The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714, James Falkner

The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714, James Falkner

The War of the Spanish Succession is best known in Britain for the victories of the Duke of Marlborough, most famously at Blenheim, but the war was actually much more widespread, with fighting in at sea, in Spain, Italy and the New World as well as the famous campaigns on the eastern borders of France and on the Danube.

The war was caused by the death of the last Habsburg king of Spain without a direct heir. Several candidates were available, and the crown initially went to Philip V, a grandson of Louis XIV of France. This transition was almost managed without war, before Louis committed a number of blunders that forced the hands of his European rivals. The rival Habsburg claimant was supported by an Alliance that included Austria, the Netherlands, Britain, Portugal and Savoy, although the initial war aims were really only to make sure that the massive Spanish Empire didn't pass intact into the hands of the Bourbons.

The War of the Spanish Succession is a perfect example of the dangers of forgetting that military success is only of value when tied to realistic political aims. The anti-French alliance won most of the major battles of the war, and after the battle of Oudenarde in 1708 had already achieved its original war aims, but success made the Allied leadership over-ambitious, and attempts to expel the popular new Bourbon monarch in Spain meant that the war dragged on to 1714-15.

The focus here is on the diplomatic, political and campaign level military events. Even the biggest of the battles rarely get more than a page or two, enough to give an outline of events, before the focus moves onto the wider impact of the battle. Given the scale of this conflict this is probably the best approach, as long battle accounts would have disrupted the account of wider events. This is a good history of this important but someone neglected conflict, the first in the long series of wars that dominated the Eighteenth Century.

1 - This is the King of Spain
2 - The Grand Alliance
3 - The French Offensive
4 - Campaigning in the Low Countries
5 - Adventures in Southern Germany
6 - Enter the Duke of Berwick
7 - Year of Miracles
8 - Over the Seas to Spain
9 - Vexatious Distractions
10 - France at Bay
11 - Unattainable Peace
12 - An End to a Weary Journey
13 - A Balance of Power

Author: James Falkner
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2015

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