This book is a fantastic single volume overview of Napoleon's war in Spain from top to bottom. The book is beautifully written in a very clear and flowing prose. It is written in such a way that one does not have to be a West Point graduate in order to understand the battles and campaigns but at the same time military historians and soldiers could learn a lot from the volume. The person who wrote the foreword was none other than David G Chandler. And if David Chandler endorses the volume then you know it's good and accurate.
The authors document many French atrocities and they give many examples of how the refusal of the French marshals to cooperate led to many self-inflicted defeats. The authors also show what a horrible strategist King Joseph was. The book illuminates Massena's inexplicable performance in 1810 detailing how he failed to conduct a proper reconnaissance on many occasions, but it also explains away the silly myth that a pretty mistress was to blame. The book does provide a welcome respite from the strong British bias that authors like Philip J Haythornthwaite bring to Napoleonic history. Corunna, for example is treated as a British defeat (which it was) and the authors point out several other times that the British were not as successful as we have been led to believe, particularly Wellingtons unsuccessful sieges in 1812.
This book has some of the most incredible iconography of the war that I have ever seen. I had no idea that so many paintings and drawings from this war even existed. For that reason alone this book is a must-have for every student of Napoleon. Second, the book really drives home how absolutely unnecessary and ridiculous this war was, it was an idiotic blunder in every respect, but what I didn't know was how much Tallyrand personally lobbied for this war and how much responsibility he bears for this disaster.
The book does a good job of showing the magnitude of the war, when a massive undertaking it was, and just how bloody and fierce the battles were. I had no idea how large many of the battles were between the regular Spanish army and the French. I did not know what a huge undertaking the siege of Saragossa and the siege of Cadiz were. The authors provide lots of information about Junot's battles in Portugal, and the battle of Corunna. I particularly enjoyed reading about the role of the Scottish Highlanders in those battles. The book made clear the details of DuPont's surrender and what a stupid decision it was. There is also much excellent information here about how the guerrillas fought and who their leaders were. Because of this book I fully understand what happened at the Battle of SommoSierra, as well as how and why Marshall Suchet was able to pacify the eastern provinces of Spain. So all in all, if you have any interest in the Napoleonic wars chances are you will love this book.
Napoleon's War in Spain
1982 Arms and Armour Press London