Marlborough: England's Fragile Genius Hardcover – 5 May 2008
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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
About the Author
Celebrated military historian and television presenter Richard Holmes is famous for his BBC series ‘Rebels and Redcoats’ and ‘Wellington’. He is the author of the best-selling and widely acclaimed ‘Redcoat’ and ‘Tommy’ and his dozen other books including ‘The Western Front’, ‘Dusty Warriors’ and ‘Sahib’. He is general editor of the definitive ‘Oxford Companion to Military History’. He taught military history at Sandhurst for many years and is now Professor at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. He lives near Winchester in Hampshire.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
The book has a minor but niggling weakness in that the title, 'England's Fragile Genius' seems to have little connection with the contents. It mentions his headaches and various illnesses but he doesn't seem to be portrayed as particularly fragile.
The major strength of this book is Holmes descriptive capabilities. I've previously read descriptions of the Battle of Sedgemoor and been quite baffled but Richard Holmes made it quite clear what the movements of troops meant to the outcome of the battle and gave some indication as to where mistakes were made and how each side capitalised on the mistakes or misfortune of the other.
A fine book - a good overview and a sound objective analysis of the life of the first Duke of Marlborough.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Principally a history book, but also an enjoyable read. The story of one of our greatest men in our history.Published 29 days ago by E. George
After a slow start and in my opinion, a slightly boring beginning, the late Richard Holmes biography on Marlborough improved and the description of the four major battles when he... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Steven L.
Pretty dry read this and not up to Holmes' usual standard. I didn't get a sense of tactics, strategy or even the reason for the war and an awful lot of it is concerned with what... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Guy Dawnay