The best books on the Peninsular War 📚

Browse the best books on the Peninsular War as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Peninsular War: A New History

The Peninsular War: A New History

By Charles J. Esdaile

Why this book?

Charles Esdaile, a specialist of Spanish history, is one of the more prolific writers on the Napoleonic Wars, so it was not easy choosing only one of the numerous books he has penned, including a general history of the wars. Spain, however, has always remained a bit of an outlier in the history of the period. Here we get an insider’s view of the situation in Spain leading to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy and an accessible, lively account of the often complicated events that followed. Esdaile doesn’t shy away from treating either the Spanish, the guerrillas, or Wellington…

From the list:

The best books about the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe

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Book cover of The Armies of Wellington

The Armies of Wellington

By Philip J. Haythornthwaite

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!

From the list:

The best hardcore history books on the Peninsular War

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Book cover of Salamanca, 1812

Salamanca, 1812

By Rory Muir

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.

From the list:

The best hardcore history books on the Peninsular War

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Book cover of Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War

Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War

By Guy Dempsey

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…

From the list:

The best hardcore history books on the Peninsular War

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Book cover of Wellington: The Years of the Sword

Wellington: The Years of the Sword

By Elizabeth Longford

Why this book?

I read this when I was reading Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books, and I thought Longford’s account of a flawed but brilliant man was astounding. Very readable with in-depth insight and research. It sparked a lifelong fascination with the Peninsular War.

From the list:

The best books with first-hand accounts of warzones

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Book cover of Sharpe's Rifles: Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia, January 1809

Sharpe's Rifles: Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia, January 1809

By Bernard Cornwell

Why this book?

Cornwell is a solid prose writer, and his research is every bit as meticulous as MacDonald Fraser’s. That this book takes place in the Peninsula Campaign is what caused me to pick it from the shelf and give it a read in the first place. Everything from the strategy and tactics of generals to the gruelling life of the ordinary foot soldier - right down to the loading procedure for the Baker rifle - is intricately interwoven with the plot. A must-read for any amateur student of the Napoleonic Wars.

From the list:

The best historical fiction books of the UK

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