​Marlborough specialist talks history, tours and the thrill of being "there"

James Falkner
James Falkner is a historian, writer and former British Army infantry officer. He specialises in seventeenth and eighteenth-century warfare, with a focus on the War of the Spanish Succession and the Duke of Marlborough.

We chatted about his latest work, his fascination with John Churchill and how to make the most of a history holiday.

Being a historian and author seems very exciting – is it?
I would not use the term exciting, absorbing might be better. So much of history appears to be 'known' and almost set in stone. Churchill's fine biography of Marlborough is an example, but he was very partisan. It is important to think these things through, where possible, from both sides of the action, as few commanders go into battle willingly, when expecting to lose.

You lead our tour of Marlborough’s Victories in Belgium. What is your favourite highlight from this tour?
Ramillies must rank high as favourite. It is the supreme example of Marlborough's tactical genius - there is no parallel.

To stand in the field and picture in the mind's eye what happened on that day – when Marlborough faced a French army in full pomp and with a strong defensive line - is thrilling.

What can someone expect when they take a tour led by you?
Participants will get a detailed account and considered analysis of the major actions, with emphasis on the tactics used.

I have carefully considered the reasons for success and failure in each of Marlborough’s battles over the last 30 years, which gives me the ability to look with fresh eyes at some of the long-held 'truths'.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Nothing beats being on the spot and talking over the events with a really interested group.

Do you have any tips that will help guests make the most of their guided holiday?
Read at least one good account of the campaign, to get a sense of what went on, and why. This helps with the 'Oh, so this is where it happened' - always a good moment.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am rather tied up with my biography of Prince Eugene, who was commander of the Imperial Army and regularly campaigned alongside Marlborough. It is so exciting to discover near contemporary plans and accounts of the action, which are allowing me to reconsider existing accounts.

Find out more: Marlborough’s Victories in Belgium is a four-night history holiday hosted by James. Visiting the sites of his campaigns in Flanders (modern day Belgium), the tour examines how Marlborough's victories helped cement Britain's status as a world power, but at a bloody cost.

More articles about Marlborough in Flanders on Promenades Travel:
>> VIDEO: Marlborough, the Great Commander
>> Malplaquet: the bloodiest battle of the 18th century
>> The Battle of Blenheim: France's invincible army defeated
>> Oudenaarde: a triumph for Britain's bold commander
>> Marlborough in Ireland: the making of England's great military leader
>> A sense of place: James Falkner
>> ​How Marlborough used rivers to support his victories in Belgium
>> A reading list for Marlborough's Victories in Belgium