Book Review of Germany and the Origins of the Second World War

Jonathan Wright. Germany and the Origins of the Second World War. The Making of the Twentieth Century series. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. ISBN 978-0-333-49555. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xii+223. $115.00 (hardcover)

Germany and the Origins of the Second World WarJonathan Wright, Emeritus Professor in International Relations at Oxford University and Tutorial Fellow in Politics at Christ Church, addresses Germany and the beginning of World War II in Europe. He focuses on the ideas and role of Adolf Hitler from the 1920s to the outbreak of war in 1939-41. He stresses the ability of Hitler to gain support from the German people for his foreign policy adventures.  Wright is known for his Gustav Stresemann: Weimar’s Greatest Statesman (2002) and as co-editor of Liberalism, Anti-Semitism and Democracy (2001), Britain and Germany in Europe, 1945-1990 (2002), Mental Maps in the Era of Two World Wars (2008), and Mental Maps in the Early Cold War Era, 1945-68 (2011).

Wright states that “an account of Germany and the origins of the Second World War must include not simply Hitler and the Nazis but their ability to carry the German public with them” (p.185). As such, the author strives to show the segments of the German public that supported the rise of Hitler and the Nazis to power, and how Hitler managed public opinion once he was in office.  Hitler presented himself as a man of peace while rearming Germany, seeking equal rights for Germany in international affairs.  Wright shows how the German leader used public support of foreign policy to rid Germany of the Versailles restrictions.  However, public opinion began to fear the outbreak of a European war after the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936. Hitler was willing to take risks for gains. In explaining the annexation of Austria, Sudeten crisis, and subsequent actions, the author writes that Hitler worked to divide, isolate, and pick off enemies until Germany was ready for a European war. But the European war came before the German economy was fully ready.

Germany and the Origins of the Second World War is a brief study of Hitler, Germany, and the road that led to conflict. It is highly recommended for students and scholars interested in Germany and international relations.  It is a fine contribution to recent studies on Hitler’s foreign policy, including Zachary Shore’s What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy (2003), Christian Leitz’s Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War (2004), and William Young’s German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945: The Wilhelmstrasse and the Formulation of Foreign Policy (2006). There are also the classic studies of Klaus Hildebrand, The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich (1984), Norman Rich, Hitler’s War Aims (2 volumes, 1972-73), William Carr, Arms, Autarky and Aggression: A Study in German Foreign Policy (1972), and Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany (2 volumes, 1970-80).

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, German Foreign Policy, Interwar Period (1919-1939), World War II (1939-1945) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review of Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars

Luc Duerloo. Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2012. ISBN 9780754669043. Notes. Figures. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvii, 592. $154.95 (Hardcover)

DUERLOO JKT(240x159)The rule of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella over the Habsburg Netherlands lies in the midst of international relations dealing with the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604, War of the Jülich Succession (1609-14), and outbreak of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Dr Luc Duerloo, Professor of Early Modern Political History at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, focuses this study on Archduke Albert VII of Austria (1559-1621) and his control over the Spanish Netherlands from 1598 to 1621. The study is the winner of the Filips von Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde Prize for 2011.  Duerloo is co-editor (with Werner Thomas) of Albert and Isabella, 1598-1621: Essays (1998).

Duerloo explores the life of Albert of Austria, the fifth and youngest son of Maximilian II, the Holy Roman Emperor (r.1554-76), and nephew of Philip II of Spain (r.1556-98). He was educated in Spain and groomed for a church career, becoming a cardinal in 1577. Albert became the first Viceroy of Portugal (1583).  Albert returned to Madrid in 1593, and then, in 1596, he succeeded his brother Archduke Ernest as the Governor-General of the Spanish Netherlands. As such, Albert was tasked by Philip II to achieve military victories against the Dutch rebels in the ongoing Eighty Years’ War, English in the Anglo-Spanish War, and French in the Franco-Spanish War (1595-98). Duerloo describes Albert’s military efforts against Maurice of Nassau and Henry IV of France. He acquired a peace settlement with France in the Treaty of Vervins (1598) but the struggle with the Dutch revolt continued.

Dynastic needs determined Albert’s destiny. In 1598, Philip II decided that his eldest daughter, Infanta Isabella, would marry her cousin Albert of Austria. He gave them, the Archdukes, sovereignty over the Habsburg Netherlands in the Act of Cession (1598). Duerloo, employing extensive archival research, examines what this meant. Albert and Isabella would rule over the Habsburg Netherlands as a sovereign state. Duerloo stresses that the Archdukes were not Spanish lackeys and conducted their own foreign policy with foreign ambassadors and envoys assigned to the Court of Brussels. Albert played a dominant role in diplomatic and military affairs. The Archdukes, however, kept Habsburg dynastic concerns in the forefront. The Spanish Army of Flanders continued to play a strong role in the Habsburg Netherlands. In the end, an important stipulation of the Act of Cession came into play.  The Archdukes produced no heir to the Netherlands, and, as such, the Low Countries returned to Spanish sovereignty in 1621.

War with England and the Dutch rebels dominated the first years of the rule of Albert and Isabella. Albert ignored most instructions coming from Spain and served as the chief decision-maker in the Habsburg Netherlands. Military success, however, eluded the Archdukes. Albert and the Army of Flanders failed to defeat Maurice of Nassau at the battle of Nieuwpoort (1600) or achieve success in the long siege of Ostend. This changed when Ambrogio Spinola took over the siege and succeeded in 1604. Meanwhile, Albert and Isabella influenced the talks that led to the Anglo-Spanish peace agreement in the Treaty of London (1604). As for the Dutch revolt, Albert soon became convinced that the Habsburgs could not reconquer the Northern Netherlands. Spinola, however, achieved military victories that forced the Dutch to agree to a ceasefire in 1607. With Albert’s conditional acceptance of the independence of the United Provinces the ceasefire became the Twelve Years’ Truce (1609-21).

In regards to this era of peace, Duerloo discusses Archduke Albert’s politics, court, and government. He especially addresses the dynastic politics of the Austrian Habsburgs. The author examines the Bruderzwist of 1608 and its sequel in 1611-12. In the meantime, the Habsburg Netherlands became involved in the Jülich-Cleves succession crises (1609-14) over the inheritance of territories. The final crisis was settled in the Treaty of Xanten (1614). During the Bohemian revolt (1618-20), Albert sent troops to his cousin Emperor Ferdinand II (r.1619-37) and pressed Philip III of Spain (r.1598-1621) for financial support to prop up the Austrian Habsburgs. He was unable to renew the Twelve Years’ Truce before his death in 1621, and Spain and the Dutch Republic resumed the Eighty Years’ War that would last until 1648.

Duerloo provides a thorough look at the reign of Archduke Albert and the political culture of the Habsburgs. The author shows that the Archduke had a significant degree of autonomy from Spanish direction. For readers interested in international affairs, this work is valuable for its wide-ranging discussion of the role of the Habsburg Netherlands in the war and diplomacy of the era. Habsburg interests in the Southern Netherlands, Spain, and Austria are explored.  The study is based on archival research in Belgium, Austria, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. It is a fine addition to the historiography of the Low Countries and the history of international relations.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, Eighty Years War (1568-1648), Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Spanish Foreign Affairs, Spanish Military History | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review of Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy

Michael Hochedlinger. Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy. Modern Wars in Perspective series. London: Longman, 2003. ISBN 9780582290846. Tables. Maps. Bibliographical notes. Index. Pp. xviii, 466.

HochedlingerThere are many surveys of Austria and the Habsburg monarchy covering the early modern period. However, few of these studies contain detailed discussions of Austria’s war efforts. Dr Michael Hochedlinger, Senior Archivist at the Austrian State Archives, fills this gap in historiography with an outstanding study of the Habsburg Monarchy’s government and society stressing the military and wars in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hochedlinger was formerly the Head of the Early Modern Section at the Research Department of the Army Museum in Vienna.

This study covers domestic and foreign policy issues, including administrative institutions, state finances, home defense, the standing army, geopolitics, war, and the modernization of the Habsburg Monarchy. Hochedlinger stresses that “Austria rose to European great-power status almost by accident: first, as a by-product of the Maritime Powers’ struggle with France in which the Habsburg Monarchy proved a very useful continental ally and second, through a spectacularly successful Turkish War….” (p.1). The author’s central focus is on the primacy of power politics. As such, Hochedlinger examines Austria’s rise to Great Power status. He begins with the Habsburg Monarchy’s military struggles against the Ottoman Empire  in the Great Turkish War (1683-99) and Austro-Turkish War (1716-18), as well as conflicts against Louis XIV’s France in the Nine Years’ War (1688-97) and War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). The Habsburg Monarchy under Emperor Leopold I (1658-1705) acquired territory in Hungary, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slavonia in the Peace of Karlowitz (1699). Transylvania, although nominally independent, became subject to the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1714, Austria under Emperor Charles VI (1711-40) gained Naples, Milan, Sardinia, and the southern Netherlands (Austrian Netherlands) from Spain as well as Freiburg and other small areas along the eastern French border in the Peace of Rastatt. Then, in 1718, the Habsburgs gained the Banat and parts of Syrmia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia from the Ottomans in the Peace of Passarowitz. At that point in time, the Habsburg Empire reached its largest territorial extent in history. Austria would soon swap Sardinia for Sicily in the Peace of The Hague (1720) ending the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-20) with Spain.

Hochedlinger next tackles Austria’s crises in the War of the Polish Succession (1733-35/38), Austro-Turkish War (1737-39), and War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48). He points out that the Habsburg Monarchy lacked the political, fiscal, and military infrastructure to sustain the earlier successes of 1683 to 1718 (p.205).  In the first conflict, the Habsburg Monarchy attempted to fight off a coalition of France, Spain, and Sardinia-Piedmont, which attempted to turn back the rising power of Austria. Louis XV’s France took Lorraine while Philip V of Spain regained control of Naples and Sicily. The war ended in 1735, but the final Peace of Vienna was signed in 1738. In this settlement Austria gained Parma while Carlos of Parma (the future Carlos III of Spain) acquired Naples and Sicily. Francis Stephen, the Duke of Lorraine (the future Emperor Francis I), was given the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as compensation for the loss of Lorraine. In the second conflict, Charles VI supported the Habsburg alliance with Russia and entered an ongoing Russo-Ottoman war (1736-39). The Austrians were defeated by the Turks several times, losing Belgrade in a siege in 1739. The Habsburgs signed a separate settlement in the Peace of Belgrade (1739) ceding Belgrade and Serbia, the southern part of the Banat of Temeswar (Timișoara), and northern Bosnia to the Ottoman Empire and Oltenia to Wallachia. With the death of Charles VI in 1740, the War of the Austrian Succession broke out when Frederick II of Prussia challenged Habsburg power by refusing to uphold the Pragmatic Sanction, an agreement that allowed Maria Theresa of Austria (1740-80) to succeed to the hereditary possessions of the Habsburgs, by invading Silesia. The conflict grew and raged on, gradually involving Austria, Britain, the Dutch Republic, Russia, and Sardinia-Piedmont against Prussia, France, Spain, Bavaria, Sweden, Sicily, Naples, and Genoa. The Habsburg Monarchy survived the conflict, one which threatened its very existence, losing Silesia to Prussia in the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). Austria also ceded Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla in Italy to Spain.

Austria sought revenge for the loss of Silesia. After the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, the Habsburg Monarchy, now allied with France, Russia, and Sweden, fought Prussia once again over Silesia in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63). Frederick II was supported by an Anglo-Hanoverian alliance. Prussian military victories, British financial support, along with Russia and Sweden’s withdrawal from the conflict (1762) were important factors that led to Prussia keeping Silesia in the Peace of Hubertusberg (1763). Austria, however, joined Prussia and Russia in carving up the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the First Partition of Poland (1772). Austria took Galacia. This was followed by the annexation of Bukovina in 1775. After this diplomatic success, Emperor Joseph II (1764-90), whose domestic reforms made Austria a Great Power in its own right, attempted to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate. Prussia and Saxony opposed the idea, resulting in the brief War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-79). Austria gained the Bavarian Innviertel in the Peace of Teschen (1779) that ended the conflict. In the subsequent exchange project of 1784-85, Joseph II again attempted to trade the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria. This time, France, Prussia, and the Fürstenbund (German League of Princes) stayed the attempt. In the meantime, Joseph II negotiated and established an alliance with Catherine II of Russia (1781). This alliance led to a joint Austro-Russian war against the Ottoman Empire in 1788. Austria gained little in territory in the Peace of Svištov (1791).

The French Revolution led to war. In the War of the First Coalition (1792-97), the Habsburg Monarchy was aligned with Britain, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, Sardinia-Piedmont, the Dutch Republic and other states against Revolutionary France. Prussia, Spain, the Dutch Republic (Batavian Republic), and Sardinia-Piedmont would break from the coalition by 1795-96. French military victories led to Austria accepting the Peace of Campo Formio (1797). In this treaty, the Habsburg Monarchy gave up the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), and recognized French control over the German Rhineland and most of Italy. France and Austria partitioned the Republic of Venice. Even so, in the midst of this conflict, Austria had gained more Polish territory (West Galacia) in the Third Partition of Poland (1795).

Austria’s Wars of Emergence 1683-1797 is an excellent survey of the Habsburg Monarchy’s government, finances, and war efforts from the Great Turkish War to the War of the First Coalition. It explores the growth and government of a Great Power in Central Europe, focusing on territorial expansion and the struggle to main that status.  The study is valuable for understanding Austria and its place in the European states system during this era. It is highly recommended to students and scholars interested in international relations and military history.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Austrian Foreign Policy, Austrian Military History, Austro-Turkish War (1716-1718), Austro-Turkish War (1737-1739), Austro-Turkish War (1787-1791), Book Reviews, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Europe in the 18th Century (1713-1789), Nine Years War (1688-1697), Ottoman Wars, Seven Years War (1756-1763), War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), War of the Holy League (1683-1699), War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738), War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720), War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713/14) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review of Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War

Christian Leitz. Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War. The Third Reich Series. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-17423-6. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 192. $136.00.

LeitzThe study of German foreign policy leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe has continued to interest and fascinate students and scholars.  Even so, the last decade has seen fewer studies available to an English reading audience.  One such study, due to be published in a paperback edition this year, is Dr Christian Leitz’s study of Nazi foreign policy from 1933 to 1941.  Leitz, formerly an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, is currently Head of Corporate Responsibility Management and Historical Archives at UBS AG in Switzerland.  He is known for his studies Economic Relations Between Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain, 1936-1945 (1996) and Sympathy for the Devil: Neutral Europe and Nazi Germany in World War II [also published as Nazi Germany and Neutral Europe during the Second World War in Britain] (2001).  Moreover, he is the editor of The Third Reich: The Essential Readings (1999) and co-editor of Spain in an International Context, 1936-1959 (1999).

In this study, Leitz stresses Hitler’s obsession with reestablishing Germany as a Great Power in international affairs.  The Führer sought to rid Germany of the Treaty of Versailles restrictions.  Most of all, the German leader took actions to prepare for and conduct a major war of expansion (p.5).  Hitler directed German foreign and military policy.  But, the Führer’s actions were heavily influenced by others.  Leitz shows that, at times, Neurath, Ribbentrop, Göring, Goebbels, Rosenberg, Bohle, and others managed to influence German foreign policy.

The author tackles Nazi foreign policy by individually exploring German relations with Italy, Britain and France, Poland, the Soviet Union, Southeast Europe, the United States, and East Asia in separate chapters.  This approach has the benefit of allowing one to understand Hitler’s evolving thoughts and policy concerning each state or group of states from the 1920s to the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and the conflict’s transformation into a global war in 1941.

Leitz succeeds in providing a concise and stimulating discussion of Hitler’s foreign policy.  As such, this study is a great addition to the other works concerning German foreign policy during the Third Reich.  Some of the most recent works include Jonathan Wright’s Germany and the Origins of the Second World War (2007), William Young’s German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945: The Wilhelmstrasse and the Formulation of Foreign Policy (2006), and Zachary Shore’s What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy (2003).  For those readers interested in classic studies in Nazi foreign policy, see Klaus Hildebrand’s The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich (1984), Norman Rich’s Hitler’s War Aims (2 volumes, 1972-73), William Carr’s Arms, Autarky and Aggression: A Study in German Foreign Policy (1972), and Gerhard L. Weinberg’s The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany (2 volumes, 1970-80).  One should also consult the essays in The Buildup of German Aggression (1991), Volume I of the Research Institute for Military History’s Germany and the Second World War series, by Wilhelm Deist, Manfred Messerschmidt, Hans-Erich Volkmann, and Wolfram Wette.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, German Foreign Policy, Interwar Period (1919-1939), World War II (1939-1945) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review of The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667): International Raison d’État, Mercantilism and Maritime Strife

Gijs Rommelse. The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667): International Raison d’État, Mercantilism and Maritime Strife. Hilversum, The Netherlands: Uitgeverif Verloren, 2006. ISBN-13 9789065509079. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 230. €25.00 (hardcover).

RommelseEngland and the Dutch Republic fought three wars in the seventeenth century. The English Commonwealth and the United Provinces engaged in the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54) and England under Charles II fought the Dutch Republic in the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-67) and Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74). Several studies have examined the three wars as a whole. But, Dr Gijs Rommelse, currently a history teacher at Haarlemmermeer Lyceum in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, focuses on the origins and conduct of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in his published doctoral dissertation (Leiden University, 2006). Rommelse’s most recent works include (as co-author with Roger Downing) A Fearful Gentleman: Sir George Downing in The Hague, 1658-1677 (2011) and (as co-editor with David Onnekink) Ideology and Foreign Policy in Early Modern Europe (1650-1750) (2011).

In this study, Rommelse places the origins and conduct of the war in context of international politics and alliance systems. He fully explores the domestic politics of England and the United Provinces, along with the maritime and commercial rivalry between the two states that resulted in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The author examines how the economic rivalry, including the struggle for colonial and European markets, influenced English and Dutch political decision-making that led to war.

Rommelse depicts the maritime conflict, including privateering and naval battles. In the conflict, Charles II of England had support from his ally Christoph Bernhard von Galen, the Bishop of Münster, while the United Provinces maintained an alliance with Louis XIV of France and Frederick III of Denmark. During the course of the war, the English defeated the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Lowestoft (June 1665).  The Dutch then defeated the English fleet in the Four Days’ Battle (June 1666) and St James’s Day Battle (July 1666), followed by the English carrying out the Holmes’s Raid (August 1666) on a Dutch merchant fleet in the Vlie estuary and the town of West-Terschelling in Friesland.  Meanwhile, however, the plague and the Great Fire of London financially weakened England, forcing Charles II to lay up most of his fleet.  As such, the Dutch Republic controlled the English Channel and North Sea, and, led by Grand Pensionary John de Witt, conducted a raid up the Medway River and destroyed or captured a significant portion of the English fleet in June 1667.  Rommelse writes that the “result of the naval raid was disastrous to English military and political prestige” (p.181).  The war was interrupted by Louis XIV’s army invading and overrunning the Spanish Netherlands in the War of Devolution (1667-68).  The Dutch Republic lacked a sufficiently strong army to adequately support Spain against France.  As such, both England and the United Provinces sought a peace settlement (Peace of Breda in July 1667) to focus diplomatic and military efforts against Louis XIV.

This is a valuable examination of the Second Anglo-Dutch War. It is a solid addition to other studies on the Anglo-Dutch Wars, including Charles Wilson, Profit and Power: A Study of England and the Dutch Wars (1957); J.R. Jones, The Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century (1996); and Roger Hainesworth and Christine Churches. The Anglo-Dutch Wars, 1652-1674 (1998). Studies that specifically focus on the second conflict are Richard Ollard, Man of War: Sir Robert Holmes and the Restoration Navy (1969); Frank L. Fox, Distant Storm: The Four Days Battle of 1666 (1996, reprinted as The Four Days Battle of 1666: The Greatest Sea Fight of the Age of Sail) (2009); and P.G. Rogers, The Dutch in the Medway (1970). An important recent study is De Ruyter, Dutch Admiral (2011), edited by Jaap R. Bruijn, Ronald Prud’homme van Reine, and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier. One should also consult Angus Konstam, Warships of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, 1652-1674 (2011).

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Anglo-Dutch Wars of the 17th Century, Book Reviews, British Naval History, Dutch Foreign Policy, Dutch Military History, Dutch Naval History, English Foreign Policy, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review of Marlborough’s America

Stephen Saunders Webb. Marlborough’s America. The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History series. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013. ISBN 378-0-300-17859-3. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Index. Pp. xxii, 579. $45.00 (hardcover).

Originally posted in H-War Military History Network (May 2013)

Stephen Saunders WebbFew studies grab one’s attention like this study of the Duke of Marlborough’s political and military career and his influence on the development of British America in the early eighteenth century. Dr Stephen Saunders Webb, Maxwell Professor of History and Social Science and Professor of History Emeritus at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, has already provided The Governor’s General: The English Army and the Definition of Empire, 1569-1681 (1979), 1676: The End of American Independence (1984), and Lord Churchill’s Coup: The Anglo-American Empire and the Glorious Revolution Reconsidered (1995). These provocative studies downplayed the role of commerce and colonial self-government in the making of the British empire, and instead, emphasized the role of governors generals (royal governors) and the military in shaping imperial policy in the development of the Anglo-American empire. Webb has stressed that the English monarchy since the restoration of Charles II controlled the colonies by the appointment of experienced military officers to administer them with the support of military troops or what he calls “garrison government.” He believes that militarized administrations took control of colonial governments by 1676. He goes further in his examination of the Glorious Revolution and stresses that John Churchill (the future Duke of Marlborough) led a Protestant coup d’état against the Catholic James II, joined with William III of Orange and his invasion of England in 1688, and then worked to ensure that Protestant military officers took control of the administration of the British empire. Most importantly, Webb points out that from 1660 to 1727 ninety percent of the royal governors overseas had served in the British army (p.xi).

In the present work, Webb continues his examination of the role played by military officers in their administration of the Anglo-American empire. He focuses on the role of the Duke of Marlborough, the captain general of the British army (1702-1711, 1714-1717). To do so, the author divides his work into three parts, with the first two sections devoted to Marlborough’s command of the British and allied armies in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Webb uses the last section to explain the roles of Daniel Parke, Robert Hunter, and Alexander Spotswood, all officers under Marlborough, in the administration of the empire.

MarboroughWebb first provides the reader an uncritical view of the Duke of Marlborough as a statesman and commander of the allied forces.  He professes that the captain general exercised command through the agency of his staff officers in Britain, Europe, and America. Webb presents a politico-military depiction of Marlborough’s ten military campaigns from 1702 to 1711 in the Low Countries and Germany against Louis XIV’s France. The study goes over the traditional ground of the duke’s sieges and the battles of Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709). The victory at Blenheim saved England’s Austrian ally, forced Bavaria out of the war, and put France on the defensive. Webb emphasizes that Marlborough’s victory against the French at Ramillies in the Spanish Netherlands led to the union of England and Scotland, and Scotland’s full participation in the Anglo-American empire (p.145). The victory and aftermath of Oudenarde drove the French out of the Spanish Netherlands. Marlborough, in preparation for an invasion of France, then forced the Sun King’s army from the field at the bloody battle of Malplaquet, but the French army was left intact to block the road to Paris.  Afterwards, political changes in Britain, with the captain general’s loss of royal favor and the rise of the Oxford-Bolingbroke ministry, resulted in Marlborough’s dismissal in 1711 and the Tory abandonment of Britain’s allies and a separate peace agreement with France. Marlborough was restored to his former position as captain general of the British army with the accession of George I in 1714.

1Daniel ParkeWebb argues that Marlborough had an imperial vision. He wanted to protect the principles of the Protestant coup of 1688 and the Protestant succession in the British empire. As such, the duke had his trusted military officers appointed to positions of leadership throughout the empire. He sought to drive back the French threat to the Anglo-American empire that stretched from the Leeward Islands to the Hudson Bay. He firmly believed, according to Webb, that America could be won on the battlefields of Europe. In fact, British success prevented Louis XIV from sending the reinforcements need to conquer the American colonies.

1 robert hunterDuring the military campaigns, Marlborough educated, groomed, and promoted his staff officers. The captain general and his military staff exhibited great administrative, organizational, and logistical skills creating an effective combat force that fought in Europe for ten successful campaigns. Combat veterans of the battle of Blenheim included fourteen future American governors general (p.101). Sixteen officers that fought at Malplaquet became royal governors. Thirty-two officers and thirty-five senior sergeants that survived that battle went on to form and train American troops, as well as educate American officers in Marlborough’s principles of command, discipline, and drill in New York and New England (pp.159, 201). The regimental connection was an important part of Anglo-American imperial administration. Webb argues that these governors general “transformed England’s autonomous American colonies into provinces of the British empire” (p.25). He stresses that Marlborough’s disciples commanded imperial forces throughout the Anglo-Bourbon struggle to the victorious end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763.

1alexander spotswoodMarlborough’s combat veterans became governors general and lieutenant governors in Virginia, the Leeward Islands, Jamaica, Newfoundland, and New York (p.99). They protected British America from French aggression and promoted empire. They contributed to the British war efforts against Spain in 1718-20, 1727-29, and 1739-48. Moreover, as Webb writes, “these officers led the transformation of the governments, cultures, and societies of Barbados, Jamaica, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia during the first half of the eighteenth century. Their military, political, fiscal, architectural, and scientific leadership, the fruit of transatlantic military careers open to merit, were essential elements in the conversion of English colonies into British provinces” (p.108). Webb addresses three men in specific.  Daniel Parke, who served at Blenheim, was governor general of the Leeward Islands in Antigua from 1706 to 1710. His attempted reforms ended in a revolt and his assassination. Robert Hunter, a former brigade major and aide to the captain general, acted as governor general of New York (and New Jersey) from 1710 to 1719. He supported the accession of George I and established a Whig oligarchy to defend the Protestant succession. The author credits him with providing political and military stability. Hunter “transformed an archaic, even anarchic, colony into a stable Augustan province, well equipped to fight the French in wartime and to prosper in peacetime” (p.261). He later served as governor general of Jamaica (1728-1734). Alexander Spotswood, Marlborough’s deputy chief of staff for nine military campaigns, served as lieutenant general of Virginia from 1710 to 1722. As such, Spotswood worked to secure the defense of the colony against French and American Indian (Iroquois) threats. He lost his position due to London politics when the Stanhope-Sunderland ministry was replaced by the pacific Robert Walpole who sought improved commercial relations with the Bourbon powers.

Marlborough’s America is an outstanding, albeit provocative, contribution to the historiography of the British empire. The study is well-written and researched. It stresses the Marlborough connection and the role of professional army officers in the making of the Anglo-American empire. Webb views Marlborough as “the Augustus of a new Augustan Age” and his “legates in American commands personified the attributes of their commander.” He continues by stating: “This galaxy of imperial executives, all Marlborough’s veterans (many of them his staff officers), found their American commands underdeveloped colonies but left them maturing provinces, the frontiers of the British empire” (p.556). The study is worth reading for this thesis alone.  However, Marlborough and his military campaigns are better served by several recent studies such as John B. Hattendorf, Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr., and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier (editors), Marlborough: Soldier and Diplomat (2012), Richard Holmes, Marlborough: England’s Fragile Genius (2008), as well as James Falkner, Marlborough’s Sieges (2007) and Great and Glorious Days: Schellenberg, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet (2002).  J.N.P. Watson, Marlborough’s Shadow: The Life of the First Earl Cadogan (2003) is a study of Marlborough’s chief of staff, quartermaster general, and chief of intelligence.  Cadogan succeeded Marlborough as Britain’s master-general of the ordnance in 1722.  One should also consult J.R. Jones’s, Marlborough (1993), David G. Chandler’s Marlborough as Military Commander (1973) and The Art of War in the Age of Marlborough (revised edition, 1995), Ivor Burton’s The Captain-General: The Career of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, from 1702-1711 (1968), and, of course, Winston S. Churchill’s Marlborough: His Life and Times (1933-38) to name a few.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Anglo-French Wars, Book Reviews, British Military History, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Europe in the 18th Century (1713-1789), War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713/14) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review of The Diplomatic Corps under Charles II and James II

Phyllis S. Lachs. The Diplomatic Corps under Charles II and James II. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1965. ISBN-13 9781299343917. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xv, 269.

LachsBritish diplomats and diplomacy in the early modern age are often subjects in historical studies.  Some of the more specialized studies such as David Bayne Horn’s The British Diplomatic Service, 1689-1789 (1961) and Jeremy Black’s British Diplomats and Diplomacy, 1688-1800 (2001) focus on the eighteenth century.  There are few specialized studies for earlier periods.  Those studies include Christian Edmund Henneke’s unpublished doctoral dissertation “The Art of Diplomacy under the Early Stuarts, 1603-1642″ (University of Virginia, 1999) and the work currently under review.

Dr Phyllis S. Lachs, formerly of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, provides us a monograph on the diplomatic corps of Charles II and James II in the late seventeenth century.  In this study Lachs surveys the English diplomatic institution and its growth from 1660 to 1688.  The author includes detailed descriptions of the nature of English embassies, the intricacies of business and ceremonial duties, the ambassadors and their households, the cost of service, as well as diplomatic privileges and immunities.

Lachs refers to the English diplomatic corps during this era as a “youthful, rather irregularly developed organization” (p.4).  Unlike the Italian states and France, England had not yet established a network of permanent or resident embassies.  The monarchy maintained permanent diplomatic representation only in certain European capitals where English political and commercial interests were strong, and in Istanbul and Moscow the diplomatic function was carried out by trading companies.  Lachs notes that the monarchy chose its own diplomats, but few of these men measured up to the seventeenth-century ideal of a nobleman chosen for his skills in statecraft, law, and foreign languages.  The author attributes this deficiency in the quality of diplomats to the fact that the majority of English noblemen did not consider the foreign service as a profitable or prestigious career but as a way station toward political preferment at home.  Appointments as ambassadors, envoys, ministers, or agents were usually contingent on a man’s record of loyalty to the royal cause during the English Civil War, or his active support of the court.

The author professes that a post as the head of a mission might be an arduous one for several reasons.  First, she notes the poor diplomatic communications between Whitehall and ministers abroad, which kept diplomats ill-informed about important ongoing negotiations.  Secondly, the gathering and transmitting of intelligence presented both personal and official problems for diplomats because of the expense of paying for information and courier service, and the fact that diplomatic secrets were easily intercepted in the mail.  Moreover, diplomats were expected to adhere to the elaborate, expensive, and rigidly defined etiquette of seventeenth-century diplomacy although salaries were constantly in arrears.  The author emphasizes that rules regarding public entries, audiences, visits, and the signing of treaties were taken as serious indicators of international prestige.

During this period the English monarchy began to improve its administration of the diplomatic corps.  Lachs describes how England reformed its diplomatic corps by fixing salaries by grade and assignment location to attract quality diplomats, and by increasing the professionalism of the members of the embassy staffs.  The monarchy began choosing official secretaries, who were picked for their diplomatic experience, to head embassy staffs and assist ambassadors with correspondence, gathering intelligence, and keeping embassy files, in addition to providing continuity between successive ambassadors at one location.

Although the work is about fifty years old, The Diplomatic Corps under Charles II and James II is still a valuable contribution to the study of the role and practices of English diplomats in the later Stuart era.  The monograph is based primarily on English diplomatic papers.  It includes a valuable list of English diplomatic personnel during this period.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, British Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment