The Peninsular War: A New History

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At the end of the 18th century Spain remained one of the world's most powerful empires. Portugal, too, was prosperous at the time. By 1808, everything had changed. Portugal was under occupation and ravaged by famine, disease, economic problems and political instability. Spain had imploded and worse was to come. For the next six years, the peninsula was the helpless victim of others, suffering perhaps over a million deaths while troops from all over Europe tore it to pieces. Charles Esdaile's brilliant new history...

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Overview

At the end of the 18th century Spain remained one of the world's most powerful empires. Portugal, too, was prosperous at the time. By 1808, everything had changed. Portugal was under occupation and ravaged by famine, disease, economic problems and political instability. Spain had imploded and worse was to come. For the next six years, the peninsula was the helpless victim of others, suffering perhaps over a million deaths while troops from all over Europe tore it to pieces. Charles Esdaile's brilliant new history of the conflict makes plain the scope of the tragedy and its far-reaching effects, especially the poisonous legacy that produced the Spanish civil war of 1936-9.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Well written and featuring rational conclusions based on solid research, it is highly recommended..."—Lt. Col. Charles M. Minyard, Library Journal

"His vigorous writing, comprehensive analysis and even-handed judgements make this an indispensable treatment..."—Publishers Weekly Annex

Publishers Weekly
The Peninsular War could fairly be called Napoleon's Vietnam-a bloody, protracted struggle, part conventional and part guerilla, that sapped the strength of the French Empire and left Spain and Portugal in ruins. This new history is a sure guide through the quagmire. The war was on one level a military epic-Napoleon's nemesis Wellington made his name on the Peninsula-and Esdaile (The Wars of Napoleon) provides an enthralling narrative of the major campaigns and battles, along with a detailed assessment of the character and quality of the armies that fought there. But he also probes the political and social dimensions of the conflict, where nothing was simple. The Bonapartist regime in Spain, he finds, combined well-meaning reform with corruption and repression; the Spanish resistance was a blend of liberal and reactionary tendencies; the celebrated Spanish guerilla fighters were often no better than bandits; and the Spanish people were by turns patriotic and apathetic, hostile to both the traditional Spanish elites and the French interlopers who piled on new forms of exploitation. In this chaotic context, the Peninsular War became a byword for brutality: civilians were regularly pillaged and massacred by soldiers on every side acting out of starvation, reprisal for guerilla attacks or sheer drunken rage. Drawing on first-hand accounts of the conflict, Esdaile paints an indelible picture of the cruelties of Napoleonic warfare. His vigorous writing, comprehensive analysis and even-handed judgments make this an indispensable treatment of one of the watersheds of European history. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Drawing on over two decades of lectures, writing, and research, Esdaile (history, Univ. of Liverpool; The Wars of Napoleon) seeks to write a more balanced history of the Peninsular War (1808-13, fought primarily in Spain and Portugal). Anyone interested in history understands that past events reflect the sociopolitical environment of the day, and Esdaile is no exception. More than a simple account of military battles, his book recounts military actions within the context of political, economic, and social realities. In so doing, he challenges the English infatuation with Wellington, the French focus on Napoleon, and the efforts of the Spanish and the Portuguese to wrap the war in their own national perspectives. Esdaile provides clear, concise accounts of major military actions with the resulting aftermath of murder, plunder, and rape by soldiers on all sides of the conflict. In addition, he intertwines the political maneuvering, economic impact, and social change occurring in Europe during the six years of the war. Well written and featuring rational conclusions based on solid research, it is highly recommended for academic libraries with European history graduate programs and large public libraries with European collections.-Lt. Col. Charles M. Minyard (Ret.), U.S. Army, Mt. Pleasant, MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403962317
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/14/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Esdaile is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of The Wars of Napoleon, The French Wars, and others. He lives in England.

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Table of Contents

Lisbon: The Origins of the Peninsular War

• Madrid: The Iberian Insurrections, May-June 1808

• Bailèn: The Summer Campaign of 1808

• Vimeiro: The Liberation of Portugal, August 1808

• Somosierra: Napoleon's Revenge, November-December 1808

• La Coruña: the Campaign of Sir John Moore, December 1808-January 1809

• Oporto: Conquest Frustrated, January-June 1809

• Talavera: The Fall of the Junta Central, July 1809-January 1810

• Seville: The Bonaparte Kingdom of Spain 1803-1813

• Pancorbo: The Emergence of Guerilla War, 1808-1810

• Cádiz: The Making of the Spanish Revolution, 1810-1812

• Torres Vedras: The Defense of Portugal, July 1810-March 1811

• Albuera: Stalemate on the Portuguese Frontier, March-September 1811

• Badajoz: The Anglo-Portuguese Offensive of 1812

• Burgos: The Autumn Campaign of 1812

• Vitoria: The Defeat of King Joseph, January-June 1813

• Pyrenees: The Invasion of France, July-November 1813

• Báscara: Peace and Thereafter

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