Week 27: Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Spain and Napoleon

Winston Churchill, “Nothing like this universal uprising of a numerous, ancient race and nation, all animated by one thought, had been seen before … For the first time the forces unchained by the French Revolution, which Napoleon had disciplined and directed, met not kings or Old World hierarchies, but a whole population inspired by the religion and patriotism which … Spain was to teach to Europe.”

The Peninsular War was a military conflict between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its ally, Spain. The war lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814. The conflict is regarded by some historians as one of the first national wars and is significant for the emergence of large scale guerrilla warfare (guerrilla means “little war” in Spanish, from which the English language borrowed the word). The French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas. In 1810 a reconstituted national government fortified itself in Cádiz but proved unable to recruit, train, or equip effective armies due to being under siege. British and Portuguese forces secured Portugal, using it as a safe position from which to launch campaigns against the French army while Spanish guerrilleros bled the occupiers. Combined regular and irregular allied forces prevented Napoleon’s marshals from subduing the rebellious Spanish provinces. To the Spanish the war is known as the Guerra de la Independencia Española, or the Spanish War of Independence.


Napoleon Biography notes at right.


Michael Glover
Wellington’s Peninsular Victories

Richard Holmes
Wellington: The Iron Duke

Heinrich von Brandt
In the Legions of Napoleon: The Memoirs of a Polish Officer in Spain and Russia, 1808-1813