Research Subjects: Miscellaneous


Spain

Portugal

Bibliography


Estimated Population of Spain and Portugal in 1808

By Robert Burnham

One of the more difficult tasks to historians of the Peninsula War is determining the population of Spain and Portugal. Even Charles Oman in his magnificent History of the Peninsular War makes few estimates on the size of cities or provinces. The main reason behind this is the lack of a contemporary census of either country. (Spain had not conducted a census since the 1780s and I can find no record of Portugal having done one in the previous 100 years.) This paper is attempts to redress problem, however it is specifically limited to the population of the two countries before the war that would soon engulf them. I deliberately chose the year 1808 because the Peninsula War was so cataclysmic that within a few years after the beginning of it, major cities would be destroyed and hundreds of villages would cease to exist. To attempt to estimate the population during any particular year of the war would therefore be extremely difficult.

The following estimates are based on a variety of sources, mostly memoirs and diaries of French and British officers who fought throughout the Peninsula. Surprisingly many of the sources confirm each other in their estimates of various towns and cities that they visited and fought over during the seven years of the war. A particularly valuable source was Alexander Dickson, a British artillery officer who made extensive entries in his diaries about the places he passed through during the six years he served in the Peninsula. These notes often listed either the number of dwellings in a particular place or an estimate of its population or how many troops could be billeted in the town. Unfortunately, Dickson did not state how he derived his estimates for the figures, however he did give a clue in his diary when he states that the official Portuguese method of estimating the size of a household is that each house has an average of five residents. Therefore a village of 200 houses would have an estimated population of about 1,000 people.

S.G.P. Ward in his book Wellington's Headquarters: A Study of the Administrative Problems in the Peninsula 1809 - 1814 provided additional information that allowed me to make my own estimates. He states that for billeting purposes, the British used a figure of 6-8 soldiers for each house, although at times the number was often twice this. If this is correct, then we can extrapolate from Dickson the population of some of the towns and villages by dividing the figure he gives for the number of troops that can be billeted in a village by eight to get the estimated number of houses and then multiply this figure by the five - the average size of a Portuguese household. For example, Dickson states that there are about 8,000 troops billeted in Castello Branco in 1809. Therefore, we can deduce that the population of Castello Branco was about 5000 people.

Using these sources and making a few calculations, the following is an estimation of the population of a variety of cities and villages in Spain and Portugal. The reader should be cautioned that these figures can not be verified by any published census.

Spain

Estimated Population of Spain: 10 million

Population Density: 7 people per square mile

 

Population of Select Spanish Provinces

Aragon

650,000

Asturias

370,000

Estremadura

420,000

Navarre

250,000

New Castille

1,200,000

Valencia

770,000

 Population of Key Spanish Cities (circa 1808)

Madrid

175,000

Alcantara

5,000

Arevalo

4,000

Badajoz

16,000

Barcelona

180,000

Burgos

9,000

Cadiz

75,000 (Estimate)

Ciudad Rodrigo

3,000

Cordoba

30,000

Corella

3,900

Ecija

10,000

Gerona

14,000

Granada

60,000

Lerdia

18,000

Lograno

7,700

Martaro

20,000

Murcia

20,000

Olivenca

5,000

Pamplona

3,000

Saragossa

40,000

Seville

100,000

Tafalla

3,000

Toledo

33,000

Totosa

10,000

Tudela

7,500

Valencia

100,000

Valladolid

20,000

Portugal

Estimated Population of Portugal: 1,838,000

Population Density: 67 People per Square Mile

 

Population of Key Portuguese Cities (circa 1808)

Abrantes

2,500

Guarda

2,300

Lisbon

200,000

Alcobaca

1,200

Almeida

2,000

Arronches

1,200

Azambaja

5,000

Caldas

3,000

Cartaxo

5,000

Castello Branco

5,000

Certaa

1,500

Coimbra

20,000

Elvas

12,000

Figueiro dos Vinhos

2,000

Leiria

5,000

Marvao

1,000

Obidos

3,000

Oporto

30,000

Portalegre

7,000

Sabugal

1,500

Setuval

12,000

Tavora

5,000

Torres Vedras

3,000

Villa Vicoza

2,500

Viseu

3,000

Bibliography

Alexander, Don. Rod of Iron: French Counterinsurgency Policy in Arazgon during the Peninsular War Wilmington: Scholarly Resources; 1985.

Dickson, Alexander. The Dickson Manuscripts: Being Diaries, Letters, Maps, Account Books with Various Other Papers 5 Vols; Cambridge: Ken Trotman 1987.

Fletcher, Ian. In Hell Before Daylight Staplehurs: Spellmount; 1994.

Jones, John. Journal of the Sieges Carried on by the Army Under the Duke of Wellington, in Spain, between the Years 1811 & 14 with an Account of the Lines of Torres Vedras 3 vols. London: John Weale; 1856.

Mayne, William. A Narrative of Campaigns of the Loyal Lusitanian Legion during the Years 1809, 1810 & 1811 Cambridge: Ken Trotman; 1986.

Oman, Charles. A History of the Peninsula War 7 Vols. Oxford : Clarendon Press; 1980.

Pelet, Jean Jacques. The French Campaign in Portugal: 1810 &endash; 1811Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1973.

Rudorff, Raymond. War to the Death: The Sieges of Saragosa, 1808 &endash; 1809 New York: MacMillan; 1974.

Suchet, Louis-Garbriel. Suchet's Memoirs of the War in Spain 2 Vols. Tyneside: Worley; 1986.

Tone, John. The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press; 1994.

Ward, S.G.P. Wellington's Headquarters: A Study of the Administrative Problems in the Peninsula 1809 &endash; 1814 Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1957.

 

Miscellaneous Index ]



Search the Series

© Copyright 1995-2012, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.

Top | Home ]