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Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars [Hardcover]

Tim Cook
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 25 2012

Two portraits flank the doors leading into Canada’s House of Commons: Sir Robert Borden to the left and W.L.M. King to the right. While each man appears flatteringly stern, wise, and charismatic, it is the portrait plaques that are of particular interest. Borden's caption reads: “World War I War Leader, 1914–1918,” while King’s caption is similar: “World War II War Leader, 1939–1945.” No other dates are given.

Perhaps that definition makes sense for Borden, who did little of note before the war; it does not ring true for King, Canada’s longest serving prime minister. Yet in both cases world wars shaped their careers and legacies. They ushered in massive government changes: income tax, health care, and conscription; changes to society through industrialization, enfranchisement, and patriotic unpaid labour; and they raised enormous armed forces from a civilian base.

Warlords is a fast-paced narrative that humanizes the war effort through the eyes of the prime ministers. Set against how our senior politicians governed themselves and the nation during these difficult times, it offers an invaluable perspective of war and war leaders.

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Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars + The Madman And The Butcher
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Product Description


“Tim Cook, First World War specialist at the Canadian War Museum, [is] the best of the country’s new generation of military historians…" - Ottawa Magazine

“[A] richly detailed, fast-paced book by the First World War historian at the Canadian War Museum… in his analysis of Borden and King as wartime leaders, [Cook] points out their strengths and weaknesses and does so in as entertaining a way possible, considering the wartime settings.” - Ottawa Citizen

“Cook keeps the story moving, making it a great read for historians, people interested in wartime Canada, and for those who love books with strong, complex and interesting characters." - Ottawa Magazine

“Warlords… is the latest tour-de-force by Tim Cook, Canada’s foremost Great War historian.” - Charlotte Gray in The Globe and Mail

About the Author

TIM COOK is the Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum, as well as an adjunct professor at Carleton University. His books have won numerous awards, including the 2008 J.W. Dafoe Prize for At the Sharp End and the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction for Shock Troops. In 2013, he received the Pierre Berton Award for popularizing Canadian history. He lives in Ottawa with his family.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insight to Canadian Leaders Dec 12 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found Cook's book on the leadership roles of Borden and King during the two World Wars to be very insightful and informative and an easy read. The history is well developed and an entertaining read and should be of interest to all Canadians as it gives a glimpse of the stresses our leaders faced during the wars and tells the story of Canada becoming a nation in its own right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights into two important Canadians April 4 2013
This dual biography of Canada's two wartime prime ministers provides a refreshing look at the lives and political careers of Sir Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Tim Cook is one of our country's top historians and the authority on Canada in the First World War. He is also a master of narrative history, with this book following his much-acclaimed biography of Sir Sam Hughes and Sir Arthur Currie, The Madman and the Butcher.

In Warlords, Cook reminds us of the important role played by two men in leading a young country through two traumatic global wars. Borden, Cook points out, has often been overlooked by historians and the Canadian public and, when he is remembered, vilified for his handling of the conscription crisis. Some of this criticism may be unwarranted, though, as there was no blueprint for Borden to follow.

King, argues Cook, has not been overlooked, but rather misunderstood. His scandalous private journals have been used to turn him into a kind of caricature, but Cook reminds us that he was a real man, doing the best he could to keep the country together during another battle over conscription (and learning some lessons from Borden).

This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in Canadian history, either of the world wars, or political leadership. Despite the vast amounts of research Warlords contains, it is written in a very accessible, lively style. Borden and King both come alive in the pages, and even those familiar with King's diaries will likely find something to be shocked or amused by.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Patrick Sullivan TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book covers all the political ground, regarding Canada in both World Wars. Sir Robert Borden was the Conservative leader in the First World War. Mackenzie King was the Liberal Prime Minister during World War II. Both men took on very different leadership roles, during the conflicts.

Borden enacted conscription and lost the political support of Quebec. Borden was committed to full Canadian support of the British Empire, and the war with Germany. King on the other hand, attempted to avoid conscription during WWII. He realized his political success, rested with the voting population of Quebec. Many of King`s political decisions throughout his career, were weighed heavily on Quebec`s potential reaction to any given policy.

Warlords will appeal to anyone with an interest in Canadian history. The issues were much different, then what we deal with today. But the political landscape, will be very familiar to most Canadians. The Liberal and Conservative parties controlled parliament. The CCF, Progressives, and Social Credit, also had political influence.

Cook has certainly spent some time researching the material. I had no idea, how many thousand of pages King wrote out in his diary. Throughout my childhood, I had listened to a lot of political stories about Mackenzie King. Most of my older relatives, considered Mackenzie King the political benchmark of Canadian politics. Yes, he had a rather strange side to his character. But he also had a very sharp political acumen. There is a reason, King was Canada`s longest serving Prime Minister. Cook explains the thinking process King went through, to help prosecute the Canadian war effort.

This book is in a smooth easy to read format. It is recommended to anyone, with an interest in Canadian politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contrasting leaders Feb. 26 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well researched and well written, Tim Cook presents a balanced view of both former prime ministers within the context of their time. This book is recommended for anyone interested in the history of Canada and its leaders, its focus is on the wartime leaders themselves, the difficulty of their decisions and some insight into the long term consequences.
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