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In 1845 Captain Sir John Franklin led a large, well equipped expedition to complete the conquest of the Canadian Arctic, to find the fabled North West Passage connecting the North Atlantic to the North Pacific. Yet Franklin, his ships and his men were fated never to return. The cause of their loss remains a mystery. InFranklin, Andrew Lambert presents a gripping account of the worst catastrophe in the history of British exploration, and the dark tales of cannibalism that surround the fate of those involved.
Shocked by the disappearance of all 129 officers and men, and sickened by reports of cannibalism, the Victorians re-created Franklin as the brave Christian hero who laid down his life, and those of his men. Later generations have been more sceptical about Franklin and his supposed selfless devotion to duty. But does either view really explain why this outstanding scientific navigator found his ships trapped in pack ice seventy miles from magnetic north?
In 2014 Canadian explorers discovered the remains of Franklin’s ship. His story is now being brought to a whole new generation, and Andrew Lambert’s book gives the best analysis of what really happened to the crew. In its incredible detail and its arresting narrative, Franklin re-examines the life and the evidence with Lambert’s customary brilliance and authority. In this riveting story of the Arctic, he discovers a new Franklin: a character far more complex, and more truly heroic, than previous histories have allowed.
‘[A]nother brilliant piece of research combined with old-fashioned detective work . . . utterly compelling.’ Dr Amanda Foreman
Praise for Nelson:
'Outstandingly good.' Geoffrey Moorhouse, Guardian
'An outstanding biography by one of the most eminent naval historians of our age.' Amanda Foreman
'Shot through with fresh insights . . . No previous biography has attempted anything quite so comprehensive.' Colin White, Observer
'Addresses Nelson's career with energy and good sense . . . The admiral led from the front at Trafalgar not, says Lambert, because he possessed a death wish, but because to do so was the guiding principle of his life and leadership.' Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph
Many books have been written about Franklin, each of which imagines his fate differently. This latest, by Andrew Lambert, provides a useful summary of these theories, and presents evidence that shows how to expedition resorted to cannibalism before succumbing to starvation and scurvy. Primarily, however, it focuses on why Franklin went to the Arctic in the first place. According to Lambert, the Passage itself was of no importance; rather, Franklin went north in the name of the science of magnetism. This interesting thesis will bring fresh controversy to a much-debated subject.
The story is fascinating and Andrew Lambert is a good writer. His repairs to Franklin's reputation are done in a fair-minded way and with meticulous attention to detail ... if you've an interest in polar exploration, naval history or extreme survival (or, in this case, failure to survive) then it's well worth getting hold of.
'Lambert has worked hard to give a balanced view of a man first deified by opportunists and then vilified by revisionist biographers. He presents us with a vision of a decent, well-regarded officer ... it is an absorbing story, and Lambert tells it well ... the book is intriguing and readable ... Lambert is to be commended for being aware of the modern significance of Franklin's expedition.'
Andrew Lambert's keenly researched biography interprets the public reaction [to the claims of cannibalism] as a clash between modern awareness of man's animal nature, soon to be endorsed by Darwin's The Origin of Species, and Victorian chivalric dreams ... The achievement of Lambert's biography is to put Franklin, for the first time, into this modern context of how to fund and co-ordinate big science ... the abundant material he gathers in his biography will convince most readers that Franklin did indeed set an example of nobility, heroism and self-sacrifice
As Lambert's painstaking chronicle of the expedition emphasizes, despite the failure of the voyage, Franklin's disappearance became the focal point of all 19th-century Arctic exploration.
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