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 John Churchill

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shivfan
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PostSubject: John Churchill   Fri 27 Jul 2012, 08:31

I watched the first episode of a documentary last night on Channel 4, and I found it disappointing....

It was hosted by Starkey (says it all, really!), and there were a number of gripes I had with it:

1) Starkey relied heavily on Winston's biography of his ancestor, but Winston himself didn't do the research. He relied on others to do the primary source research for him, and they condensed it for him. So, potentially inaccurate information could be passed off as fact, and the referencing was next to nothing, so it's very difficult to authenticate what Winston wrote without trawling through all the primary sources. This book was written in the 1930s, around the same time CLR James wrote 'Black Jacobins', his history of the Haitian Revolution, and James' use of references was so much better. I find it stunning that people like Starkey could call Winston a historian, when Winston relied on others to do his hard work for him....

2) Starkey's constant attempts to compare Hitler to Louis XIV just don't work. There is something inherently evil about Hitler, but the same can't be said for the Sun King, whose court at Versailles was the source of great admiration and envy throughout Europe. Rather, the War of the Spanish Succession is better compared to WWI, where several imperialist powers fought each other for domination of the world, with the rest of the world seeing one power as little different from the other.

3) Starkey seems to accept Winston's portrayal of James II as evilly seducing a poor innocent Arabella Churchill into becoming his mistress, and that John just happened to benefit from that relationship. Rather, in those days, opportunists such as John Churchill tended to actively encourage their sisters to catch the eye of womanising kings in order to further their own ambitions.

4) I know it's just episode one, but I'm surprised that Starkey didn't make more of John's treachery during the Glorious Revolution. John was in the camp of James II, and only switched sides when it became obvious that William and not James was going to win.

5) I just can't accept Starkey's premise that without the Churchills, the country would've been deprived of a military leader, which probably would then have meant that the country would not have won their respective 'world wars'. IMHO, good military leaders are a dime a dozen, and if the Churchills weren't around, someone else would've filled their shoes. To me, John Churchill is much like Rupert Murdoch - he knew who was going to win, backed the right horse, and then claimed kingmaker status when those victories were achieved!

So, on to episode two....
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: John Churchill   Mon 30 Jul 2012, 10:18

I did not see the programme but cannot agree with your assessment of John Churchill as a military commander. If 'good military leaders are a dime a dozen' why have there been so many periods were GB and other nations have been short of them? Churchill was in my opinion the best general that Britain ever produced and his partnership with Eugene was the best military partnership in history.

I remember back on the BBC pages there were some, in particular Dave MBA as I think he used to style himself, who credited all Churchill's victories to Eugene (bit difficult with Ramillies).

Tim
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: John Churchill   Mon 30 Jul 2012, 10:50

I agree, Tim. Churchill's military record was practically flawless. Moreover his victories were frequently ones achieved while under either dubious patronage (James Stuart), or none at all (when England had officially withdrawn from war against Holland). His later career saw him also threading a thin line with regard to patronage. Yet despite this he required no propaganda for everyone at the time to acknowledge his achievements, and not just in England either.

Throw in the fact that he achieved his victories in open battle, in sieges and as naval commander, and you end up with someone whose tactical nous cannot be gainsaid, whatever one might think about the person himself.

If anything, his (and Eugene of Savoy's) reputations owe quite a bit of their establishment initially to the genius of Vauban, but that's a whole different story.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: John Churchill   Fri 03 Aug 2012, 10:38

nordmann, i would have said that Churchill was constantly trying to escape from the constraints pf the Vauban 'style' of warfare. By comparison with later European wars there were very few major battles. Eugene, in my opinion, was a more effective general in the wars against the Turks where those constraints had less effect.
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