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Marshal Vauban and the Defence of Louis XIV's France Hardcover – 21 Jul 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Military; 1st Edition edition (21 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844159272
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844159277
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Falkner served as a British Army infantry officer, both Regular and Territorial, for 25 years, and was a Company Secretary for seventeen years until retirement. James is acknowledged as being amongst the leading modern authorities on 18th Century warfare, particularly the campaigns of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and the work of the celebrated French military engineer Marshal Vauban. James Falkner has also made a special study of the Virginia campaigns in the American Civil War. He regularly gives lectures and presentations to a wide range of militaria and learned societies, and spoke to great acclaim at the National Army Museum's 'Britain's Greatest General' seminar, and at The National Archives recent commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht. Elected as a Member of the British Commission for Military History, he writes for the leading militaria and historical journals, and for many years has led as the expert guide tour parties to battlefields all across western Europe. James Falkner is married with two daughters, and lives in Hampshire, England.

Product Description


Falkner's excellent work is a must for anyone with an interest in military history. --J.E Kaufman SITEO Newsletter

...the reason it will remain to me a valuable piece of my fortress engineering collection is that it is also a good book about fortresses. Or rather, it is a "treatise" on fortifications and the art of the siege. --Clayton Donnell "Fortress Archaeologist" See full review below

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Clayton Donnell on 22 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
As one who has studied European fortifications for over 30 years, and, as such, has come to [yes, let me use the term, worship] the great works of Marshal Vauban, it was with a very skeptical and defensive eye that I began to read through James Falkner's newest account of, arguably, the greatest military engineer of all time. After my attempts to find error or fault in the first 50 pages (for which I was unsuccessful), I finally settled in and began to thoroughly enjoy his vivid and well written account of the life of the man who built some of the most magnificent military structures known to man.

Being accustomed to reading historical accounts that tend to drone on ad nauseum about minutiae that causes the reader to beg the author to please move on to the good stuff, I found it refreshing, and a relief, that Falkner digs right in to what we want to hear the most about the Marshal, that is, what he did on the battlefields of Louis XIV's late seventeenth century France. Certainly he describes the early life and experiences of Vauban, including his schooling and his family, but this is all the background one needs to know if the reader is interested in what Vauban produced, rather than his life as a boy on the family estate.

The book is laid out in chronological order detailing the conquests of Louis XIV from the 1660s to the early 1700s. We follow the life of Vauban from observer to master of a craft associated with very few men; a craft that was critical to the ability of a nation to defend its borders in the tumultuous period of Europe's history where societies were defined and shaped by war and negotiation.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vauban on 12 April 2012
Format: Hardcover
James Falkner's biography of Marshal Sébastien Le Preste de Vauban traces his life from student to the master of the craft of military engineering, at the same time detailing conquests of Louis XIV. Vauban's skills were critical to France and its ability to defend its borders in a tumultuous period of Europe's history.

The author is a well-respected Marlboroughian historian and as a result, John Churchill does appear more often within the pages than is probably necessary (he is indexed more often than Condé, Louvois, Luxembourg, Turenne or Villars). As a result, there is a War of Spanish Succession bias, so much so that a better title for the book would have been "Marshal Vauban and the Defence of Louis XIV's France during the War of Spanish Succession".

The quality of the illustrations is very good (it is nice to see Reginald Blomfield's c1936 sketches reproduced), although would have benefited from more plates (though perhaps I'm being greedy - there are several books readily available providing suitable pictorial records) and the maps and plans are useful, although a location map of the Vauban sites is a notable omission (but I would recommend IGN's La France De Vauban here). Unsurprisingly, most of the contemporary plans date from the War of Spanish Succession period.

Falkner claims, more than once, that a chief reason for the decline in the quality of French infantry during the period was due to their use as labourers and pioneers, implying that this was exceptional - yet labouring was the lot of the infantryman from Roman times to the 20th century! Falkner's discussion of the development ricochet artillery fire is excellent - a development that typified Vauban's hallmarks of effectiveness and efficiency.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TR on 3 Aug. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This biography of Marshal Vauban disappoints. The book does give some useful insights, especially as regards the role of fortresses in the 17th century, as imposers of delay on attackers rather than barriers; well exemplified by the way in which Vauban made short work of his own fortifications at Ath. The account of the early life is very brief, and raises unaddressed questions on such matters as his initial recruitment to Condé's army, his change of sides, and later accusations of corruption, to mention a few. Either information does not exist, or more likely, given the number of French biographies, the omissions are by choice of the author. When the author turns to scene-setting, there are an inexcusable number of errors, concerning results of battles, dates of battles and other events, and many other matters. To point to a few, all authorities I have read account Seneffe a draw, while no-one has regarded Steenkirk as other than a French victory; Walcourt preceded Fleurus and Leuze, the French defeat probably being a major factor in Marshal Luxemburg's return to command; most authorities accept that both William of Orange and Luxemburg knew that agreement had been reached at Nijmegen when the former forced battle on the latter. I am afraid there are many other mistakes, which if not central to the book, raise doubts about the accuracy elsewhere. The later career is too much a chronicle, with the author rarely pausing long enough to detail properly any of the numerous siege operations involving his subject. Brest or Camaret Bay must deserve more attention, since it was perhaps the only time Vauban was involved in the defence of one of his own constructs.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 0 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
great engineer 4 April 2012
By david l. poremba - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One of the greatest military engineers of all time was Sebastien Le Pestre, Marshall Vauban, whose fortifications are still extant in such French cities as Mons, Lille and Cambrai, despite the determined efforts of belligerent nations at war with France since the seventeenth century and French city planners themselves.
Born in Burgundy on May 1, 1633 and well educated at a Carmelite college, Vauban joined the Regiment de Condeì in 1652, hoping to make his fortune with his sword. He would serve his king for the next fifty-two years. He began his military career as a cavalryman, brave and dashing, while also observing the art of his craft; namely, fortifications and their use in offensive and defensive operations. He learned to view these structures of brick and stone from a different perspective than others engineers. He could spot flaws in the angles and proportions of the defensive works that were in front of him. Vauban also worked to perfect a method of attacking fortifications effectively and at the least cost in blood and treasure.
As Louis XIV expended French territory throughout the latter half of the seventeenth century, it became Vauban's job to establish a defensive system to protect the country. On a hectic schedule, he inspected existing structures and designed others. The effort wore him out mentally and physically.
Falkner's expertise in seventeenth and eighteenth century warfare is evident in the details and easy flow of the narrative. He ably blends Vauban's life and contributions with a general discussion of siege warfare during this time period. Vauban's influence on the history of warfare is enduring and this book is an excellent starting point for those with an interest in this period.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A well-written military biography 7 Mar. 2014
By Jonathan Baum - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very good narrative of the life and career of Vauban, Louis XIV's master engineer. The book is well-written and manages to cover Vauban's sieges and constructions in an engaging manner (while placing them in the geographic and strategic contexts) and also captures the man himself, as much as humanly possible. My only complaint is that a book that is centered on the construction and capturing of early gunpowder-era fortifications needs more illustrations to help those of us who don't know a ravelin from a demi-lune. The small illustration and rear-of-book glossary are inadequate for that task. There should also be more maps to illustrate the campaigns which whirled around the fortresses, and the locations of the forts built by Vauban in the southern parts of the kingdom. But all-in-all, first class. An important contribution to the understanding of war and the state in early modern Europe and France.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful historical book of an amazing man 13 Dec. 2012
By Mark S Wauben - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderful historical book of a amazing man who was a hero for defending France from its enemies during a time when warfare was changing the boundries of europe.
Good starting point 13 Mar. 2015
By Daniel Avram - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Good read but not above the average. It may be interesting for someone at the first contacts with the subject (fortifications or Vauban biography) but for me the book was sort of "mild", somewhere between popularization and serious historical study.
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