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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 25 September 2005
Charles Spencer's account of the Battle of Blenheim makes for almost a racy read. The book is both entertaining and informative. What I liked in particular is his account of the background to the conflict. He vividly brings to life the machinations of Louis XIV's court and the manoeuvring going on between the Grand Alliance powers. He is very skilled at making every point relevant. Marlborough emerges as an outstanding military leader and tactician, as well as having an attractive personal side. The book is divided into digestibly short chapters. I now understand why a battle around an insignificant village in the middle of Germany was so important for the destiny of Europe. And I learned about the battle in a very pleasant way - by reading Spencer's book.
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on 5 June 2005
Blenheim: Battle for Europe" by Charles Spencer is a riveting account of that great battle fought between Allied forces under the command of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and the French Army of Louis XIV on August 13, 1704. This is a splendidly told story, not only covering this pivotal battle but the events leading up to it and the main characters involved, including my favourite, Prince Eugene of Savoy.
This battle possibly changed the course of European history with the near destruction of Louis XIV's army. Up to this point the French Army under the command of many capable marshals had never been beaten. It was virtually unstoppable until it met Marlborough, the Captain-General of the armies fighting against France. In this book Charles Spencer describes the outcome of that meeting at Blenheim.
The story telling is first-rate, the narrative flows fast and smoothly, is packed full of information but never over-loads the reader with too much. The colour plates are excellent and the maps sufficient for the story however I would have appreciated maybe a few more.
The account of the fighting is excellent and once you start reading it's hard to stop. The narrative drags you into the fighting as the allied infantry assaults the villages of Blenheim and Oberglau and then mass in the centre for the decisive offensive that was to break the back of the French forces. In the end the allies lost 12,000 men killed and wounded but the French lost more than three times that number.
This is an excellent account and adds much to the military history of this period, no decent library should be without a copy on their shelves.
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on 26 July 2007
I bought this book with the intention of heartily disliking both it and the author. However, after a few pages it became clear that Spencer is a surprisingly good writer and historian. He takes a dispassionate view of Marlborough and carefully analyses the motives and actions of a man who was once perceived as a bit of a chancer.

The book is a very good example of narrative history; it is pacey, well written and erudite.
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on 6 October 2006
I must confess to being particularly ignorant about this period of British history despite ploughing my way through Macauley's five volume opus (his rambling style of olde English bored me) but with little new on my favourite Napoleonic era I decided to delve a little further back in time. Too my surprise, Charles Spencer's interpretation of the battle of Blenhiem makes for compelling and enjoyable reading, and is a good point to start one's investigation of this era. I found his narrative reminiscent of Cornwell's style; racy, detailed, some what sarcastic in places and easy to follow. Quite addictive really. Reading through the campaign I was struck by how many famous Napoleonic battlefields were disputed earlier in history; it seems "old Europe" was indeed drenched in blood throughout the ages by one French tyrant after another. Spencer's work is highly creditable, well researched, rigourous and aimed squarley at the armchair reader. I look forward to further works in due time.
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on 1 September 2007
This was a real surprise! The author is not one I would naturally gravitate to, but I picked it up on impulse in Waterstones. Spencer's style vividly brought alive the campaign and significance of Blenheim in shaping the future of Europe. I found it an easy read, a real page turner that placed you at the heart of the events described. I would happily give this 5 stars and am looking forward to reading his biography of Prince Rupert (English Civil War).
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VINE VOICEon 8 June 2005
I can not add much to what the other reviewers have already written. This book is simply superb. It reads like a novel. It is obviously the result of much painstaking research and a love of the subject. The author shows talent for bringing history to life. I was totally wrapped up in this book which filled a gap in my knowledge of this period. The relationships between the characters, the politics, the tactics and the sheer blood and guts all came across brilliantly. A great achievement.
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on 7 September 2009
It is maybe not one for hardcore historians but for me, a general reader with a historical and military eye, this was a really good read and seemed authentic enough. Charles Spencer has a readable style and maintained a good balance between inexorable military detail and political intrigue.

I didn't know enough about the period before I read the book but the squabbling between Whigs and Tories, Marlborough and his Dutch allies, his wife Sarah and her detractors at court, brought the whole story to life. He covered enough ground to give a holistic view of European politics while also showing the detail of how superior English (British)cavalry tactics had become and how critical a battlefield factor this was.

Blenheim was a crucial battle, both for Marlborough and the United Kingdom. Nice to read, for a change, how well drilled British regiments marched hundreds of miles and beat, with the help of Dutch and Prussian allies, the best, biggest army in the world.
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If you looking for academic history or a mastery of texts in many languages then you should look away, because this book is good old fashioned narrative history from an author not afraid to have an opinion but without the need for the enfeebled stridency of many amateur military historians. I had expected less than I got, Charles Spencer is a good writer, pacy but considered, and he is well read in English texts. The book covers far more than just the battle, but he covers that well. Popular history where that term is a compliment
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on 5 March 2005
I knew surprising little about the great Duke of Marlborough and the battle of Blenheim. This book helped fill that gap in an interesting readable way. Spencer is correct in saying that Blenheim should rate alongside Waterloo and Agincourt but it doesnt, yet. This book should go someway to address that.
This book is a great read and a window in to the early 18th Century with good details about all the main players in this amazing time.
Read this book!
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on 18 October 2011
Really the subtitle of this book 'Battle for Europe' says it all. This is a book that is written to entertain and captivate the general reader, it is not meant to awe the specialist historian by its subtlety or depth of research.
The story of Marlborough's rise to power through various Whitehall Ladies' bedrooms & on the battlefields of the 1670s, and especially his epic 1704 offensive deep into Germany culminating in the battle of Blenheim is perfectly suited for Spencer's spirited writing style. This is not to suggest the book is 'shallow', in fact most readers will learn an awful lot about this fascinating period, and Spencer gives due credit to Marlborough's comrade in arms Prince Eugene (though not to his Dutch allies). Sure, one could claim that Spencer is a bit too uncritical of Marlborough, glancing over the 'reduction' of Bavaria a little too easily, but I think that is hardly relevant for a book like this. What matters is that this is a very exciting read. Recommended!
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