Death or Victory: The Battle of Quebec and the Birth of Empire by Dan Snow - review by Stephen Brumwell

Stephen Brumwell

A Real Cliffhanger

Death or Victory: The Battle of Quebec and the Birth of Empire

By

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In 1769, an unemployed British Army captain published two volumes recounting his recent experience of the brutal struggle to destroy French power in North America. Reduced to his officer’s half-pay, John Knox must have been gratified by the favourable reviews that soon emerged in London’s leading literary journals. As the Monthly Review critic noted, the highlight of Knox’s Historical Journal was its coverage of the ‘ever memorable’ siege of Quebec, the zenith of Britain’s annus mirabilis of 1759.

Major-General James Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec still resonates today, although not in a way that Knox and his book’s reviewers can have envisaged. This February, a planned re-enactment to mark the 250thanniversary of the momentous clash between Wolfe’s army and Quebec’s Franco-Canadian

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