For centuries Spain had been the most feared and predatory power in Europe - it had the largest empire and one of the world's great navies to defend it. Nothing could have prepared the Spanish for the devastating implosion of 1805-14. Trafalgar destroyed its navy and the country degenerated into a brutalized shambles with French and British armies marching across it at will. The result was a war which killed over a million Spaniards and ended its empire. This book is the first in a generation to come to terms with this spectacular and terrible conflict, immortalised by Goya and the arena in which Wellington and his redcoats carved out one of the greatest episodes in British military history.
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Charles Esdaile is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Liverpool and the author of THE WARS OF NAPOLEON.From 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 élites 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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