The Napoleon Series: FAQ


The Napoleon Series Basic Recommended Reading List: The Peninsular War

Compiled by Robert Mosher

The following recommended works on the Peninsular War reflect the suggestions of Forum members and are intended to offer the reader the basic knowledge and understanding of the conflict in the Iberian Peninsula (1807-1814).  It is not meant to be exhaustive nor does the Napoleon Series claim that the collected readings present the definitive picture of this conflict.  The readings are grouped according to specific themes or subjects relating to the combatant nations, their forces, the campaigns, important individuals, and individual engagements.  It goes without saying that the pre-eminent study of the Peninsular War and a rewarding, informative read would be:

Oman, Charles. A History of the Peninsular War. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarenden Press (1902-30) & Greenhill Books (1995-7; in paperback, 2006).

The Peninsular War

Esdaile, Charles J.  The Peninsular War.  New York: MacMillan (2003).

Gates, David.  The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War.  New York:  DaCapo Press (2001).

An informative, concise one-volume history of the conflict that includes examination of the Spanish contribution to the war – but one must excuse the poorly executed maps.

Glover, Michael.  The Peninsular War 1807-1814 A Concise Military History.  Newton Abbot: David & Charles (1974).

431 pages with maps and illustrations.  A concise look at the war in Portugal and Spain from the British perspective. Includes chapters on Napoleon’s Europe, arms and the men, and operations at Cadiz and on the East Coast of Spain. Useful appendices include biographical notes, list of British cavalry and infantry regiments, staff of the army, and orders of battle.

Haythornwaite, Philip J.  The Peninsular War: The Complete Companion to the Iberian Campaigns 1807-14.  London:  Brassey’s (2005).

A good handbook where you can look up individual topics.

Parkinson, Roger.  The Peninsular War.  Ware:  Wordsworth Editions (2000).

Of the many histories of the Peninsular War Parkinson's is short and very readable - one would then graduate on to Esdaile or Glover and ultimately Oman.

Weller, Jac.  Wellington in the Peninsula.  Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, (1999).

Very useful and readable basic work with important insights into the army in general and the Peninsular Army in particular.

Campaigns and Battles

Chambers, Lt-Col. G.L. Bussaco. Sean Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd. (1910) & Worley Publications, England (1994).

One of the best, most thorough, and concise battle-studies of the Peninsular engagements ever published. A model of its kind.

Dempsey, Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War.  Barnsley:  Pen & Sword Books, Ltd (2008).

Glover, Michael. Wellington's Peninsular Victories. B. T. Batsford Ltd. (1963); (British Battle Series) Pan Books (1971) & reissued by (Great Battles) Windrush Press Ltd. (1997).

Covers Busaco-Salamanca-Vitoria-Nivelle. Maps and illustrations. Orders of battle for Wellington's Army. "A quick and easy read about four battles where Wellinton defeated the French Marshals  sent against him. The battles are set against the background of the war in the Peninsula. Wherever possible the author includes the actual words of participants."   

If you cannot access some of the other books this is a good one volume substitute.

Hibbert, Christopher.  Corunna.  London: Pan Books, Ltd (1967).

223 pages, maps, 15 photographs/illustrations.  An early work by this British military historian, this was a volume in the publisher's British Battle Series that also include Trafalgar.  This well-written book on the 1808-1809 campaign in the Iberian Peninsula also looks at the impact that British commander Sir John Moore had upon this campaign but also on the British  army that would return to the Peninsula after his death under a new commander.  The two appendices provide the composition of the British army with losses suffered in this campaign, as well as a table that shows the changes in regimental titles subsequent to 1809.  The author also provides an essay on his sources and a several page long bibliography.

Horward, Donald D.  Napoleon and Iberia, The Twin Sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, 1810.  London: Greenhill Books (1984).

Muir, Rory.  Salamanca 1812.  Princeton: Yale University Press (2001).

322 pages.  A fine marriage of narrative and analysis that also helps the reader grasp what can be and simply cannot be known about a battle.

Commanders

Glover, Michael; Wellington as Military Commander; 2001. Penguin Books (Classic Military History) (2001)

276 pages maps and illustrations. Paperback. Originally published hard cover by B. T. Batsford Ltd. 1968 and paperback by Sphere Books 1973.  Twelve chapters and three appendices. Covers Wellington’s military career from Ensign to Waterloo. Also looks at King George’s Army and covers Wellington’s artillery, cavalry and generals. Good companion to the same author’s Wellington’s Army.

Humble, Richard. Napoleon’s Peninsular Marshals. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co. (1973).

An “exciting reappraisal of [the Marshals] victories and defeats in the Peninsular Campaign, written with an unusually profound grasp of both French history and military strategy, relates the performance of the Marshals to one another and to their previous and subsequent careers."

Parkinson, Roger; Moore of Corunna; 1976, Hart-Davis MacGibbon.

The Armies

Esdaile, Charles J.  The Spanish Army in the Peninsular War.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press (1988).

Glover, Michael.  Wellington’s Army in the Peninsula 1808-1914.  New York: Hippocrene Books (1977).

192 pages with map and illustrations. Hardcover.   A short concise look at the British Army of the Napoleonic Wars with an emphasis on Wellington’s Peninsular Army. Fifteen chapters with a good overview of purchase of commissions, recruiting the army and touches on the Ordnance Corps, Medical Services, Commissariat, Transport & Supply, Headquarters and General Officers.

Muir, Rory; Robert Burnham, Howie Muir, and Ron McGuigan.  Inside Wellington’s Army.  Barnsley:  Pen and Sword Books (2006).

The strength of this book is that its subject is more narrow in scope -- the British army of the Peninsula -- and that the contributors have worked in their specialized fields to produce something new and original on their respective specialties. The contributors have gone boldly where nobody in the right mind would dare to tread and have spread light into some important but, hitherto, dark corners of the Peninsular army.

Oman, Charles. Wellington's Army 1809-1814. Longmans, Green & Co. (1913) & Greenhill Books (1993).

A marvelous one-volume survey of the many facets of the army, its commanders, commands, and organization that Wellington led to war in the Peninsula, a side-product of the author's great seven-volume exploration of the Peninsular War.

Reference and other Works of Possible Interest

Windrow, Martin and Gerry Embleton.  Military Dress of the Peninsular War, 1808-1814.  New York:  Hippocrene Books (1974).

200 pages with numerous black and white illustrations and maps.  The authors present both a history of the Peninsular War but also an extensive collection of full color illustrations that show all of the armies from this war as they would have looked in the field rather than on the parade ground.  The appendices include further information on the regiments and their uniform details. 

The following recommended works on the Peninsular War reflect the suggestions of Forum members and are intended to offer the reader the basic knowledge and understanding of the conflict in the Iberian Peninsula (1807-1814).  It is not meant to be exhaustive nor does the Napoleon Series claim that the collected readings present the definitive picture of this conflict.  The readings are grouped according to specific themes or subjects relating to the combatant nations, their forces, the campaigns, important individuals, and individual engagements.  It goes without saying that the pre-eminent study of the Peninsular War and a rewarding, informative read would be:

Oman, Charles. A History of the Peninsular War. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarenden Press (1902-30) & Greenhill Books (1995-7; in paperback, 2006).

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2008

 




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