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The Napoleon Series > Research > Miscellaneous Topics

An Analysis of Shared Values: Spain 1808

By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy

The Peninsular war was a hard tested conflict fought in the years 180814; it was a savagely confronted military attriction fought by France against Great Britain, Portugal, Spanish regular troops, and Spanish guerrilla bands in the Iberian Peninsula. Readers can only be enriched having at hands and reading any primary sources or bibliographical references related to the afore cited topic.

The figure of Napoleon, in this cognitive reflection, would be sensibly overshadowed and de-mythicized from any rhetoric adulteration. However, this precious cultural possibility represents due occasion to express a few lines of remarks and a fully aware ponderation about the events which took place in Spain while fighting the Napoleonic dominance and the regime of foreign occupation. The so called Guerra de la Indipendencia, or Levantamiento antifrances, began on 2 May 1808; it signaled, as affirmed by the French writer Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri-Beyle, 1783-1842), the epoch of the decline of the power of Napoleon and his genius which appeared unbound by all possible human limitations. The Corsican General whose virtus est medium vitiorum et utrimque reductum[1] had not foreseen what would have happened, and the strength of this strenous popular uprising; due to a mistaken political calculation, he had initially considered the Spanish insurrection as overrated warfare complexities, and, essentially, a reactionary social phenomena.

The utter reality of the strategic emergency was soon to become a grave situation, and it turned into a source of growing disquietude to the French armies. The guerrilla, fought through interactive military planning i.e. geo-strategical modalities and phases of open resistance to the French host and following the exhortatory slogan por la Religion, por la Patria y por el Rey, found the principal support of the clergy, a preponderant force in a country where the centuries old prestige of the Church effectually not a mere hierocracy, but a living community of people sharing the dogmatic truth of the Christian liberties and the orthodoxy of the faith asserted on the authority the synoptic Gospels had succeeded penetrating every level of social life. This patriotism was deeply rooted in many hearts and consciences,[2] in a post-feudal society that had fought united in the early and late Middle-Ages the relentless advancing Morish hordes.

Anti-Napoleonic warfare presented, at the same time, a revolutionary libertarian force of cohesion, and the quintessential source of freedom that would have reached its apex in the promulgation of the constitution. Thus given the circumstances, many of the enlightened Spanish liberals were inclined to follow an alternative model to the French one; and they contemplated the possibility realizing the much yearned for political and economical transformations in a peaceful way, following the English model.

Spain provinces were devastated by the troops of the Emperor Napoleon I, suffering a long term experience of armed occupation; although scourged by inner divisions, and notwithstanding the movement of guerrillas[3] and popular resistance, the Spanish society discovered a true consciousness for common appartenence and moral unity supported by shared strong values.

As traditions recalled, this unity founded and invigorated por la Religion, por la Patria y por el Rey.

The Emperor sadly pondered on the Spanish adventure; the historical truth was fairly overshadowed responsabilities were thus avoided by the strong influence of his ego:

Cette malheureuse guerre d Espagne a t une vritable plaie, la cause premire des malheurs de la France.


Bibliographycal Note and Further Reading


Fugier, A. Napolon et l Espagne. Paris, 1930.

Grandmaison, Geoffroy de. L Espagne et Napolon. Paris, 1930.

Grasset, A. La guerre d Espagne. Paris, 1914.

Guillon, E. Les Guerres d Espagne sous Napolon. Paris, 1902.

Lucas-Dubreton, J. Napolon devant l Espagne. Paris, 1947.

Roux, Georges. Napolon et le Gupier espagnol. Paris, 1970.

Thiry, Jean. La Guerre d Espagne. Paris, 1966.


Glover, M.. Legacy of Glory: the Bonaparte kingdom of Spain. Scribners, 1971; Leo Cooper, London, 1972.

Glover, M.. The Peninsular War, 1807-14: a Coincise history. David & Charles, Newton Abbot; Archon Books, New York, 1974.

Histories of the Peninsular War by Clinton, H. R. (3d Ed. 1890); Napier, W. F. P. (rev. ed. 1856; repr. 1970); OMAN, C. W. C. (7 vol., 19021930).

[1] Translation: whose virtue is something in the middle between the two defects and keeps away from the one and from the other

[2] The ravages wrought by war, and heavy pillaging, alienated to the rgime [franais]the urban and rural masses.

[3] The political mismatch and the accidental causes of the Peninsular War contributed to Napoleons ruinous downfall. Guerrillas warfare, carried out by determined irregular units, and the Spanish military, added to the military vocabulary a new definition which served as a classification for popular insurgencies. Worth recalling that, in Latin America, the Iberian conflict served as motivation for the popular uprisings and independence projections of the Spanish colonies.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2006


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