Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Review: Warfare in the Age of Marlborough

Research for the period 1672-98 within the English language is more often a matter of picking the asides from works which straddle the military history either side of it. This is principally the reason for including The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough by Professor David Chandler. In presenting his analysis of warfare which concentrates on the War of the Spanish Succession, Chandler discusses, sometimes in considerable detail, the developments and reforms taking place over the preceding twenty or so years leading up to Marlborough's campaigns.

Of particular interest is his approach to the separate arms of warfare; artillery, cavalry and infantry, through which he provides considerable detail for this period. Indeed, without this work, Williamite Warfare's coverage on artillery of the various armies would be found significantly wanting. As with so much analysis of warfare across this period, Chandler does not specifically concentrate upon those campaigns preceding John Churchill's ascendancy - that of his sponsor and King, William III.

There is some criticism, likely warranted, that Chandler is too Anglo-centric in his treatment of cause and effect for Marlborough's victories and his effective dismissal of the true role the United Provinces had in providing the bulk of the army and considerable logistic support. Certainly, this work tends toward a focus on French and English examples throughout and those looking for a greater understanding of the Dutch or Austrian war machines (for example) will need to look further afield.

This book continues in almost perpetual publication, widely available at a reasonable price. It can always be found in any half-decent library. This is simply a must-have for anyone interested in military history of our period of that following it.


  1. Great post and a fine choice.

    For years and years this was the book I kept coming back to as the “Bible” for the period. It was written with such style and elegance, and showed such a breadth of learning and understanding, that I thought it could not be bettered. Some of the recent work on the period has challenged some of the late Professor’s arguments, but as an overall study, the book is pretty much invaluable. The sections on supply and engineering are outstanding.

    I also really enjoy Professor Chandler’s later collection of long essays, “Blenheim Preparation”, which add quite a bit to the agurments he put forward in “Art of War”. There's a chapte entitled "Allies" in that book, which covers the Dutch in more detail, and "Blenheim Preparation" generally focuses more on alliance warfare than Professor Chandler's earlier books.

    Thanks you for these great posts on the books for the period!!

  2. Will you post a review of van Nimwegen's book as well?

  3. I'm afraid at this time I'm unable to review Olaf van Nimwegen's book as I can't get my mits on it - without going to some considerable expense. I did access the book for the breifest period when at my local military academy (staff college) and copied an invaluable appendix or two and a section on 'The weaponry and tactics of the Dutch Troops' (pages 396-404). My recollection is that the greatest part of the book focussed on the period preceding 1672, covering as it does the reforms from 1588 under Maurice. I'll get back there when I can.

  4. Actually, there's a lot of info on the post 1672 period as well, mainly on the reorganisation of William of the Army: the big difference he made was the establishment of a cadre and a real standing army and not sending troops away when the war was done. Plus the enforcing of discipline of course..