Napoleon Series Archive 2015

Changing British Perceptions of Spain

Changing British Perceptions of Spain in Times of War and Revolution, 1808 to 1838
John Robert Holsman 2014 University of Dundee

Historians have studied Anglo-Spanish relations for several years; however the diversity of British opinions towards the Spanish as revealed in the newspapers have been marginalized throughout history. The literature on the Peninsular War has been extensive, contributing to the overall narrative of British hostility and superiority towards the Spanish typified by the Black Legend. Britainís opinions and support for the independence of South America and the Spanish Revolution of 1820 have been understood as overwhelmingly supportive of these movements. This study challenges these views and maps the change in British observersí perceptions over thirty years, from the Peninsular War to the forgotten Carlist War. To judge these different attitudes and the extent of this change, British opinions will be examined from various angles, from the political ruling class in government, the military and the active British public, who debated issues in the newspapers and wrote memoirs of their experiences. This study shows a wider range of British perceptions on the issues of Spain and South America than most previous historians of the topic have suggested. That there was a persuasive conservative view of Spain held by many people who supported the rights of the Spanish monarchy against the rise of liberal political ideas and Britainís two political parties did not always hold opinions which reflected wider public perceptions. This study gives us a more comprehensive understanding of British opinions of Spain, the control of information by newspapers, demonstrating that opinions were less resolute and that perceptions did change with time.