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Marlborough: Britain's Greatest General (Text Only): England's Fragile Genius

Marlborough: Britain's Greatest General (Text Only): England's Fragile Genius [Kindle Edition]

Richard Holmes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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‘Richard Holmes goes far beyond the life of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, to depict the moral and political landscape of an entire age in this rewarding biography of the British general…Holmes is as thrilling on his subject's romantic devotion to his wife…as he is on the battles.’ Sunday Times

‘We should…welcome a new biography of the man who was so admired by Napoleon and…Winston Churchill - especially if the biographer is Richard Holmes, whose background is a happy blend of military academia and media friendliness. Professor Holmes tackles his subject at a Light Infantry pacem cracking through a wide-ranging biography with confidence and good humour.’ Independent on Sunday

‘The appeal of Holmes’s books is not merely their authority but their style. His lightness of touch makes these 500 pages a joy to read as well as an education.’ The Times

‘Richard Holmes’s new biography…is probably as comprehensive an account of Marlborough as any single volume can hope to be…there is nobody writing who can move from column into line quite as smoothly as [he] does.’ David Crane, Spectator

‘When it comes to balancing tales of Marlborough’s flaws with those of his genius for war, Holmes discharges his material relentlessly…His descriptions of the general’s tactical system, the way he ran his armues…are all excellent.’ Waterstones Books Quarterly

‘His lucid descriptions of the battles…make this work outstanding…Holmes has written what must be the best, because fairest, biography of Marlborough.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Mr Holmes argues persuasively that the duke’s skill lay in probing his opponent’s defences, then moving quickly and committing troops when a weakness opened up.’ Economist

Praise for ‘Tommy’:

‘Holmes is one of our foremost military scholars and a skilled writer who knows his audience well. This is excellent popular history: scholarly, highly readable and utterly absorbing.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Monumental…Every page of this is worth reading.’ Time Out

Praise for ‘Redcoat’:

‘“Redcoat” is not just a work of history but of enthusiasm and unparalleled knowledge. This is a wonderful book, doing justice to men who have long deserved a chronicler of Richard Holmes’ skill.’ Bernard Cornwell

‘It would be hard to exaggerate the excellence of this book. Vivid, comprehensive, well-written, pacy, colourful.’ Simon Heffer

‘“Redcoat” is the story of the British soldier from the Seven Year War through to the Mutiny and Crimea. It is consistently entertaining, full of brilliantly chosen anecdotes and rattles along at a good light infantry pace.’ David Crane, Spectator

‘All the best-known soldier writers are discussed here, and their anecdotes are told with enthusiasm and aplomb…This is an army from another world, and Redcoat is a splendidly entertaining, moving and informative description of its strengths and foibles.’ Hew Strachan, Daily Telegraph

Sunday Telegraph

"fascinating and revealing...Holmes has done his subject full justice by crafting a...judicious portrait...restoring Marlborough's reputation as a truly Great Briton"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1278 KB
  • Print Length: 595 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007225725
  • Publisher: HarperPress (21 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008B0OUR0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #144,111 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Richard Holmes was one of Britain's most successful historians and television presenters. Author of the best-selling Tommy, Redcoat and Wellington: The Iron Duke, he has also written and presented television series for the BBC. As well as serving in the TA, he taught military history at Sandhurst and, latterly, as Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. Richard Holmes died suddenly on 30 April 2011 from pneumonia, aged 65.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a look 23 May 2008
Yet another great biography of a great man that I have read in the past few weeks. There must be something in the water that encourages authors to turn these out!
This a very readable and informative biography of someone who is possibly not as well known or appreciated as perhaps he should be as he was directly and indirectly responsible for much of the Europe we see today, so his legacy truly lives on. The fact that he is probably best known as an ancestor of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana does him a great disservice as his life story is so remarkable that in the hands of such an experienced and skillful biographer as Mr Holmes it fairly leaps from the page, and makes this book, (cliche alert!) a real page turner...sorry but it's true. Although the author's expertise is towards military history, he does touch on the importance of his personal relationships and political machinations that went on around him, but not in as great depth. Hibbert's book "The Marlboroughs" which has more detail on his relationship with his wife Sarah and her equally remarkable story is probably as good a book as any for that.

By all accounts Marlborough should be held in as high esteem as Nelson and Wellington in the English/British psyche, and this book goes a good way to supporting that thesis.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for the military history buffs 23 Oct 2008
By T. Burkard VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's always nice to see another talented historian breaking into the mainstream with a first-class biography for the general reader. Although Holmes is a military historian--and it shows--this isn't a book for anoraks. The earlier sections of the book explain a lot about the financial and political minefields trodden by men and women of property. This is a great help in understanding how Churchill--whose father was on the wrong side in the civil war, and emerged almost destitute--schemed, fought and slept his way to a Dukedom (and even a German Principality). The portrait that emerges is, on the whole, quite sympathetic. The comments of his subordinates weigh very heavily on the positive side, and if his loyalty to James, William and Anne was less than absolute, he never deserted his allies Godolphin, Cadogan or Prince Eugene. He was clearly besotted with his appalling wife, who was finally more of a hindrance than a help to him, and his behaviour towards her was entirely honourable.

Holmes does a very skillful job of weaving narrative, comment and well-chosen contemporary quotations. Churchill/Marlborough was unquestionably a genius, combining the political skills to keep his disparate alliance together, and military skills that were more than equal to the finest that France had to offer. We should never forget that the French were, at the time, the unquestioned masters in all things military, and that their population was about three times that of Britain's.

As a biography, this book can perhaps be excused for its very sketchy coverage of the Spanish theatre of war; after all, the war was fought to keep a Bourbon off the Spanish throne.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Account 9 Jan 2012
John Churchill, later the Duke of Marlborough, is considered by many as England's greatest general and yet he is not a widely known figure and positively dwarfed in the amount of literature written about him when compared to Wellington. Therefore it's great to see a new biography of the man.

This is a slightly salacious account of John Churchill from his father's tough times through the English Civil war through his early years of a largely minor noble to his late blossoming and campaigns in the Wars of Spanish Succession. The sources used are broad and there is a determination to bring you into the atmosphere of courtly life with all its duels, liaisons and intrigues. It's here that the book falls short. The author is really trying to make the topic immediate and vivid but because there are so many Lord this and Earls that (quite often with their future or previous titles in brackets) that it bogs the story telling down. Other writers have solved this problem by stating that they would use the title the person was best known as and this allows the narrative to move along. Add to that a tiny font and what should be light reading is surprisingly hard work.

Richard Holmes loves a good battle so here I thought I would be safe but again I feel a lot of the politics and social intrigues get in the way of his usually thrilling and accurate accounts of the turn of events on the battlefield. It could be because he is aware that this is a biography of a man rather than the discussion of a war that there's a need to keep bringing other points in during the action, but you're likely to buy this book because Marlborough was a general so you'd probably prefer a bit more on the fighting and little less on Jacobite correspondence.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Marlborough, England's Fragile Genius by Richard Holmes is a very good book about arguably Britian's finest general. It is a well-written book with a good pace and a clear narrative which makes it a very enjoyable read. Although as you would expect the military exploits of Marlborough are the dominant part of the book it is not wholly about his career on the battlefield. Indeed it also deals with his private and political career and is actually an interesting account of the wider time period of the Civil War to the Hanoverian succession. The only slight flaw is I believe the opening chapter which sets the scene and in my opinion is a little too long and detailed for its purpose. Overall though it is a very enjoyable read and a very good book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A well researched book but not very succinct.
This is a well written book however it does digress quite a lot into a great deal of background information, which for me was too much as I have a limited amount of time for... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mr. G. WILLIAMS
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
A man I knew little of but having been to Blenheim palace wanted to know more about the man. This did the trick and a good read with it.
Published 4 months ago by M. Stokes
5.0 out of 5 stars Hurrah!
Both an informative, authorative and highly readable biography.
Holmes paints a picture of an ambitious and capable General as well as a cunning politician and loving... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Doug
3.0 out of 5 stars First hundred pages turgid
Holmes' 'Wellington' was brilliant cover to cover. He is a gifted historian and comes across as eminently fair. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Angus Lamming
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable & clear, combines personal with political and military
My knowledge both of the era and of Marlborough is less than I would like and this book is going a long way to fill the gaps. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Colin Angwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Marlborough
First class read.
The book was as described & I am pleased with it.
Purchasing books from you is a pain free exercise.
Published 14 months ago by burra sahib
5.0 out of 5 stars What a way to gain a perspective
Terrific book, was recommended to me as a guide the rites of succession of he Hanovarian Kings, and to give a view of Late Stuart/Early Georgian politics and a look at the world... Read more
Published 15 months ago by John A Milam
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
I bought this book as a gift for my son who is studying History. The book is very informative and makes for interesting reading.
Published 16 months ago by KarCup
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I just loved this book. Informative, Easy to read and compulsive. I learned so much. Richard Holmes is fabulous. One criticism was the introduction is really long
Published 18 months ago by David New
3.0 out of 5 stars A book for military historians
Very strong on detail, especially on military detail and Churchill's family relationships, but weaker on the socio-political and historical contexts and the longer-term... Read more
Published 20 months ago by KR
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