New book reveals unique insights into great British hero: John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough

On Thursday, 27 September 2012, a landmark new book exploring the life and times of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, was launched by Karwansaray Publishers. Marlborough: Soldier and Diplomat offers uniquely diverse insights from twelve eminent international historians and experts on a man long regarded as one of Britain's greatest generals. This key political figure from the 18th century is not only examined from the perspective of both his enemies and allies, but also for his significant influence on social, military and art history as a whole. The book was officially presented to John Spencer-Churchill, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, at Blenheim Palace on that date.

For the first time, the book - which tracks Marlborough's life story from impoverished youth to wealthy Duke - reveals that despite all previously exaggerated accounts, Marlborough in fact played a minimal role in siege warfare. Contributor Prof James Ostwald exposes the truth about his actual involvement, based on extensive research of Dutch archives and literature.

The book also discloses Marlborough's insatiable love of money and how witnesses observed him making profit from war in southern Netherlands. In one extract, satirist Jonathan Swift is even said to claim that "Marlborough was no hero, but a friend of selfish, grasping foreigners who enriched themselves from war, the worst of whom were the Dutch".

Until now, Marlborough's life has generally been recorded in terms of British political and military history. However in this book, leading specialists of the period broaden the scope by assessing Marlborough in a wider European context. Chapters study the common soldier in the British army, Anglo-Dutch naval activities, conflicting Austrian, Dutch, French and German perspectives as well as the context of the British popular press and visual arts.

John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough comments: "This groundbreaking new book on my illustrious ancestor presents a fresh and fascinating look at one of England's most famous military commanders. Never before has the Duke's life been explored in such a broad and multi-faceted way, offering unprecedented insights into the man behind Marlborough. I congratulate the authors and publishers and am delighted to welcome and recommend this riveting new publication."

John Churchill is arguably best known for his role in the War of the Spanish Succession. His victories at battles such as Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenaarde and Malplaquet have firmly established him as one of Britain's greatest military heroes. His success also brought his family exceptional wealth, power and influence. Physically handsome, he rose to power not only thanks to his military genius, but also his personal service as a very successful courtier. A powerful combination of his personal, political and family connections, as well as those of his wife, were key to reaching and sustaining his positions of power.

Marlborough: Soldier and Diplomat is edited by Prof. John B. Hattendorf, Dr. Augustus J. Veenendaal and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier. Contributors include Dr. Alan Guy, Prof. Tony Claydon, Dr. David Onnekink, Prof. James Ostwald, Prof. John Stapleton, Dr. Clément Oury, Prof. Bernhard Kroener, Dr. Michael Hochedlinger, Prof. Jaap R. Bruijn and Dr. Richard Johns. The book is lavishly illustrated with contemporary artwork and photographs of important places in Marlborough's world. The book's 12 chapters form a complete but varied view of this important figure in European history.