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on 20 May 2017
This book should be a superb history of the the struggle in the Iberian peninsula. Gates writes well constructing a readable account of the campaign. However the maps are appalling. They appear to have been drawn free hand by someone who has indulged in several glasses of wine. Badly drawn, confusing, and in the case of the battle of Salamanca, the same map is replicated for two very different phases of the day. Given modern printing methods there is no excuse for such poor quality mapping. After all, this is military history, where an appreciation of the ground and the placement of forces is essential.
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Napoleon sent French Imperial forces into Spain in 1808, aiming originally for Portugal, which was flouting his authority, allying itself with the enemy, Britain, and ruining Napoleon’s push for a successful Continental Blockade which was aimed at bringing Britain to its knees. On the way, and for lots of various internal and external reasons, he ended up removing the Spanish Bourbons from their throne and decided to take over Spain as well. That was the beginning of a very long and ulcerous war. Between 1808 and 1813 the Imperial forces tried to take Spain and Portugal repeatedly, and were rebuffed. Guerrilla warfare, the armies of Britain led for much of the campaign by Wellington, and Napoleon’s decisions to fight on more than one front (in Austria and Russia) meant that the war in Spain just could not be won by the French on any kind of permanent footing. By 1814, Wellington had pushed the French out of Spain and back over the Pyrenees, and the Allies were pinning Napoleon’s forces down from the east theatre as well. Napoleon’s reign as Emperor was coming to an end. The Peninsular War cost France and her territories some 300,000 men and 3000 million francs in gold.

This book by David Gates is the first modern in-depth narrative of the Peninsular War, since the work produced by Sir Charles Oman in the 1930s. Gates has written on the Napoleonic Wars in general, in his book The Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815. This book concentrates just on the Peninsular War and its context and events around it, and in over 500 pages drills down to great detail and analysis.

Part One covers an introduction and sets up the understanding around the War and its combatants. Chapter I covers the origins of the War. In Chapter II there is very useful information on the armies involved and their makeup, battlefield tactics and weaponry, sea-power, logistical difficulties, the Spanish nation in arms, and command and control. Armed now with all this fore-knowledge, the reader can feel confident in stepping into the War itself.

Parts Two through to Six cover, in a further 26 chapters, the war itself. The strategies, the action, the narrative, the motivations, the casualties, the battles, the final outcome.

On page 470 there is a Chronology of events.
Appendix 1 is a select list and biographical details of important individuals who appear in the text.
Appendix 2 is a select list of Peninsular War Armies and their strengths through the chronology of the War and its various engagements.

This is an invaluable book for anyone seeking to understand the Peninsular War, its causes and consequences, and the people who were involved in it, in great and informative detail, and to a high scholarly degree. It is a highly readable and harrowing account of six years of brutal and unforgiving warfare, the to-ing and fro-ing of international armies and forces of men who fought for their lives, most of them far from home. When it was all over, nobody had really won.
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on 25 October 2011
The main difference between this book and most others is that it deals with the war as a whole and not just as seen through the lens of Wellington. Other Generals in other theatres are also given space and their campaigns and battles are examined and their contributions assessed and acknowledged. All this is done with due rigour but without becoming too dry and academic. The level of detail does not interfere with the readability for the ordinary interested reader. Highly recommended.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Napoleon sent French Imperial forces into Spain in 1808, aiming originally for Portugal, which was flouting his authority, allying itself with the enemy, Britain, and ruining Napoleon’s push for a successful Continental Blockade which was aimed at bringing Britain to its knees. On the way, and for lots of various internal and external reasons, he ended up removing the Spanish Bourbons from their throne and decided to take over Spain as well. That was the beginning of a very long and ulcerous war. Between 1808 and 1813 the Imperial forces tried to take Spain and Portugal repeatedly, and were rebuffed. Guerrilla warfare, the armies of Britain led for much of the campaign by Wellington, and Napoleon’s decisions to fight on more than one front (in Austria and Russia) meant that the war in Spain just could not be won by the French on any kind of permanent footing. By 1814, Wellington had pushed the French out of Spain and back over the Pyrenees, and the Allies were pinning Napoleon’s forces down from the east theatre as well. Napoleon’s reign as Emperor was coming to an end. The Peninsular War cost France and her territories some 300,000 men and 3000 million francs in gold.

This book by David Gates is the first modern in-depth narrative of the Peninsular War, since the work produced by Sir Charles Oman in the 1930s. Gates has written on the Napoleonic Wars in general, in his book The Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815. This book concentrates just on the Peninsular War and its context and events around it, and in over 500 pages drills down to great detail and analysis.

Part One covers an introduction and sets up the understanding around the War and its combatants. Chapter I covers the origins of the War. In Chapter II there is very useful information on the armies involved and their makeup, battlefield tactics and weaponry, sea-power, logistical difficulties, the Spanish nation in arms, and command and control. Armed now with all this fore-knowledge, the reader can feel confident in stepping into the War itself.

Parts Two through to Six cover, in a further 26 chapters, the war itself. The strategies, the action, the narrative, the motivations, the casualties, the battles, the final outcome.

On page 470 there is a Chronology of events.
Appendix 1 is a select list and biographical details of important individuals who appear in the text.
Appendix 2 is a select list of Peninsular War Armies and their strengths through the chronology of the War and its various engagements.

This is an invaluable book for anyone seeking to understand the Peninsular War, its causes and consequences, and the people who were involved in it, in great and informative detail, and to a high scholarly degree. It is a highly readable and harrowing account of six years of brutal and unforgiving warfare, the to-ing and fro-ing of international armies and forces of men who fought for their lives, most of them far from home. When it was all over, nobody had really won.
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on 21 September 2003
an excellent coverage of a complex subject in a limited space this book gave me the interest to read more widely on the subject unlike many books on the subject david gates does not pharaphrase oman but forms his own view.
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on 27 January 2016
Excellent to have such a comprehensive account of the Peninsula War, particularly with so much detail of the Spanish army's encounters with the French invaders. This is especially valuable to me as I am moving to Spain in the coming year and, as a battlefield guide, will be exchanging The Western Front and the Normandy beaches for Napoleon, Ney, Wellington et al in the Iberian setting.

I did detect a whiff of bias towards the accomplishments of the Spanish forces, which in other accounts are described as minimal verging on laughably incompetent, and a corresponding tendency to damn Wellington's efforts with faint praise.

Nevertheless, for an account of the Iberian sector of Napoleon's attempt at European hegemony, an essential addition to one's library.
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on 21 July 2002
Good attempt to chart the whole Peninsular War (not just the Anglo-Portuguese campaigns). Maps are a weak point: not particulary clear, especially for the battles. At least one map, showing an evolving battle situation, is a reprint of one a few pages earlier. I would have preferred the battles to have been described in more detail. Otherwise, a good account.
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on 14 January 2013
Brilliant book, living over here it has made exploring the actual battle fields much easier.Nice to read an authority on the Spanish effort as well as just Wellingtons. Very easy to read.
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on 17 October 2014
A wonderful account from David Gates on the conflict that the Spanish call The War of Independance.
During his exile on St Helena, Napoleon said, ``the Spanish war has been a real ulcer, the first cause of the misfortunes of France''. This book covers it all - well-written and very informative.

David Cook, author of Liberty or Death: 1 (The Soldier Chronicles),Heart of Oak: The Soldier Chronicles: 2 and Blood on the Snow (The Soldier Chronicles Book 3)
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on 5 February 2004
This book is the first one I've read on the Peninsular War that don't tell the whole history purely from the British point of View. You can't stop to be astonished before the resiliance and doggedness of the multifarious spanish armies, that defeat after defeat raises again and again to fight another battles, never asking for peace terms.It's impossible not to be amazed before these lot of patriots, conscripts and mauled veterans, badly trained, armed and feed that lost their lifes in uncountables battlefields to re-form again and again to, finally, expell the french from their fatherland. Wellington and the british troops are essential for the final Victory, of course, but If you only read Sir Charles Oman's work and other "lesser" works, you can think that they fight alone against Napoleon...A book imprescidible to have a balanced view of the Peninsular War, very detailed battles ( a lot of they unknow for the casual reader)with, sadly, very poor maps. Recommended if you wants to have a balanced (and thorough) view of the Peninsular war.
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