Ciro Paoletti, Italy, Piedmont, and the War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1712 (Helion, 2021)
The War of the Spanish Succession is known by most of us for the brilliant campaigns of the future Duke of Marlborough. The war was much broader than that; however, little has been written about it in English. That is particularly true for the war in Italy. Until now. Thanks to Helion’s willingness to publish in areas no one else has, Ciro Paoletti takes us into a theatre that proved vitally important to the French and Habsburg Empire.
The book is split into two parts. Part I is the war with the French. Paoletti sets up the convoluted background to the war before describing how wars were fought. The latter includes siege warfare, though Paoletti argues they were not the principal form of warfare in avoidance of battle as is commonly thought – there does seem to be a lot of them though in this theatre. He takes a closer look at the Duke of Savoy’s army and Piedmontese logistics, a vital factor in waging this war. Paoletti moves into the strategy phase and narrative of operations, including the battles of Carpi and Chiari. What follows is a blow by blow account of the war placed in the context of wider European politics. Part II is the War against the French and continues in the same vein as Part I: descriptions of the main events are attached to the broader themes. Logistics again played a major role in these campaigns, especially financing, along with more sieges. That included the siege of Turin in 1706 that led to a climactic battle with Eugene of Savoy emerging victorious in the most exciting passage of the book. The conquest of Lombardy followed Turin and the invasion of France with the ‘failed’ attack on Toulon. The action switches to Naples then the Alps before Paoletti exits via the Treaty of Utrecht. He adds a comprehensive bibliography if your Italian is up to scratch.
Helion strikes again! This is another excellent book on a niche subject, but one that enhances our understanding of the wider picture – Helion are good at that. Paoletti acknowledges that English is not his primary language. That shows in the style and structure, but it also adds a bit of loose enthusiasm to the text, which is quite endearing at times. Exceptional colour artwork of soldiers and flags by Bruno Mugnai and wonderful contemporary illustrations throughout add flavour to the text. The War of the Spanish Succession is undergoing something of a renaissance in interest at the moment and Paoletti’s contribution is therefore very welcome. Military history readers of 18th Century warfare will certainly enjoy this.