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Contesting The Paradigm Siege

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Chapter Summary

Military engineers in the War of the Spanish Succession were stretched thin across sprawling theaters, their numbers masking their widely-varying quality. Military engineers criticized the many sources of siege inefficiency, and general officers in turn savagely criticized their engineers for incompetence. Inquiring more deeply to resolve these competing claims, one can find that the widespread complaints about the incompetence of the engineers were based on a poor understanding of Vauban’s precepts, while the many specific complaints do not stand up to detailed scrutiny. It is difficult to determine conclusively whether the engineers consistently bungled the attacks, or whether alternatives suggested by non-engineers were a better option, because the sources rarely allow an adequate basis for sound judgment. The paradigm siege was not only imperfectly applied, but its very foundation of efficiency was contested by non-engineers because it was seen to sacrifice time in order to save lives.

Keywords: military engineers; Spanish succession; Vauban’s siege plan



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