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Marlborough’s War Machine

James Falkner
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Marlborough’s War Machine (1702-1711) is an excellent addition to a growing collection of first rate books about Marlborough by James Falkner. He has previously dissected Marlborough’s career from various other angles – this gives an obvious depth to his knowledge. In addition, Falkner’s military heritage (he was a Regular and Reserve officer for 25 years) is apparent in his eye for detail and careful consideration of the factors involved at each stage of the various campaigns.

Readers of this book may be a little taken aback, as I was, when they reach 1711 (the endpoint of the book’s coverage) on page 29 after a rapid canter through the previous 9 years of the War of the Spanish Succession. It should be said that those pages do provide a pithy synopsis of the conflict – a useful overview for anyone embarking on a Battlefield Study of that era. My confusion was swiftly set aside when it became clear that Falkner had organised his book along thematic lines rather than along a chronological path: this book is about what made up the integral parts of Marlborough’s war machine (the clue’s in the title, I suppose!). Thus it is that Falkner then examines each part of the Army: from its raising, through its Commanders, Cavalry, Infantry, Gunners, Engineers, Logistics to the legacy it left. I think this works well here and although it means that there isn’t one single thread running through the book, it does mean it can turn the full spotlight on each individual area of the Army and follow it logically through the War without interruption. I can’t help but think this would come in very handy if required to present on a Battlefield Study stand.

I should say here that this focus on the book’s utility on Battlefield Studies is probably indicative of where it will be most useful. If you want a chronological history of the War, you are probably better going to one of Falkner’s more generalist works. This book hits a more niche market but hits it well. All this should not take away from the fact that the book is very well written, with a smooth style that is easy going on the reader: one should not underestimate the skill required to make what can sometimes be regarded as dry material, easily digestible without losing meaning and a depth of analysis.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it, particularly if you are embarking on a visit to the battlefields of the War of the Spanish Succession.

4 Mushroom Heads

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