Monday, 7 February 2011

Some Favourite Books of the Peninsular War

Nick Liscombe - The Peninsular War Atlas

I got a copy of this book for Christmas. It’s a heavy book, in weight and in content – not really bedside reading. So I am not making such good progress reading it as I might have wished.

Its one of those books which really live up to expectations. Excellent maps of all the Peninsular battles, both Wellington’s and the Spanish ones. But its also one of those books you might never get around to READING.

I was determined to do so, and I have made a good start. I am currently on page 103 of 350. Part of the problem is that I only get to read it when the sun is shining and I can sit on the naya with a coffee or a glass of wine, and the book on the table in front of me. We have not had a lot of sunny days since our return to Spain from UK, hence only page 103.

As soon as I saw the book I was reminded of the West Point Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars, which is also in my library. I remember back in the early 1970s reading that tome and trying to remember what I had read. Both are really just descriptions of the maps on the opposite page, rather than a real history of the conflict.

All of this made me think back on my early reading of the Peninsula Wars - I will not widen it to the whole Napoleonic Wars.

My first interest was from a uniform reference point of view. I belonged to a Public Library for as long as I can remember, and I have always found them to be most helpful in finding any book I wanted to read, providing I knew the title and author. For many years I would ask the library to get me a copy which I would read. And if I found it worth while I would then buy a copy

Commandant Henry Lachouque - Napoleon’s War in Spain

This is the first book on the Peninsular War which I actuallly bought - as opposed to borrowing from the Public Library. It is another of those books which I have found to be difficult to read, and I regret to say that I have never really read this one. I have glanced through it many times, but never actually read page by page. It does however have excellent colour illustrations of the uniforms of the war, less well known black and white illustrations and period maps of Portugal and Spain.

Bernard Cornwell - Sharpe series

In 1988 Mr Sharpe made his appearance in Sharpes Rifles. I got each book from the library as they were published, and read them with relish. Some deride Shape, I love him. This is not an original print, I never bought paper backs then. But I have since collected the whole series, and have read them all again since we moved to Spain in 2006. If anything I enjoyed them more the second time I read them. They have a real feel for the period, and he has obviously visited the locations for each novel.

Sir William Napier – History of the War in the Peninsula

In the early 1990s the six volume were reprinted one by one. I bought each volume as it became available, cost £20 each if I remember correctly. To be honest I was a little disappointed in them. I personally found them hard going to read, and the maps not very good. Just before we moved to Spain I sold more than half of my book collection, mostly wargaming and uniform books. I kept all of the historical books, except this series. I regret selling them, as I would like to read them again and see if they are better the second time.

Sir Charles Oman – A History of the Peninsular War

Shortly after the Napier books, this series was reprinted. Again I bought them as they became available, and about the same cost per volume. But these I really enjoyed. I found them easier to read, all seven volumes. And the maps are much better. I have also read them again since we moved to Spain, and enjoyed them even more the second time around.

David Gates – The Spanish Ulcer

I am not sure when I first read this. I suspect it might have been before the Napier and Oman series. I borrowed it from the library, and enjoyed it so much I bought my own copy. It is a surprisingly comprehensive history of the war in 469 pages. It is very easy to read, and has excellent orders of battle. The maps are the worse I have seen, but you can’t have everything in one volume.

Donald Featherstone – Campaigning with the Duke of Wellington & Featherstone

I used to have all of Don’s wargaming books. I found them very hard going, and never even glanced at one after I had read it once. But I found this book to be one of the best I have read on the Peninsula. It has extensive first person quotes from each campaign, a brief description of Don’s visit to the area and some boring notes on his wargaming the battle concerned. I often read through sections of this book.

Captain John Kincaid – The Rifle Brigade

I have read many, many more books on the Peninsula. Most were reprints of books written by participants in the war. But this is the only one in my personal library. I have always found these to be pretty hard to read, and this is the only book in my military library which I have not even read once. Not really sure why, but I have promised myself I will read it when I finally finish reading Nick Liscombe

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