Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe

Article excerpt

Stephen Brumwell, Paths of Glory: The Life and Death of General James Wolfe (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2006), 406pp. Cased. £25. ISBN 1-8528-5553-3. Paper. £14.99. ISBN 1-8472-5208-7.

On 3 July 2008, Quebec City celebrated its four hundredth anniversary, and in that context the legacy of General James Wolfe and the capture of that city in September 1759 has inevitably been debated. In this volume, Stephen Brumwell has presented the first fulllength biography of Wolfe in almost a century.

Brumwell begins the book by illustrating the various transformations of Wolfe's legacy and popularity since his death. In Edwardian and Victorian England, he was championed as one of the founding fathers of the Empire, and on this imperialist pedestal he remained until the early twentieth century when Canadian historians, eager to discard the baggage of such hagiographic relics, launched a full frontal attack on his character and reputation. Historians E.R. Adair and C.P. Stacey later claimed that Wolfe was not only lucky at Quebec but that any effectiveness that he had as a General Staff Officer was overshadowed by his vain and smug demeanour.

In a well researched and very readable volume, Brumwell offers a more balanced revisionist account of Wolfe's life, placing his actions at Quebec in a wider context. On the one hand Wolfe is a heroic figure, while on the other he is beset with human frailties, self-doubt, and illness. Wolfe followed in the footsteps of his father and entered the army aged 14, intent on forging a life for himself within the strict social confines of Georgian England. Seven years later he was a hardened veteran of bloody battles fought at Dettingen, Bavaria in 1743 and Culloden, Scotland in 1746. …

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