Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review of The War of Spanish Succession by James Falkner

Author:  James Falkner.
Title:  The War of Spanish Succession 1701-1714.
Publisher:  Pen & Sword Publishing.
Copyright:  2015.
Pages:  281.

I read this book on my Nook e-reader.  It's a critical study of the War of Spanish Succession.  Louis XIV put his grandson on the Spanish throne.  The Allies declared war in protest.  The conflict dragged in most of western Europe.

The French had the largest armies, but the worst led generals.  Many marshals were royal bastards who didn't know how to command.  The generals who knew how to fight weren't gentlemen and didn't get along with their compatriots.  The Allies were no less fractured.  The Dutch didn't want the British to leave Holland.  The Austrians were only concerned with Italy.  Eugene of Savoy had his hands full keeping his army in the field fed and clothed.  Marlborough had similar problems with his forces.

In the end, the map of Europe went back to its antebellum borders.  The French and Spanish lost influence and property, while England became a maritime power at the expense of the other European powers.  But it was a long and drawn out war that should be settled much sooner than it was...



  1. I thought the book was poorly presented. A lot of information but nothing to link it together. The total absence of relevant maps was a real problem for me - the ones that are included give no information and the fact that Faulkner relies on long lists of dates and places doesn't help in understanding how the armies were being moved around.
    I don't agree with your assessment of the French generals either. Many of their faults were due to the fact that they were receiving instructions on how to conduct the war from Louis who was several hundred miles removed from the theatre and several days behind in information. There were some poor generals without a doubt, Louis duc de Bourgogne is a prime example - his involvement at Oudenaarde would have been decisive. However, the French by and large knew their stuff and were capable - Eugen had his hands full in defeating them in Italy for certain.
    I do agree though that Faulkner makes several excellent points about the war being able to be resolved much earlier than it was. Greed and amibition by the Maritime Powers overshadowed their original intentions. Faulkner though does fail to make the British the bad guys when they finally ended their involvement and left the Dutch high and dry.
    Not a great book. Plenty of information but not presented in the best manner. Still think Chandlers "Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough" is the standard that all other works should be judged against.

    1. I concur with your assessment Paul. Falkner may know his stuff, but the way he conveys it on the page is...difficult to follow, shall we say? It could also have done with an editor and a proof reader.

      I got 'Marlborough's War Machine' by the same author this week. I haven't started to read it yet. We shall see.