Following his 1999 contribution to "French History" which was entitled "Louis XIV, Aristocratic Power and the Elite Units of the French Army", Mr Rowlands has expanded his subject somewhat to examine the growth of the French Army from Louis XIV taking over full control, in his "personal rule" of France, up to the start of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Obviously this book will be contrasted to the recent books by John Lynn, and , in particular, "Giant of the Grand Siecle". From a personal stand-point, I found Mr Rowlands' book easier to read, with a wealth of anecdotal illustrations in the text. Of course, his book does not cover such a large area as Mr Lynn's book, but I found the narrative more compelling.
The section of the book which really interested me was the second half which covers the command structures and, in particular, the high command, of the French Army. The characters and rivalries of the Marshals of France are somewhat reminiscent of the Napoleonic period. The other sections of the book cover the administration of the regiments and the careers and changing circumstances of the Le Tellier family who were Ministers of War during the period in question.
If there is a criticism, it is that the period covered by the book ends at 1701 (when Barbezieux was replaced - and shortly afterwards died), which means that the seemingly constant ebb and flow of careers of the high command during the remaining few years of Louis's reign are not included. It would be interesting to know if a further book could be in the offing which covered that period.
Having said that, the areas on which the writer concentrates are very fully covered. He explains, in his introduction, that he disagrees with some of Mr Lynn's conclusions, whilst acknowledging his immense contribution to the somewhat sparse literature on the subject of Louis' Army (in English). This book is, perhaps more a social history than a specifically military history, and, on that basis, it is well worth reading for those persons interested in one of the more interesting, and, even, exotic eras of French history.