. Recommended reading as a survey of the search for the Passage.
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