When one traces the major wars in which Great Britain fought during the Age of Reason, the usual progression is English Civil War… Seven Years War/French Indian War… American Revolution… Napoleonic Wars. However, nestled in-between the restoration of the monarchy and the decline of France in the Americas is found a war which had massive repercussions for Europe, and one in which the names, if not the motives, are widely known: The War of the Spanish Succession. A potted history of the war is, I am afraid, beyond me, so I will simply suggest you look at the good synopses available all over the web, such as here or here.
One would have thought that, thanks to such names as the Duke of Marlborough, Marshal Villars and Eugene of Savoy, or the Battle of Blenheim the war would be much more widely-studied. Instead, it seems to be related to an historical footnote, wherein the names are remembered and little else. Sadly, Robert Southey\'s poem After Blenheim, seems just as true now as it did when it was written in the early 19th Century:
"And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why that I cannot tell," said he,
"But 'twas a famous victory."
However, all is not yet lost! Indeed, like those other conflicts of history, such as the Winter War or the Spanish Civil War, that find themselves overlooked in favour of the bigger, more famous clashes, the War of Spanish Succession is enjoying something of a resurgence of interest, from all quarters. In the world of fiction, we have Iain Gale working on a new historical series, starring Jack “honestly not related to anyone called Sharpe” Steel. The first book, Man of Honour is now available, with the paperback edition and the sequel due out in the Spring. It\'s a rollicking read, but one cannot help but draw comparisons to such characters as Richard Sharpe, Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubrey - I know there is nothing new under the sun, but some things seem more derivative than others - hopefully the sequel will allow Gale to establish his own style and let him start setting Jack Steel apart from the rest of the pack - the setting deserves it. In the world of Wargaming, the imminent release of Under the Lily Banners by the League of Augsburg looks set to give a shot in the arm to this most deserving of periods. The League has done a sterling job over the years of advertising and encouraging the gaming of this neglected period, even if their armies are always painted to a standard unachievable by most!
So, if you\'re a gamer looking for a new project, or a historian with a penchant for the English Civil War, look just that little further afield, and give the Spanish Succession a shot. After all, ask yourself - what would Marlborough do?
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