- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (22 Feb. 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141390433
- ISBN-13: 978-0141390437
- Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 3 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Marlborough as Military Commander (Penguin Classic Military History) Paperback – 22 Feb 2001
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About the Author
(Location: Yateley, Hants) Dr David Chandler, previously Head of the Department of War Studies at the R.M.A. Sandhurst, has published 20 books on the 17th, 18th and 19th century warfare and is the leading world authority in these fields. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Having said that, there is a bit of a dearth of material on him currently available. The War of the Spanish Succession, where Marlborough was able to strut his not-inconsiderable stuff, does not fire the public imagination today like the Napoleonic era, or the 45 or even the Hundred Years War. It seems a very distant conflict played out with arcane rules of engagement.
Nevertheless Chandler, the heavyweight of British military history, starts off at a blinding pace with a potted history of Marlborough as a young man, surviving, plotting and generally having a whale of a time in the late Stuart court, rising as the Duke of York's favourite. (He even manages a couple of good jokes. Chandler that is.)
Then it all gets rather bogged down. There is a necessary - but rather clunky - chapter on "The Art of War" and by the time we get to campaigns in Flanders, the lightness of touch that the book started with is a distant memory. Keep a good map of Belgium by you and read slowly if you want to make sense of what is going on. (This book - a tiddly 335 pages - has taken me two weeks to read!)
The Eighteenth century mode of warfare does lend itself to slow, indecisive manouveres (which is why the Revolutionary French armies had such fun with such organised forces at the end of the century) so maybe a slow narrative is fairly inevitable. But the recently published "Crucible of War" - on the Seven Years War - shows that the juxtaposition of politics and Eighteenthy century war can be fascinating.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The first third of Chandler's narrative is admittedly a bit slow. John Churchill came late to major military command, and Chandler only summarized the first 50 years of his life. The heart of the book is the description of the Duke of Marlborough's campaigns in Europe during 1702 to 1712, including his great victories of Blenheim, Ramilles, and Oudenard. Chandler establishes the Duke as a first rate military professional, adept at grand strategy, battlefield tactics, and most remarkably for his era, military administration. It was this latter skill, boldly applied, which enabled Marlborought to move his army from the Netherlands to the Austrian Danube to win his great victory of Blenheim and save the grand alliance he served.
Marlborough's battlefield successes are all the more remarkable, as Chandler makes clear, because he was simultaneously required to hold together a fragile military coalition and to serve as a member of government at home in Britain. Chandler's final assessment of the Duke of Marlborough provides remarkable insight into a man and his era. "Marlborough as Military Commander" is very highly recommended to students of the man and the era.
Chandler provides a nice chapter on warfare of the period which does give a decent background as to how it was conducted in this transitional period. Campaigns progressed slowly in the Spanish Succession War and thus readers use to the later action packed eras of Frederick II and Napolean will find the pace much different here. Even though Marlborough sought out decisive action through battle the nature of the warfare in this period tended to be manneaver and seiges. The four great battles that he fought did not happen in rapid succession. Armies in this period fought in very linear fashion. There were no columns of assault, and little use of other formations except for squares against cavalry sometimes. The marching pace was unknown at this time, which made it difficult for troops to advance and maintain formation. Some reference to these important points would certainly aid in understanding how battles were fought. Chandler prefers a more operational and strategic perspective and thus provides only a cursory look at tactics and formations.
Chandler gets a little lost sometimes in the details of these campaigns and often he mentions surprising events without much explanation. A prime example is when Marborough was almost captured in one of his early camapaigns while traveling by river. The French took the ship, but allowed Marborough to go on because he had a river pass! Surprising information and an example how different the rules of war were in this time!
The constant politics and slow progress of seiges combined with many obscure location names makes for tedious reading sometimes despite Chandler's attempts to keep things lively. The main battles are described crisply with average detail. This is surprising considering that they occur most infrequently. Decent maps help out.
The emphasis tends to be from a British perspective even though we do get some good looks at French planning. This is a period where Marlborough tends to dominate in most English written works. Those seeking French or Austrian views might find such works harder to come by in the English langauge. Although bios of Louis XIV and Prince Eugene might fill out some of the space.
This is a classic work and a very good introduction to the warfare of this period. One gets a good idea who Marlborough was and Chandler provides good, critical analysis of his generalship. At times slow, this work rewards the determined reader with some nice details and an overall well written text.