I have been approached with a view to writing a short (80,000-word) military history of the Peninsular War for the academic market. I have a rough plan for how something worthwhile could be done with that wordcount, by giving a very broad overview and then following up with case-studies of particular episodes. However, I am conscious that I will need to get up to speed on the scholarship relating to the non-British aspects. I have enough French to extract the sense from a piece, and access to someone who could potentially do a small amount of translation from Spanish; Portuguese would be a problem. All that said, within the constraints that I would be tied to if I took this on, I'm looking primarily for English-language sources.
Other than the collected works of Charles Esdaile, which I am working my way through, what else should I be looking at re. the Spanish? Whilst there is a lot of material there, I think I need a counterpoint otherwise they might as well have just asked Charles to write the book! I have the bilingual Santo/Brito title on logistics from the Portuguese perspective, the pamphlet-length piece that Tribuna e Historia put out on the 1808 campaign, and a chapter by Mark Thompson on Portuguese engineers, but anything else there (I note Bob's forthcoming project, but sadly I don't think that that is likely to appear in time)? Various older articles on the French experience, but nothing very recent.
Any suggestions gratefully received.
Yes certainly, no rush at all. This is still an exercise in establishing whether the project is viable; I'm 2-3 weeks away from being able to start any serious work on it, and many months away from potential delivery.
Oh right: sorry! Re the pictures, I am going to do a battlefield tour on Twitter on 14 July. Can you wait till then?
Thanks Charles. To clarify on the battles, with the wordcount that I have to play with I'd be looking at three case-study battles to cover the field engagements of the whole war, not just the Spanish elements. My thinking was therefore Rio Seco, Bussaco, and Vitoria. Obviously that selection tracks the French all the way through, but catches the Spanish both early and late, likewise the Portuguese, and has the British both on the defensive and the offensive. Rio Seco is the only one that I've not visited, so yes, pictures would be much appreciated.
Glad to help: Southey is genuinely fascinating, especially the first volume (the second and third are somewhat denatured by the savaging Vol. 1 got him from Napier: thus, they talk up Wellington and have less to say about matters Spanish. Re case studies, for 1808 I would go for Bailen and Medina de Rio Seco (can supply good photos for both), for 1809 Tamames and Ocana (ditto for Ocana) and for the latter part of the war San Marcial and Toulouse (ditto for San Marcial).
Afternoon all! The 'collected works of Charles Esdaile'. Oh dear: that sounds much too grand. The basic problem when it comes to writing the history of the Peninsular War for English-speakers is that so few anglophone scholars have engaged with the Spanish archives. There are one or two people other than your humble correspondent, but very few, while in at least one case I fear that their claims to have done so are not to be taken at face value: I know the Spanish archives well enough to know when someone is telling the truth or not. Still, two names to follow up are Mark Lawrence, a Carlist specialist at the University of Kent who has written an interesting comparison between the Peninsular War and the Spanish Civil War, and Ronald Fraser, who in 2008 published a work that was based on much archival research called 'Napoleon's Cursed War'. This is full of useful material and is worth reading, but, for reasons of his own, Fraser decided to go head to head with me and therefore crafted a work that was deliberately designed to clash with mine, He is therefore inclined to concentrate on the idea of 'people's war' and the result is that the book is heavily weighted towards the events of 1808-1809 and, more widely, the guerrilla struggle. To repeat, there is much that is interesting in 'Napoleon's Cursed War' - I regard it unequivocally as a 'must read' even - but it does need to be studied with care as, to be frank, it is full of traps for the unwary, a good example being the way in which Fraser buys into the ridiculous notion that somehow Catalonia was the greatest bastion of the Patriot cause (a fiction put about by Catalan nationalists eager to show that Catalonia had a greater sense of nationhood than the rest of Spain). Also slightly dodgy in this respect is the work of the American historian, John Tone: while his book on the guerrilla struggle in Navarre is quite good as far as it goes, it has its limits and certainly cannot be regarded as a source which is valid for an understanding of the guerrilla war as a whole. Turning now to the 'greats', Oman remains fundamental: though he made little use of the Spanish archives, relying instead on nineteenth-century accounts like that of the Conde de Toreno, and is dreadful on the political and social context, most of what he has to say about the campaigns is pretty solid. Next there is Napier, in which respect the best that I can say is that he sometimes comes up with the occasional nugget, the fact being that he did not even try to rise above the realms of the 'black legend'. And finally, we come to the poet, Robert Southey. Published in the period 1823-32, his 'History of the Peninsular War' is an account based on a perspective that completely escaped Napier and Oman alike, namely that the Peninsular War was primarily an Iberian conflict rather than a British one, the only trouble being that Southey was rather indiscriminating in his approach; that being the case, his work is to be used with care, but there is a lot of material in its pages that cannot be accessed anywhere else in English.
Whilst I am very grateful for all the suggestions that have come in, before anyone puts themselves to any more trouble can I please reiterate that I am looking primarily for English-language material. This is an academic project with no budget, and whilst I am happy to pay for a limited amount of translation out of my own pocket, the key word here is limited.
If you want a perspective on the Spanish army of Joseph Napoleon you might want to find a copy of 'El Ejército español de José Napoleón (1808-1813)' by Luis Sorando Múzas.
'No Sin Nosotros' by Arsenio Garcia Fuentes is a detailed account of the Spanish Army that served in northern Spain especially concentrating on the Siege of Astorga.
I couldn't find an index but after a quick look, all the following editions were special editions on the Napoleonic Wars:
REVISTA DE HISTORIA MILITAR EXTRA 1-2013
REVISTA DE HISTORIA MILITAR EXTRA-1-2011
REVISTA DE HISTORIA MILITAR. Extra-1-2008
For a Spanish perspective you might want to check out the 'Revista de Historia Militar' which is published by the Spanish Ministry of Defence. This is a Military History Magazine that is published several times a year and you can read the online version free. It covers all periods of Spanish Military History but often contains articles written on the Napoleonic Wars and you can look at previous issues. In Spanish the Peninsular War is typically known as the 'Guerra de Independencia'.
Since it's intended for an academic audience, I'm primarily after recent scholarship, new interpretations, etc. If and when I get into it - and at the moment I'm trying to make sure that it's viable - I'll want to case-study particular episodes and in that case I'll no doubt be posting more focused requests for specific information.
What are you looking for in Portuguese? XIX Century sources or recent publications? Books or articles? Manuscripts or printed? What subjects exactly?