The Best Books On The Peninsular War

Charles J. Esdaile Author Of The Peninsular War: A New History
By Charles J. Esdaile

The Books I Picked & Why

The Armies of Wellington

By Philip J. Haythornthwaite

The Armies of Wellington

Why this book?

As has already been made clear, the British army did not fight the Peninsular War single-handed. That said, it cannot be ignored, and this book is very much the place to go for anyone looking to improve their knowledge of the subject. Amongst the topics covered are officers and men, recruitment, the different arms of service, tactics, discipline, foreign regiments, and much else besides, while the author writes in a style that is simple and unaffected. Thoroughly recommended!


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Salamanca, 1812

By Rory Muir

Salamanca, 1812

Why this book?

Fought on 22 July 1812, the Battle of Salamanca has been described as ‘Wellington’s masterpiece’, and was certainly a dramatic affair, witnessing, as it did, the British commander turn what could have been a dispiriting retreat a devastating counter-attack that left the French army of Marshal Marmont reeling and in tatters. In this work, the foremost expert on Wellington and his campaigns analyses both the struggle and the many personal accounts to which it gave rise stage by stage, the result being quite simply a book which has few equals as an account of a single Peninsular-War battle.


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Wellington: The Path to Victory 1769-1814

By Rory Muir

Wellington: The Path to Victory 1769-1814

Why this book?

If Salamanca was Wellington’s masterpiece, this massive volume is Rory Muir’s. There have been many other biographies of Wellington over the past 200 years, but none of them come remotely close to equalling the analysis, knowledge, and understanding in this work. One’s only complaint is that it does not continue on from the fall of Napoleon in 1814 to cover Waterloo, this instead being looked at in a second volume that covers the second half of Wellington’s life.


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Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon

By Rory Muir

Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon

Why this book?

A study of the mechanics of combat in the Napoleonic era, this work is billed As covering the whole gamut of the Napoleonic Wars, but the bulk of the material on which it is based is drawn from the Peninsular War, and so it may be viewed as primarily belonging to the historiography of that conflict. As such, it is excellent, however: if anyone is looking for something that will give them an insight into what the officers and men of the British and French armies went through on the battlefields of Spain and Portugal, this is very much the place to go.


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Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War

By Guy Dempsey

Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War

Why this book?

One of the very few battles of the Peninsular War in which the British army was involved from which Wellington was absent, Albuera was a desperate affair which saw the Allied commander, Sir William Beresford, completely out-witted by his French counterpart, Marshal Soult, only for the polyglot assembly of British, Portuguese and Spanish troops which he commanded to save the day by means of a display of the most extraordinary gallantry. As the title implies, the casualties on both sides were terrible, but Albuera, 1811 shows beyond all doubt that the carnage should not be allowed to conceal the fact that the various stages of the battle are of enormous interest from the point of view of the military analyst: for example, few other battles offer so detailed a picture of the workings of French infantry tactics, whilst the defeat of a French cavalry charge by Portuguese infantry formed in line forms a useful corrective to many of the assumptions common to discussion of actions between horse and foot. Finally, particularly noteworthy is the author’s determination to do justice to the four Spanish infantry battalions that held off two French divisions all but single-handed for two crucial hours early in the battle, hours that would otherwise have most certainly witnessed a great French victory.      


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