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David Carey (London, England)
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The Seven Years War in Europe: 1756-1763 (Modern Wars In Perspective)
The Seven Years War in Europe: 1756-1763 (Modern Wars In Perspective)
by Franz A.J. Szabo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £32.29

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and compelling, 5 Mar. 2012
It is hard to find accounts of the Seven Years War in Europe (English-speaking writers in particular seem to be far more interested in what was happening in the colonies) and those that exist seem to be centred on the doings of Frederick the Great and prone to some degree of adulation. It is refreshing to read an account that tries to cover all military developments on all European fronts, and that casts more of a critical eye on the campaigns of the Prussian king. Szabo perhaps goes a bit too far in the opposite direction in that he rarely misses a chance to denigrate Frederick, but he paints a compelling picture of a man who, while capable of tactical genius (Rossbach and Leuthen), was capable also of egregious errors that could have terrible consequences (as at Kunersdorf), and whose response to these mistakes was all too often a rather histrionic flirtation with suicide and/or an attempt to pin the blame on others.

One aspect of the war that comes out very plainly in Szabo's account is the total inability of the Allies to get it together. The French seemed to be largely ineffective and unable to make headway against the Anglo-Hanoverian army guarding Prussia's western flank. Mistrust between Russia and Austria meant that they very rarely co-operated in anything like a meaningful way, and in fact having overrun East Prussia the Russians seemed to spend a great deal of each campaigning season marching rather unenthusuastically from and to their winter quarters in faraway Poland. This often left Frederick free to face an Austrian army commanded by able but cautious leaders who were reluctant to risk much in the face of the man who had beaten them so often in the past.

Thus, while Frederick emerges as the most energetic and effective war leader that either side produced, one has to say that he never faced a resolute, organised and tactically capable foe - how would he have fared against a Marlborough, a Eugene or a Maurice de Saxe? After Kunersdorf he fully expected an Allied advance upon Berlin that he would have been hard-pressed to prevent, but fortunately the Russians did not press home their advantage. Bearing in mind this unexpected good fortune, and the other 'miracle' of the House of Brandenburg occasioned by the death of the Tsarina Elisabeth in 1762, Szabo's contention that Prussia' survival as a great power was due more to luck than the talents of her king seems to carry a great deal of worth.

Szabo's book is a thorough and thought-provoking account of the war that seems to have attracted mixed reviews and perhaps has antagonised some by refusing to follow the usual hagiographic line when dealing with the campaigns of Frederick. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone seeking to understand the course of the Seven Years War in Europe.


WAR OF THE AUSTRIANSUCCESSION
WAR OF THE AUSTRIANSUCCESSION
by Reed S. Browning
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and thoughtful account of a much neglected conflict., 29 Nov. 2011
I have to say to begin with that I started this book at least once without being able to get far into it. It seemed to me a bit jarring that the book opens not with the origins of the war but instead with what seems a slightly rushed description of eighteenth century army organisation. There's no reason why the book shouldn't open this way, it just seemed counter-intuitive to me and made me fear that the coverage of the war's origins and the political circumstances behind its outbreak and spread would be shallow.

I needn't have worried. Browning covers all aspects of the war - military, political and economic - in admirable depth and you end with a very good understanding of the conflict. In particular, he spends a good chunk of the book dealing with the peace negotiations that led to the Treaty of Aix La Chapelle. I often feel that in military history books the peace treaties are dealt with in rather a perfunctory manner, but Browning is at pains to make his reader understand the considerations behind each of the belligerents' approach to the peace, who were the winners and losers and how this war, and the peace that ended it, fed into the Seven Years War that followed. In fact my main regret is that he did not go on to write an account of that conflict also, as it too seems to be much neglected by historians and lacking a really good single volume account like this.

I have knocked a star off for the lack of maps. There are three maps at the start of the book (one for each of the three main theatres of war, Germany, the Low Countries and Italy) but they are not nearly detailed enough for me and there are plenty of places mentioned in the text that do not appear on the maps. I think also a map of Europe at the time would have been helpful in informing the reader of the size and position of the powers mentioned relative to one another.

On the whole though, a very worthwhile read if you want to understand this conflict.


Grant Rises in the West: The First Year, 1861-1862
Grant Rises in the West: The First Year, 1861-1862
by Kenneth P. Williams
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian style made a promising book unreadable, 17 Sept. 2001
I had a lot of hope when opening this book, as I think the subject matter represents a much-neglected part of American Civil War literature. Unfortunately this hope was turned to disappointment very quickly, and the main reason for this was Williams' writing style. It is SO dull. He uses long, over-complex sentence structures that very soon leave the reader confused and looking back over what he has read for the previous verb. Even accounts of interesting events or gripping battles like Perryville, Iuka and Corinth become chores to read. I think also the author is a little uncritical in his admiration for Grant and prepared to condone or justify some very questionable decisions made by him. A case in point is the author's treatment of Grant's decree against the Jews, something I wasn't even aware of before I read this book, but which was not treated with due scrutiny. Unfortunately I can't think of any other single volume that covers the same ground, but you could try 'Banners to the Breeze' and any one of a number of good accounts of the Vicksburg campaign.


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