Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
The Spanish Ulcer
on 8 June 2015
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.