The Peninsular War A New History PDF/EPUB ✓

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The Peninsular War A New History A review by Bernard Cornwell states that he suspects this will become the standard work on the Peninsular War Though i am not a military historian I found that this volume was very readable and appreciated all of the uotations Esdaile included from contemporary accounts memoirs dispatches and the like These enlivened the narrative and made visualizing the events much easier The 22 maps of Spain and various campaigns made it easy to follow the battle narratives though had the map of Spain been a relief map of detail it would have increased I think my understanding of the challenges facing all armies and generals I did find at least one uoted source that was not listed in the bibliography however I will say it again I really think this website needs half star intervals I really couldn't give this book 3 stars but it's also hard to give 4 at some points It has great analysis is a particularly good military narrative for being political than military and is written very well It's justyou ever have a book you're reading underwhelm you but you don't know why? That's this book for me Esdaile does make great points about French abilities militarily to win this war at multiple points even as late as early 1812 but fails to give analysis on the WHY in terms of Napoleon's inactivity in 1811 13 The only time from '05 to '15 that he is not at war You probably could draw your own conclusions in all fairness to the author seeing as how the Spanish factions couldn't stand Napoelon as soon as '08 but a little insight from the author would be nice Again super hate that I didn't like this book 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 empireThis 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 This was long Not as long as the Peninsular War itself which lasted from 1808 to 1814 Over the years I’ve seen references to this war and wanted to better understand what happened This book offers a thorough narrative politicalmilitary history of the conflict with the emphasis on Spain’s domestic political dynamics Two factors make the book a challenging read First most of the time the author doesn’t use topic sentences The narrative has a structure and flow and the author has interesting things to say but if your practice when reading nonfiction is as mine to note or highlight the topic sentences as a way to retain the thread of the argument that doesn’t work here As a result it takes effort to build and retain a clear picture of the seuence of events and the author’s interpretive arguments Second one should ideally come to this account with a really clear sense of the geography of the Iberian peninsula including locations of most major rivers and cities That’s because the heart of the story is that following invasion by France and establishment of Napoleon’s brother Joseph as king Spain effectively fell apart into multiple pieces with local politics unfolding in each region As a result Esdaile jumps from one region of the Peninsula to another and sometimes forwards or backwards in time to trace these various local historiesUltimately Esdaile argues that the Peninsular War while important for the subseuent history of both Spain and Portugal was not that critical in bringing down Napoleon Rather Napoleon’s deep seated inability to acknowledge the limits of his own power drove both France’s repeated strategic overreaches in Spain and the catastrophic decision to invade Russia in 1812 Esdaile doesn’t wallow in the atrocities committed by French British Portuguese and Spanish troops he has another book on the social history of the war that appears to do that but he does make it clear that the conflict was hell for much of the Iberian population The freuent desertions of Spanish recruits makes perfect sense to me; I wouldn't have felt it was meaningful to die for any of the factions in this war and yet so many residents had no way to avoid being swept up into the conflict on one side or another This is an erudite scholarly examination of the Peninsular War Charles Esdaile has unravelled the twisted strands of political social economic and military history that pervade this chaotic periodThough sometimes heavy going the information is presented in a logical rational manner A most informative read Terrible book so bias against the English you would think the Spanish actually had an army in the field that did something in stead of running away at Talavera not even mentioned can not say this book made me so angry The best one volume history of the Peninsular Esdaile often surprises by coming up with something really worthwhile when you'd think it had all been done and said A mix which neither seemed to go into the detail of the battles or the economic conseuences Seemed to end with uestions A first rate history The seven volume history by Sir Charles Oman graces my bookshelves and I have read it through twice with deep enjoyment I therefore wasn’t sure if this much concise volume would teach me anything new To my delight it did Oman is of course rather dated now and Esdaile points out that the weakness of Oman is his lack of attention to the Spanish political background This is by no means a dry subject the complex interplay of ideas in nineteenth century Spain – from reactionary ultra conservatism to extreme liberalism and all shades in between – had conseuences that could easily get you killed The suabbles between the junta and the generals and between the Spanish generals themselves make far sense when one sees them as a battleground between competing ideologies and not just competing egos The Spanish adherents of Joseph Bonaparte “el rey intruso” were not all corrupt chancers and traitors some genuinely saw themselves as pledging allegiance to a new kind of liberal Spain I find this kind of thing absorbing and Esdaile is brilliant at showing not just the complex nuances of Spanish politics but how these had a direct influence on battlefield events This gives the whole conflict a clarity which is lacking in Oman where sometimes the mass of battlefield accounts are difficult to follow because they lack a political contextOf course the battles are not forgotten here and there are some good maps to complement the text The disgraceful behaviour of many British soldiers off the battlefield made me wince But all sides in this conflict get their due and Esdaile shows that those on all sides could perform heroically at some times and with cowardice or criminality at others Esdaile also gives every general a pungent pen portrait – even if it is only to refer to him as a “nonentity” which adds a further level of flavour to one’s understanding Really good stuff Napoleon Bonaparte's decision in 1808 to occupy Spain typically is ranked second only to his invasion to Russia in terms of the disastrous mistakes made by the French emperor What began as a swift military operation soon degenerated into an ulcer that tied down thousands of troops slowly bleeding France's strength For this reason the Peninsular War has never wanted for attention especially among British historians who have long chronicled the campaigns waged by Arthur Wellesley in his ascent to glory as the Duke of WellingtonYet for all of the attention the war has received Charles Esdaile is able to offer something different from most English language accounts of the war which is a Spanish centric focus This allows him to highlight a number of important points lacking from previous accounts not the least of which is the importance of the war to the history of Spain itself This self evident point is detailed superbly in his book which shows how the French occupation played into Spanish politics Dominated by the royal favorite Manuel Godoy Spain agreed in 1807 to support France invasion of Portugal Godoy's unpopularity with both the Spanish public and the heir the future Ferdinand VII did little to warm the Spanish political nation to their involvement The political crisis created by the Mutiny of Aranjuez gave Napoleon the opportunity to intervene by exploiting the reuest to arbitrate the succession crisis between Ferdinand and his father Charles IV by installing his own brother Joseph as kingEsdaile is sympathetic to el rey intruso presenting Joseph as a man with good intentions thrust by his younger brother onto a throne he did not desire These intentions were often thwarted by Spain's limited resources which Napoleon expected would finance the expensive occupation and by the war Esdaile does not minimize the brutality of the conflict detailing the outrages and atrocities committed on all sides He is particularly judgmental about the sometimes romanticized guerrilleros viewing them as having a negligible military impact and describing how they were often viewed as the greater evil by many Spaniards Esdaile is no less critical of the activities of the Spanish junta and their armies though he gives them due credit for their performance in several battlesNonetheless Esdaile argues that for all of the efforts of the junta and the Anglo Portuguese army to resist the French occupation the French were enjoying considerable success in establishing control over Spain prior to 1812 In this respect the key event in Spain's liberation was not any one battle or domestic political development but Napoleon's decision to invade Russia which resulted in the withdrawal of French units necessary for maintaining control Facing a weakened opponent the Spanish Anglo Portuguese forces were able to unravel French control driving French forces out of most of Spain by 1814 and setting Spain down a path of political turmoil that would last for over a centuryEsdaile's arguments may challenge the assumptions of some of his readers about the war but his arguments are difficult to deny Based on an impressive range of Spanish English and French sources they offer a valuable multi dimensional account of a complicated and often vicious conflict While his prose is often blunt his combined analysis of military operations and Spanish politics make his book necessary reading for anyone interested in the Peninsular War or the history of modern Spain Though it will hardly be the final word on the subject it will long be one that people will need to consult to understand this event and its lasting repercussions for all involved