Erik Graff's Reviews > The First Churchill: Marlborough, Soldier and Statesman

The First Churchill by Correlli Barnett
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's review
Jan 30, 13

bookshelves: biography
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Recommended for: War of Spanish Succession fans
Read in September, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

I picked this up at the DesPlaines Public Library while visiting an old friend in Park Ridge, Illinois. A sucker for histories and biographies, I got it just in case the inspiration arose to learn something about John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, someday. The day came quicker than expected as I was in a hurry to pick out a light read before rushing out and this lavishly illustrated volume seemed safe.

As it happens, it was more than safe. Churchill (1650-1722) was military commander of allied forces ranged against Louis XIV during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). The issue being whether the Spanish crown would be independent of France, then the strongest power in Europe, Churchill led his forces through a series of victories on the continent setting the stage for Treaty of Utrecht.

This is primarily a military biography of the first Duke of Marlborough, his relations with his family being discussed primarily with reference to the politics of the war, most particularly in terms of his relations with his sovereign, Queen Anne, relations particularly mediated by his wife for good and, eventually, for ill.

What I found outstanding were the author's descriptions of the campaigns and battles. Often in reading military histories I get confused or bogged down in details. This was not the case with Barnett. Adequate maps helpfully amplify the text so that the actions and counter-actions of the armies are clear.

Winston Churchill, Marlborough's remote descendant, is mentioned once.
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