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The Peninsular Wars

By Cheryl Bolen

Wellington’s Peninsular Victories
Michael Glover
The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire
Copyright, 1963; this edition, 1998
166 pages

Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars
Stephen Pope
Facts on File, Inc., London
572 pages

The Peninsular War: A New History
Charles Esdaile
Palgrave, 2003
587 pages

All of these books would be valuable to those authors whose characters are impacted by the peninsular wars.  The first, a paperback I purchased in the U.K., deals primarily with Wellington’s four great military victories on the peninsula: the Battles of Busaco, Salamanca, Vitoria and Nivelle.  The second book, a thick hardback I purchased a couple of years ago from Hamilton Books, would be a valuable addition to the bookshelf of any Regency writer.  The third, also a thick hardback purchased from Hamilton, is the most comprehensive work on the peninsular wars.

Wellington’s Peninsular Victories is divided into four parts: Wellington and Massena; Wellington and Marmont; Wellington and King Joseph; and Wellington and Soult. Its prologue gives information about Wellington, or Sir Arthur Wellesley as he was originally called.  Also included are maps of battles, illustrations (mainly of generals, both English and Iberian), and a nifty appendix that tells which divisions and officers participated in each battle.

The Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars contains 1,000 entries, 30 maps, 200,000 words and a 12-page timetable which runs from 1792 until Waterloo in 1815.  The Introduction of nearly 50 pages explains background material, including eighteenth century warfare.

Much more broad in scope than the first book, the dictionary is not confined merely to the peninsula but encompasses all European military encounters of the era, naval operations (including Trafalgar), the Treaty of Amiens, and offers biographical sketches on military and naval officers of all armies of the Napoleonic era as well as of government officials throughout Europe.

Space limitations here limit enumeration of the 1,000 entries.  Suffice it to say that if you are wondering about a European occurrence or personality from 1792 until 1815, it likely bears mention in this comprehensive book.

The Peninsular War, written by a history lecturer at the University of Liverpool, thoroughly covers “the great struggle that convulsed the Iberian Peninsula between 1808 and 1814.”  An imminent authority on the peninsular wars, Esdaile has enriched his illuminating text with 22 excellent maps and 28 illustrations.  It’s a good reference for those especially interested in the military.

 This article was first published in The Quizzing Glass in February 2008.

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