The Madman and the Butcher: The Sensational Wars Of Sam Hughes And General Arthur Currie Hardcover – Sep 28 2010
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Quill & Quire
Sir Sam Hughes and Sir Arthur Currie, lifted out of obscurity by the First World War, occupy very different places in the pantheon of great Canadians. Hughes – the abrasive, unstable Minister of Militia and Defence from 1911 until his dismissal in 1916 – is remembered as a caricature of the louche early 20th-century political brawler. Currie, a mediocre real estate speculator and part-time soldier who rose to command the Canadian Corps in France and Belgium, is remembered as one of the most effective generals of the war and a national hero.
But their reputations were not always thus. We have forgotten Hughes’s enormous contribution early in the war, driving a bewildered nation toward a war footing and fighting to keep Canadian troops from being parcelled out to the British. We have also forgotten that Currie embezzled regimental funds to cover a debt, never connected with his soldiers, and was accused by Hughes and others of wantonly squandering the lives of 60,000 Canadians on the road to victory.
Tim Cook, best known for his acclaimed First World War histories At the Sharp End and Shock Troops, reminds us of these facts in The Madman and the Butcher, a double biography that takes a close look at Hughes and Currie, and the evolution of their legacies.
The book is engagingly written, and for those inclined to the arcana of Canadian history, it will shed light on the making of reputations following the war. For those inclined to biography, the book provides sufficient detail about the two men to warrant reading, despite the existence of more complete biographies, such as Ronald Haycock’s Sam Hughes (1986) and A.M.J. Hyatt’s General Sir Arthur Currie (1987). In any case, Cook has done a masterful job of setting the historical context and peeling back 90 years of anachronistic or erroneous judgments.
Although perhaps outside the purview of the historian, it is a shame that Cook did not also look forward in time. As we approach the conclusion of the first round of Canada’s 21st-century wars, what do the stories of Hughes and Currie suggest about reputations currently in the making?
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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Top Customer Reviews
Both men are fascinating. The colorful characterizations of Hughes are consistent including: erratic, a fighter, coarse, fearless, profane, unstable, ignorant, vindictive, bitter, bizarre, driven, arrogant, and hard-driving. Juxtapose Hughes with Currie who is appreciated as thoughtful, intelligent, brave, moral, detailed, inclusive but decisive, innovative, and haunted. It is then not hard to see that the men were vastly different and not a surprise in hindsight to think that their personalities would clash.
The First World War churned through a generation of fine, young men. All combatants lost unfathomable casualties. While Canada celebrated the war's end, it did not come to grips with the losses. The range of emotions and nagging questions regarding the human cost manifested itself in the unfortunate public war between Hughes and Currie. What makes this fascinating are the circumstances that make the two men's pros and cons so pronounced eventually leading them to a highly personal conflict.
Hughes and Currie were both men of contradictions. Both largely performed brilliantly under an avalanche of conditions and responsibilities new to Canada and to the world. And both advanced Canadian nationalism.Read more ›
Don't let any one tell you Canadian Politics is dull. The story takes place in an era when `Political Correctness" was only a vague notion, way in the distant future. I got a chuckle the other day reading about A Councillor getting a reprimand from a fellow councillor, when he used the term "Jewish Lightening," in a casual manner during a Council meeting,to describe a possible situation that might occur. The fellow was correct.....But still forced to make a formal apology for using such an expression. There would be no reprimands or apologies in Sir Sam Hughes day! It was "bare knuckle" politics supreme!
Above all, the book does exactly what a good book was intended to do........Entertain!
Most recent customer reviews
A great lesson in politics and nationalism. Who says Canada is boring?Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
This book outlines, the Canadian political backdrop of WW I. Sam Hughs was the Minister in charge of Canada`s war effort. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Patrick Sullivan
Excellent read! Great for the 20th Century military history buff!Published 10 months ago by Raymond
A well-researched and well=written history of a tumultuous period in our history.Published 14 months ago by Davedge
This is a very well written book and real page turner. Was Currie a butcher or just following the orders of a superior officer? That becomes obvious throughout the story. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Wayne Page
A dynamic account that helps you get behind the motivations, objectives, thoughts and outlooks of two of Canada's most important military leaders. Read morePublished 22 months ago by C. Marcotte
Loved reading the story and history of these two famous Canadians and how their lives intertwined one another during the Great War and even after. Great read, I highly recommend.Published on June 11 2014 by Don Crawford
Compared to British, German and French forces not many books can be found in Europe on the CEF and it's CIC, general Currie. Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2013 by AJ Labee