Customer Reviews


6 Reviews
5 star:
 (3)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 
Most Helpful First | Newest First

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-researched history of a decisive campaign, 14 April 2001
By 
O. G. M. Morgan (Hants, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It is said that the Napoleonic Wars are the most intensively analysed conflicts of all, save only the two World Wars. Dating from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal and breath-taking (but entirely characteristic) betrayal of his Spanish allies to his abdication, the Peninsular War has probably been more closely studied than most other areas of the conflict. Incredibly, though, this is the first major study in English of the Lines of Torres Vedras. Now that this volume exists, however, anyone else covering the same subject will have to come up with an absolute masterpiece to displace this book. It is certainly aimed at the specialist military historian. Grehan's style is far from forbidding, but the subject matter is necessarily dry on occasion. Newcomers to the Peninsular War should turn to a less specific treatment of the war to start with. This work covers the period of the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras and of the abortive French invasion which the Lines helped to defeat. The Lines were a series of redoubts which were designed to render the already difficult landscape north of Lisbon utterly impregnable. In his first campaign in Portugal, the Duke of Wellington had driven the French out of the country, but two subsequent British-led invasions of Spain had been forced to retreat. Combined with a scorched-earth policy outside the fortified area, the Lines were intended to ensure that any French attempt to re-invade Portugal would be disastrous. When the expected French invasion came, commanded by Marshal Massena, it met with disaster earlier than Wellington had dared to hope, when his British and Portuguese troops inflicted a spectacular defeat on the French at Busaco, near Coimbra. Massena continued his advance, nevertheless, and Wellington fell back to his Lines. Grehan criticizes Wellington on two grounds: firstly, his failure to attack Massena when the latter came up against the Lines and self-evidently did not know how to react; secondly, Wellington's decision to retreat from Busaco, despite having defeated Massena in a full-scale battle. I believe Grehan's book is weakest on the second point and that is the only reason I award his book four, rather than five, stars. He argues that Wellington was desperate to justify the enormous expenditure on the Lines and so, on this Machiavellian logic, allowed Massena to march deeper into Portugal. I believe that Wellington would not consider Massena truly defeated until Massena himself behaved as though he were, which he did when he finally led the shattered remnant of his army out of Portugal after a winter spent in front of the Lines. After Busaco, the French Marshal commanded a powerful force, but, after his encounter with the Lines, that army was fatally weakened. The French never threatened Lisbon again, while Massena himself was recalled from the Peninsula altogether. Grehan is careful to give due credit to the Portuguese role in the proceedings. Portuguese labour, ruthlessly pressed into service, built the Lines, while Portuguese politicians alternately supported Wellington, or sniped at him. Portuguese soldiers performed valiantly at Busaco, as they did at numerous subsequent battles. Tens of thousands of Portuguese civilians tragically fell victim to starvation and disease, after fleeing from the advancing French and taking refuge in the cramped quarters behind the Lines. As with some other books from this source, rather more careful editing would not go amiss. In any military history, maps are essential. Those provided here are not exactly lavish, but they are probably sufficient. All in all, this is a very well researched and presented book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and excellent detail, 10 Oct 2004
This is the type of book that is all too rare about the Peninsular War - detailed, well-reserached and well-written. Aside from being by far the best book about the Lines, and their remarkable construction and success, this book's secret is that it also happens to cantain the best accounts available of both the sige and destruction of Almeida and the battle of Busaco. So if you are looking for a very easy to read yet authoritative analysis of the campaign that was arguably the turning point of the war, this is it. I only wish there were treatments of similar qualtity on other aspects - with the exception of a noble few like Rory Muir's "Salamanca", such books are few and far between
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great insight into a military engineering marvel, 23 Nov 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lines of Torres Vedras: The Cornerstone of Wellington's Strategy in the Peninsular War 1809-1812 (Paperback)
Having been to Torres Vedras and gazed over the wonderful Portugeuse countryside from the dominating moorish castle, the story of the Lines forever intrigued me. I've been searching for a book dedicated to the subject and was excited by Grehan's work. It is accessible, readable and insightful with one gaining a layman's understanding of how the Lines came into existence. Clever fellows those Brits on the spot!!

The overall strategy of barring the French occupation of Lisbon is a brave, honourable yet devastating tale, in which Portugal suffered terribly. The sacrifice, though harsh to the ordinary civilian, saved the country for a fate unimaginably worse. The story is told from many angles, from Wellington down the lowliest peasent in a fast paced and compassionate style. Whilst the book's focus is on the construction of the lines, the backstory and current events are interwoven in an entertaining style. Grehan does ample justice to this period in Portugal's history and it stands as a proud monument to the ordinary Portugeuse who toiled for an object only vaguely discernable. The narrative on visiting the area is also very useful. A recommended read!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent explanation of Wellington's defensive strategy, 13 Aug 2008
By 
Nicholas J. R. Dougan "Nick Dougan" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lines of Torres Vedras: The Cornerstone of Wellington's Strategy in the Peninsular War 1809-1812 (Paperback)
I dug out this book, purchased a few years ago when I last visited Portugal, for another visit this summer.

This book is an excellent history of the design and building of the Lines, the campaign waged in front of them in 1810-11, including the battle of Busaco and the skirmish at Sobral in October 1810, the one time that the French Army tested the defences, albeit tentatively, and the political and strategic ramifications. In his conclusion Grehan laments the fact that military men failed to appreciate that the Lines demonstrated that defence could be the basis of achieving a strategic victory, and that had the commanders of the first world war realised this - he quotes Marshal Foch, who stated "the offensive form must always be adopted" - then the slaughter of the Great War might have been much less.

Grehan's appendices list the order of battle of the allied forces, list of all 152 works of the lines, including number and calibre of cannon, size of garrison and location, as well as providing a short visitors' guide for those proposing to visit the lines. While I appreciate that it is not possible to include a "proper" map in a paperback book, my one complaint is that had he included a slightly bigger one (perhaps just a two page spread) it would have been possible to number the forts, so as to correspond with the list, which would have made it much easier to establish which one was which.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read, 17 Feb 2009
By 
This review is from: Lines of Torres Vedras: The Cornerstone of Wellington's Strategy in the Peninsular War 1809-1812 (Paperback)
An excellent book on a part of the peninsular war that I have been long looking for more detail on. Very accessible, well written and well researched, it not only allowed me to understand Wellington's strategy properly for the first time but was a really entertaining read which I keep returning to.
The section on visiting the lines today has made me eager to get out there and see for myself. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, 1 Oct 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a good book on an under-researched subject, though admittedly for the pundits of the era and not the casual reader. It sets the scene well in the widest context and delves into detail at just the right points. The flow of the text is good, the pace a little dry in places and the sources many. My main criticisms would be that there are not enough maps (e.g. a map of the routes the French followed entering and leaving Portugal), the chapter titles do not indicate the content of each chapter, and there are too many important and analytical conclusions made (usually with good reason but) without sources given.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Lines of Torres Vedras: The Cornerstone of Wellington's Strategy in the Peninsular War 1809-1812
Used & New from: £15.36
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews