In April 2019, I will have the privilege of speaking for the third time at the 7th Wellington Congress at the University of Southampton. As a taster of what is to come, and an update on a topic which continues to fascinate me, take a look at the abstract for my paper below.
The Curious Case of Badajoz: The aftermath of British sieges in the Peninsular War
Attention on the aftermath of the British sieges of the Peninsular War has generally focused upon explaining why the British troops plundered and maltreated the civilian inhabitants of towns which essentially belonged to their Spanish ally. In the process, however, an important question about these episodes remains unanswered, namely what, if anything, was done about this behaviour in order to prevent it from happening again?
Using court martial records, General Orders, and the Duke of Wellington’s own papers this paper will establish how Britain’s Peninsular Army responded to the sacking of Badajoz, the measures that were taken to deal with the misdemeanours that occurred, and the impact that events at Badajoz had on the conduct of the siege of San Sebastian. Further questions will be explored such as why there was such a limited public outcry to the sacking of Badajoz, in comparison to San Sebastian, and what the example of Badajoz reveals about wider attitudes towards crime and punishment within the British Army.
In the process, it will be argued that the ‘live and let live’ pragmatic system of discretionary justice which was common place in the British Army at the time helped to facilitate the situation at Badajoz. A failure to react harshly to the sacking of Ciudad Rodrigo set a precedent at Badajoz, which then had to be accounted for in preparations for the assault of San Sebastian. In fact, the curious case of Badajoz acts as an effective lens through which to understand the conflicting pressures and realities of crime, prosecution and punishment in the British Army during the period.