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Blenheim: Battle for Europe, How Two Men Stopped The French Conquest Of Europe

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By the summer of 1704 Louis XIV's vast armies threatened to dominate Europe. Two men conspired to save the continent from French rule: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Prince Eugène of Savoy. Deep in Germany, these two committed allies sought to engage Louis's superior forces. At Blenheim, their daring plans came to fruition. The French were utterly destroyed. From By the summer of 1704 Louis XIV's vast armies threatened to dominate Europe. Two men conspired to save the continent from French rule: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Prince Eugène of Savoy. Deep in Germany, these two committed allies sought to engage Louis's superior forces. At Blenheim, their daring plans came to fruition. The French were utterly destroyed. From the deliberations of kings and princes, to the eyewitness accounts of frontline soldiers, ‘Blenheim: Battle for Europe’ is a compelling account of an often overlooked but major turning point in European history. ‘Not only a highly accomplished account of the battle and its wider consequences, but also a shrewd and persuasive reassessment of the personalities involved’ – Sunday Telegraph ‘Charles Spencer’s new study offers not only a highly accomplished account of the battle and its wider consequences, but also a shrewd and persuasive reassessment of the personalities involved...Spencer’s account maintains the detachment of the professional historian, and is safely ancestor-worship free’ – John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph ‘Charles Spencer has written a history of the War of Spanish Succession — the struggle for European dominance between France and her major European rivals in the early 18th century — in a splendidly old-fashioned style, full of bold epithets and broad judgments...The result is a book that is compulsively readable...the pages of this vividly written book are populated by memorable secondary characters’ – Andrew Roberts, Mail on Sunday ‘Where Spencer has made a real contribution to our understanding of the war of the Spanish succession is in his exploitation of the French sources — diplomatic and military, including the correspondence between Louis XIV and his generals and diplomats’ – John Crossland, Sunday Times ‘There is much to enjoy in this racy, fast-paced narrative, well stocked with larger-than-life characters...The account of the storming of the Schellenberg heights...is truly gripping’ – Tim Blanning, Times Literary Supplement Charles Spencer was educated at Eton College and obtained his degree in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is the author of five books, including the Sunday Times bestseller ‘Blenheim: The Battle for Europe’ (shortlisted for History Book of the Year, National Book Awards), 'Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I', ‘The Spencer Family’ and ‘Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier’.


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By the summer of 1704 Louis XIV's vast armies threatened to dominate Europe. Two men conspired to save the continent from French rule: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Prince Eugène of Savoy. Deep in Germany, these two committed allies sought to engage Louis's superior forces. At Blenheim, their daring plans came to fruition. The French were utterly destroyed. From By the summer of 1704 Louis XIV's vast armies threatened to dominate Europe. Two men conspired to save the continent from French rule: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Prince Eugène of Savoy. Deep in Germany, these two committed allies sought to engage Louis's superior forces. At Blenheim, their daring plans came to fruition. The French were utterly destroyed. From the deliberations of kings and princes, to the eyewitness accounts of frontline soldiers, ‘Blenheim: Battle for Europe’ is a compelling account of an often overlooked but major turning point in European history. ‘Not only a highly accomplished account of the battle and its wider consequences, but also a shrewd and persuasive reassessment of the personalities involved’ – Sunday Telegraph ‘Charles Spencer’s new study offers not only a highly accomplished account of the battle and its wider consequences, but also a shrewd and persuasive reassessment of the personalities involved...Spencer’s account maintains the detachment of the professional historian, and is safely ancestor-worship free’ – John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph ‘Charles Spencer has written a history of the War of Spanish Succession — the struggle for European dominance between France and her major European rivals in the early 18th century — in a splendidly old-fashioned style, full of bold epithets and broad judgments...The result is a book that is compulsively readable...the pages of this vividly written book are populated by memorable secondary characters’ – Andrew Roberts, Mail on Sunday ‘Where Spencer has made a real contribution to our understanding of the war of the Spanish succession is in his exploitation of the French sources — diplomatic and military, including the correspondence between Louis XIV and his generals and diplomats’ – John Crossland, Sunday Times ‘There is much to enjoy in this racy, fast-paced narrative, well stocked with larger-than-life characters...The account of the storming of the Schellenberg heights...is truly gripping’ – Tim Blanning, Times Literary Supplement Charles Spencer was educated at Eton College and obtained his degree in Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford. He is the author of five books, including the Sunday Times bestseller ‘Blenheim: The Battle for Europe’ (shortlisted for History Book of the Year, National Book Awards), 'Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I', ‘The Spencer Family’ and ‘Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier’.

30 review for Blenheim: Battle for Europe, How Two Men Stopped The French Conquest Of Europe

  1. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    Battle for Europe by Charles Spencer is a riveting account of the great battle fought at Blenheim between Allied forces under the command of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and the French Army of Louis XIV on August 13, 1704. This is a splendidly told story, not only covering this pivotal battle but the events leading up to it and the main characters involved, including my favourite, Prince Eugene of Savoy. This battle possibly changed the course of European history with the near destructio Battle for Europe by Charles Spencer is a riveting account of the great battle fought at Blenheim between Allied forces under the command of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and the French Army of Louis XIV on August 13, 1704. This is a splendidly told story, not only covering this pivotal battle but the events leading up to it and the main characters involved, including my favourite, Prince Eugene of Savoy. This battle possibly changed the course of European history with the near destruction of Louis XIV's army. Up to this point the French Army under the command of many capable marshals had never been beaten. It was virtually unstoppable until it met Marlborough, the Captain-General of the armies fighting against France. In this book Charles Spencer describes the outcome of that meeting at Blenheim. The story telling is first-rate, the narrative flows fast and smoothly, is packed full of information but never over-loads the reader with too much. The colour plates are excellent and the maps sufficient for the story however I would have appreciated maybe a few more. The account of the fighting is excellent and once you start reading it's hard to stop. The narrative drags you into the fighting as the allied infantry assaults the villages of Blenheim and Oberglau and then mass in the centre for the decisive offensive that was to break the back of the French forces. In the end the allies lost 12,000 men killed and wounded but the French lost more than three times that number. This is an excellent account and adds much to the military history of this period, no decent library should be without a copy on their shelves.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    An example of military history at its most engaging: even without prior knowledge of 17th century warfare & the political firmament surrounding the Sun King, it draws you into the line of battle & lets you walk away with a firm understanding of "why we fight" and how; with a center breakthrough that'd give most WWI generals a massive Brusilov. Also, you get to dominate the footnotes of the Wikipedia article. An example of military history at its most engaging: even without prior knowledge of 17th century warfare & the political firmament surrounding the Sun King, it draws you into the line of battle & lets you walk away with a firm understanding of "why we fight" and how; with a center breakthrough that'd give most WWI generals a massive Brusilov. Also, you get to dominate the footnotes of the Wikipedia article.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rindis

    Charles Spenser is certainly correct in his assertion that the Battle of Blenheim is one of the more important battles of history that is not well remembered today. This is more surprising in the English-speaking world since it was an English commander in charge, and English troops played an important part in the battle. I'm not so sure how much I can go for his subtitle, "How Two Men Stopped The French Conquest Of Europe", however. It's not just a tag put on by the publisher, as it is certainly Charles Spenser is certainly correct in his assertion that the Battle of Blenheim is one of the more important battles of history that is not well remembered today. This is more surprising in the English-speaking world since it was an English commander in charge, and English troops played an important part in the battle. I'm not so sure how much I can go for his subtitle, "How Two Men Stopped The French Conquest Of Europe", however. It's not just a tag put on by the publisher, as it is certainly an idea present in his book, but it's not that well supported. The immediate consequences of a (likely) French victory in the War of Spanish Succession are obvious enough, but after some good analysis of internal French troubles one wonders just how well they could have done. Finally, I felt through the entire book that the story of the second man, Prince Eugène of Savoy, was not very well served by the narrative. In fact, Blenheim suffers most from being too close to typical English accounts of the battle, instead being much more about the story of Marlborough than anything else. There are good reasons for this, but I was hoping that the book would move its center of gravity a little further away from the instinctual 'how great our man is' mode. Thankfully, the book is at the same time much more than that, and very handy for the casual history reader. Spenser does spend quite a bit of time laying the groundwork, presenting the career of Louis XIV as whole, as well as William of Orange's resistance to his territorial aims in the Low Countries, and an account of the War of the League of Augsburg. So the background is very good, and takes up a fair chunk of the book. The War of Spanish Succession itself is centered around Marlborough's campaigning, and isn't an account of the war as a whole; coverage after Blenheim drops off dramatically. That said, as with much else with the book, what is there is well done, and the Marlborough's move from the Low Countries to the Danube is handled very well. As a casual history book, centered around Marlborough, it's very good, and other viewpoints from contemporary diaries are included to good effect, and I recommend it, but on that basis only. Prince Eugène's story is given, but not in as much detail. As a history of the War of Spanish Succession it fails from not giving proper attention to the rest of the war, and as a history of the Battle of Blenheim, it spends too much time on the rest.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    It definitely sets it in a context of a decisive victory in an era when these were the exception proving the rule. Possibly a little Anglocentric given the troop strengths involved but the sheer daring nature of Marlborough’s Danube march & then fighting when by the rules of the day he should have withdrawn as outmanoeuvred is well invoked. More on his erstwhile partner Eugene wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Still a worthy effort. It definitely sets it in a context of a decisive victory in an era when these were the exception proving the rule. Possibly a little Anglocentric given the troop strengths involved but the sheer daring nature of Marlborough’s Danube march & then fighting when by the rules of the day he should have withdrawn as outmanoeuvred is well invoked. More on his erstwhile partner Eugene wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Still a worthy effort.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Excellent book about two great men who fought one of history's great battles.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    I am not sure why, as a middle aged stay home dog mum from the states, I wanted to read this book, but I wasn’t disappointed. It was compelling even when there was too much information to digest. Names and alliances were confusing, I am not a historian and have terrible recall memory of previous books I’ve read that may have helped. The kindle version had no maps or diagrams to aid, but discovered the hardcover did. It was hard to visualize without these and with my limited knowledge of the area I am not sure why, as a middle aged stay home dog mum from the states, I wanted to read this book, but I wasn’t disappointed. It was compelling even when there was too much information to digest. Names and alliances were confusing, I am not a historian and have terrible recall memory of previous books I’ve read that may have helped. The kindle version had no maps or diagrams to aid, but discovered the hardcover did. It was hard to visualize without these and with my limited knowledge of the area. Hopefully they will update the kindle version. I will now research a bit on my own. I’m curious about Winstons family tie to John Churchill, I assume a nephew?

  7. 4 out of 5

    George

    A fascinating look at the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, with the decisive Battle of Blenheim in 1704 taking centre stage, and the history's protagonists being the heroic Prince Eugene of Savoy and Britain's military champion, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough: Ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill. The book follows their campaigns against France's Louis XIV, the Sun King, and his ambitions to dominate Europe, and paints Blenheim as 'a seminal moment in [Britain's] histor A fascinating look at the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, with the decisive Battle of Blenheim in 1704 taking centre stage, and the history's protagonists being the heroic Prince Eugene of Savoy and Britain's military champion, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough: Ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill. The book follows their campaigns against France's Louis XIV, the Sun King, and his ambitions to dominate Europe, and paints Blenheim as 'a seminal moment in [Britain's] history,' as well as 'one of the most important battles in European history.' It also works to highlight the importance of what happened in deciding upon the future of European affairs, as the author tells us that Blenheim has been 'largely forgotten.' Immersive and riveting, putting the reader at the heart of the age's military events, it's a great read for anyone interested in 18th century Britain and Europe, as well as warfare. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Zuvich

    Another excellent history book by Charles Spencer - he really knows how to bring major historical episodes to life. I enjoyed his detailed background into the history which led to the Blenheim, and the various historical figures who played a part in bringing Louis XIV's expansionism to an end. The only thing I didn't agree with was his stating that Queen Anne's son, William, Duke of Gloucester died from smallpox. From what I gathered from my own research, the physicians who attended the prince i Another excellent history book by Charles Spencer - he really knows how to bring major historical episodes to life. I enjoyed his detailed background into the history which led to the Blenheim, and the various historical figures who played a part in bringing Louis XIV's expansionism to an end. The only thing I didn't agree with was his stating that Queen Anne's son, William, Duke of Gloucester died from smallpox. From what I gathered from my own research, the physicians who attended the prince in his last sickness were not certain what was ailing him. Some thought it was measles, and ultimately I believe it was attributed to a fever. Other than that tiny thing, wow, what an absorbing read. I loved it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Datta

    Rivetting read about this key battle at the dawn of the modern age...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Richard Howard

    When I first was made aware of the Duke of Marlborough, I also became mystified as to how he was so little known. As a general he never lost a battle! And, every town, he besieged, surrendered! He moulded the British army into a formidable flighting force but, more impressively, cared for the welfare of his men, ensuring they were well victualled, looked after when wounded (He can't be blamed for the poor medical knowledge of the time.) and paid on time. His generalship ensured that Europe did n When I first was made aware of the Duke of Marlborough, I also became mystified as to how he was so little known. As a general he never lost a battle! And, every town, he besieged, surrendered! He moulded the British army into a formidable flighting force but, more impressively, cared for the welfare of his men, ensuring they were well victualled, looked after when wounded (He can't be blamed for the poor medical knowledge of the time.) and paid on time. His generalship ensured that Europe did not become the fief of France and altered Britain's status from the poor cousin of Europe to one of its major powers. All this and yet Nelson gets a column for, essentially, one naval victory! This book does a superb job of explaining the politics both of the Spanish Succession and England's political parties. (Nice to see that the Tories have always been the nasty party.) The book is well written, remarkably riveting and accessible. (Would that all military histories were.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laurence

    Very well written, very concise and never drags. That said, I would have liked a bit more context (which could have bloated the book in some eyes). I like how Spencer explains what this meant for the Louis the Sun King as a turning point to France's waning power on the continent. I'm not well versed in this period in history so as a part of a larger whole it might be more effective. It might be that I need more broad stroke history before I get into the detail. Lastly, I played the new version of Very well written, very concise and never drags. That said, I would have liked a bit more context (which could have bloated the book in some eyes). I like how Spencer explains what this meant for the Louis the Sun King as a turning point to France's waning power on the continent. I'm not well versed in this period in history so as a part of a larger whole it might be more effective. It might be that I need more broad stroke history before I get into the detail. Lastly, I played the new version of Stratego, Stratego: Waterloo a few months ago and I really liked how this book and the detailed account of the battle made the tactics in that game somewhat made sense (even if it is depicting the latter (last?) battle in the period that perhaps this battle started?).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Angus Ballantine

    Spencer achieves what many historians fail to do;he writes in a very readable manner that captures your interest from start to finish. His work reads almost like an adventure yarn;pacy,thrilling, a page turner but never losing sight of the basic requirement of any historic account and that is to be clear, concise and informative. For the layman an excellent introduction to what lay behind the War of the Spanish Succession and how one of the greatest battles in history was planned and won.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Lloyd

    An enjoyable read about a little known battle Kudos to the author for this well written book. The wars of Spanish Succession are a little known event in this day and age, however the author did a good job of pointing out how pivotal this war (and specifically Blenheim) was in changing the balance of power in Europe. I found the narrative to be engaging and entertaining, as well as informative. A good book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    While vividly written, Spencer lacks the skill and finesse of putting the battle in its proper military, political and strategic context. While tactically and operationally decisive, the strategic objective of winning the Spanish crown was not met, not would it ever. Hence it was a battle for Europe, but did not decide that battle.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Martin Wegner

    A fascinating read A very well written account of an important but obscure European war. A great attention to detail really brings the story to life. This book has me excited to tackle Churchill's volumes on Marlborough.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mhorg

    The rise of England's military The Duke of Marlborough and Eugene, Prince of Savoy saved Europe from French domination. Two of the great military minds of their age, the lessons they laid on the battlefields of Europe are still studied today. This book is well worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hausladen

    An excellent account of the batte and the war to that point. Spencer deals with the history leading up to the battle in great detail, sometimes to the level of slowing the narrative considerable. One cannot but admire however, the research that went into it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Akash Parakh

    It is a great episode in European History but the author fails to capture it captivatingly. The chronology seems inconsistent. That's why 3 stars !!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hennigan

    Thorough An excellent overview of the importance of the battle, and of the time and social forces in play at the time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    William Barr

    Best on the ground description of logistics and battle at the beginning of socket bayonets warfare.

  21. 5 out of 5

    IKO

    I really like this book a lot. I read this several times and it never disappoints. A great narrative about an exciting moment in history

  22. 5 out of 5

    Fredrik Fyring

    Pretty interesting, managed to keep the complicated turn if events and alliances understandable

  23. 5 out of 5

    Torsten

    I was deceived by the title. This book follows much more in the footsteps of Marlborough rather than telling the story of the battle. In addition whilst the author gives full credit to the role of Prince Eugene (the second of the two men) - the imperial perspective is not fully developed. This is primarily an english account. As a battle account this book is inferior to Peter Englunds fantastic "The Battle that Shook Europe" about the 1709 battle of Poltava and Michael Shaaras "The Killer Angels" I was deceived by the title. This book follows much more in the footsteps of Marlborough rather than telling the story of the battle. In addition whilst the author gives full credit to the role of Prince Eugene (the second of the two men) - the imperial perspective is not fully developed. This is primarily an english account. As a battle account this book is inferior to Peter Englunds fantastic "The Battle that Shook Europe" about the 1709 battle of Poltava and Michael Shaaras "The Killer Angels". In that these books achieve giving a much more intimate feel of the battles, which they portray. The battle and its highlight the cavalry charge the broke Louis XIV is over in mere pages. But not a bad telling, as long as you are aware that what you are buying is a story of Marlborough to and from the Battle of Blenheim.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    This happened by accident. I read two books in a row by the same author. I was very excited to read this book because I had heard of the Duke of Marlborough and the Battle of Blenheim, but didn't know much about them. The last book I read was fast-paced and interesting, so I hoped for more of the same. I was not disappointed. It was exciting and did a good job of putting the man and battle in its historical context. My problem with the book is the bias of the author. I did not realize Charles Sp This happened by accident. I read two books in a row by the same author. I was very excited to read this book because I had heard of the Duke of Marlborough and the Battle of Blenheim, but didn't know much about them. The last book I read was fast-paced and interesting, so I hoped for more of the same. I was not disappointed. It was exciting and did a good job of putting the man and battle in its historical context. My problem with the book is the bias of the author. I did not realize Charles Spencer was married into the royal family and is related to the Duke of Marlborough. He had a clear bias against the French the whole book, but what really got me at the end was him claiming that the battle was a victory of democracy over absolutism. Um. Marlborough served for QUEEN Anne and his allies were PRINCE Eugene and PRINCE Louis.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Just A. Bean

    Well researched, of course, and reasonably well told, with lots of quotes from the diaries of soldiers and whatnot, but the book failed to convince me of the importance of the battle the author claimed was history making, and the last third of the book dragged badly. Spencer, I have noticed, tends to write overly positive accounts of his subjects, without really acknowledging their flaws or weaknesses. After this and Prince Rupert, I probably won't read anything else by him.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Martin Watts

    This book is teaching me more than I knew before about the Blenheim campaign. It ties in nicely with the history podcasts I listen to. I was amused to learn that while in the French service at the siege of Maastricht John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough, served with the Count d'Artagnan who died there. Yes, that d'Artagnan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fletcher Carter

    Important . History undone by politics I enjoyed this book. Koop t d opp especially not masterworks in describing the great achievement as of the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene., and the significance of their victory, which was the start of France's fall from Europe a n predominance and the start. of England's ascendance.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    I was a little sceptical given this is written by one of his family, but actually its pretty good at explaining the complexities of the period and when it gets to the battle does a good job of analysis. I did so long for some maps to explain where things were and also to give the sense of the battle's flow.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris Watson

    What an amazing battle. A frontal attack, across a river, against a superior force - larger, better equipped, better trained - and he routed them through sheer audacity and brilliant general-ship!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Barry

    Excellent overview of the Danube campaign and Marlborough's entry onto the world stage with enough credit given to Eugene of Savoy without whom the campaign would never have been possible.

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