April 20, 2007 cameron

#20 – The Peninsula War (Part Two)

Welcome to the dramatic conclusion to the Peninsular War! It’s a long episode, possibly our longest, but we were determined to conclude this affair today!

In episode #19 we gave you some background on how Napoleon ended up in the Iberian peninsula. Today we pick it up from about the time Joseph was made the King of Spain.

Of course, in discussing Spain we also introduce someone whose story is forever associated with Napoleon’s – Sir Arthur Wellesley, aka the Duke of Wellington. It was during the Peninsula War that their fates first became entwined.

Napoleon's victories in Spain'

Additional Resources:

The Peninsula War
Map of the Iberian Peninsula
The Continental System
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

I have a favour to ask
– it would really help the continued success of the show if each of you would go into iTunes and vote for the show and leave a comment about how much you enjoy it. CLICK HERE to open up our page in the iTunes store.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support and for all of the terrific comments we get every week!

The theme music is La Marseillaise. Yes, we know it isn’t necessarily relevant to Napoleon but it’s hard to beat when it comes to French themes!


Comments (66)

  1. John G

    Cameron, David

    I have just posted a review to the Itunes site under “Napoleonlover”. You guys do a fantastic job with this podcast. I haven’t listened to episode 20 yet, but can’t wait to listen to it.


    John G

  2. Kaboth

    Wow Peninsular Part 2 in just a little over a week. Fast work Cameron and David. Trying to get this uncomfortable campaign out of the way are we 🙂

  3. Cameron

    Thanks John! Much appreciated!

    Kaboth – yeah, you could say that! We actually have been trying to record every two weeks for some time, but circumstances haven’t been in our favour. We’ll try to get another one out in another fortnight.

  4. Kaboth

    Finally finished listening to it all. Great work as always. I especially appreciated the discussion of why Napoleon couldn’t just abandon Spain.

    Although its Napoleon 101 not 201 I thought perhaps you should have mentioned Juan Martín Díez (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Mart%C3%ADn_D%C3%ADez) to make the Spanish insurgency seem a little more organised which it was 🙂

  5. Colin

    Thanks guys, I found this podcast really interesting. I knew almost nothing about this period of history and I am glad to be enlightened. Amazingly enough, I don’t think I had ever realised that the British had actually invaded France from the south. As Cameron has said, we only tend to hear about Trafalgar and Waterloo here in the UK. It is good to hear about some of our other successes.

  6. Michael

    Found this interesting link on Wikipedia about the Spanish and Portuguese liberals who supported the regime of King Joseph…the Peninsular War is probably the most interesting, if depressing, campaign of Napoleonic France to me. Excellent show gentlemen.


  7. Rory O'Connor

    Your favourite irish listener here. just started listening few weeks ago and ive already caught up! I have a long standing interest in Spanish history and found this fascinating, as i knew the huge after effects of the napoleonic period but not the detail of it. Would david know if napoleon ever did have any real hopes of invading ireland? (might have saved us a lot of trouble!) Great podcast

  8. Rory,

    I am sure that Napoleon would have loved to have landed an army in Ireland, and if he led it himself I am pretty sure he would quickly have gained control of the whole island.

    I suspect that it would then have turned into a second smaller version of Spain. The irish would have realised that whatever the shortcomings of the British, the French were worse. Before long they would have been only too happy to have the British back to liberate them.

    In the aftermath of this the Irish and the British would have realised how much they have in common and gone forward to have a happy and harmonious relationship with the rest of the British Isles and many of the ugliest bits of British history would never have happened.


  9. Austin

    This was great. Thank you for finally geting to my favourite part of Napolionic history. Cant wait till the russian campaign… and waterloo.

  10. Cameron

    Austin, thanks but how can the Peninsula War be your favourite part of Napoleonic history??? You must either be Spanish, English or a sadist…. 🙂

  11. Austin

    ha ha ha very funny… (sarcastic sigh). jk. No im an American from wisconsin. I like it because i am a expert on british history. I also like it because one of my favorite authors (Bernard Cornwell) writes historical fiction novels from the british point of veiw. I have a question also. Did the french really torture spanish citizens often? Im wondering if its british propaganda to make napoleon look like a vilian? Also, David is the leader of a napoleonic society, right? What requirements do you have to have (or pay) to be in the society. Is there a certian age? (im only 14). please write back as soon as possible. TY.

  12. Another great podcast. I’m impressed at how far you gentlemen raced ahead this time.

    Question: have either of you read Suzanne Clarke’s novel _Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_? It’s an excellent, literary fantasy taking place during the Napoleonic wars. One of the titular magicians ends up helping Wellington in the Spanish campaign.

    I hope you feel better, David.

  13. Cameron

    I haven’t Bryan. Don’t get to read much fiction. Still trying to make my way through Proust! But I think she’s probably onto something with the magicians. That’s about the only way I can imagine an yuppie upstart like Wellington ever had a chance against Napoleon. 🙂

  14. Cameron,

    A friend of mine who knows more about these things than I, is of the opinion that by the turn of the 19th century Napoleon’s exploits were well known and were being studied by everyone interested in military matters. Prior to that Napoleon’s tactics generally caught his opponents by surprise.

    His theory is that any reasonably intelligent general coming up against Napoleon would have been able to predict what he was likely to do. Napoleon still had huge advantages in terms of his own energy and the superb way in which he organised his troops, but that by the late Napoleonic era he was very much a known quantity.

    It makes sense to me at any rate.


  15. Kaboth

    Perhaps Colin, but Napoleon still really got the jump on Wellington and Blucher at Quatre Bras; the very end of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon split the two armies up very successfully and it was unfortunate the opportunity was squandered at Waterloo.

    But certainly the other nations did become more adept at fighting Napoleon and his Marshals. Battles like Eylau, Wagram and Borodino were fairly shallow victories for Napoleon. A lot of people talk about Napoleon’s skill and fortune declining as the cause of such inconclusive battles but I think its more a case of the allies not placing themselves in a situation that could easily be exploited by Napoleon.

  16. John G

    Cameron and David – I really enjoyed this episode and think it was one of your best (if not the best).

    I think it was very interesting in terms of history repeating itself. There seemed to be a lot of lessons about the mistakes that even great leaders can make. Maybe George Bush needs a crash course in Napoleon, although I doubt if many would regard Bush as a great leader. Maybe David should send him a copy of Napoleon for Dummies.

    I also found Cameron’s reading of the letter from Napoleoon to the Pope to be very interesting. I loved the audacity of Napoleon, sticking it to the pope, and I think Napoleon was right in what he wrote. Many of the Popes in the past did not seem to embody what Christianity is meant to be about and I have heard that many of them were ruthless warmongers. The reduction of the Pope’s power (to now be primarily a spiritual leader-which is far healthier-rather than to have broader powers ) and the idea that this may be a result of Napoleon’s legacy, just makes me think all the more of the guy.

  17. Mike

    David or Cameron,
    What is the best book to to read to get in depth on the subject of the Peninsular War?

  18. Maria

    David, Cameron:
    Thanks for your fantastic podcast. Well, I ‘ve discovered it a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, is not easy found information about Napoleon in Spanish, so I’m learning French and English…
    The Peninsular War is not my favourite part of Napoleon’s era… Being Spanish, I knew only one thing about the Emperor: he invaded my country. But when I was 13, I spent a long, boring summer in my aunt’s country house. Well, I’ve been always reading a lot. That summer I found a box with a lot of books of my cousin. And there was Napoleon waiting for me. I became a great fan. Now I have twenty-six years old and my interest is always growing.
    Thanks for your series. And forgive my English.

  19. Cameron

    Mike – for my money, David Chandler’s “Campaigns Of Napoleon” is an excellent start.

    Maria – welcome to the show! It’s a terrific privilege to have someone from Spain listening to the show. I’m sure we would all love to know how you think Napoleon is taught and remembered in Spain today. I imagine it would be similar to how he is taught in the British Commonwealth, as a villain.

  20. Maria

    It’s strange, but the comparision between Napoleon and other dictators (you know who I mean) is not as frequent at Spain as in the Commomwealth countries. Why? I’m not sure. After all, Spain suffered a real invassion, nor the fear of an invassion (as England did). Napoleon is more unknown that hated today in Spain.
    Most of Spanish liberals were exiled after the war, and they were not all Napoleon’s admirers. Many of them were men who simply wanted a country free of the supersticion and the Inquisition, but without the French. The few who remained in Spain were prosecuted finished the war by the king Ferdinand VII- worst king in Spain’s History, and we have had a lot of bad governements-, even the famous “guerrilleros”.
    In 1821 a pamphlet was published in Barcelona: “A la buena memoria de Napoleón el benéfico” (To the memory of the benefic Napoleon) signed by a certain Un español agradecido (A thankful Spanish). The pamphlet talked about Napoleon as a hero (in Spain! in 1821!): “Tú sabes, alma verdaderamente gloriosa, que el exceso de la virtud, que poseistes tan eminentemente, ha sido el único y mayor crimen de que has tenido que arrepentirte” (You know, very glorious soul, that the excess of virtue, that you had eminently, it’s the only crime that you repent). Well, Spanish know how forgive… 🙂
    Extracts of this pamphlet and other similars can be found on this link http://hispanianova.rediris.es/4/articulos/04_001.htm.
    But… sorry, it’s in spanish…

  21. Mike

    Perhaps Spain does not villify Napoleon as much as Commonwealth countries, because of their history with General Franco? The Commonwealth had more of a history of constitutional monarchy, while Spain throughout its rich history was ruled by absolute monarchs, a short lived republic, and then the dictatorship of Franco. Maybe more accustomed to Napoleonic type of rule? Does that make any sense? 🙂 Just a thought that occurred to me.

  22. Ulia

    Dear Cameron and David,

    You both did a great job on this last episode,especially when The Peninsula War is not the most cheerful subject to talk about – most of us like more Napoleon’s successes 🙂
    I’ve noticed that some of the authors who wrote books about Napoleonic history, mentioned that there were some changes in Napoleon himself (beginning of 1809), which led to some poor decisions and influenced his judgment. And although we all can agree that Napoleon was a brilliant man, after Spain and Austria (Wagram) it seems that Napoleon had a really hard time continuing to control his Empire. Sometimes I think, that maybe he just got tired of fighting but was forced to do so non stop. I’m sure that Cameron as well as David has his own opinion why the destiny turned its back on Napoleon” and it will be very interesting to hear you discuss it .

    Thank you again for the interesting episode!

  23. Maria

    I think the dictatorship of Franco is not the reason (reading school books of these years, we can see Napoleon villified as “the evil man who lied to our good old king Charles IV and invaded our fatherland” and Ferdinand VII exalted as a hero ); and there are two different centuries, not to compare…
    A (little) correction, Mike :): two short republics. Two dictatorships. Sadly.

  24. Kaboth

    Hi Ulia,
    If you read Max Gallo’s ‘Napoleon’ quartet of books; novels upon which the 2002 miniseries was based you do get an insight into Napoleon as a character and how he might have felt throughout his life about the decisions and actions he took. In the later campaigns the Napoleon does grow tired as you suggested, he wants to be at home with his new wife and child but feels obligated to defend his empire as part of his destiny. At Wagram I think he says, “how many times must I defeat their Arch Dukes and yet they keep coming.”

  25. Christopher


    A good place to start would be Charles Esdaile. He has written an excellent one volume account of the Peninsular War.


    Another one of my favorites is ‘Salamanca’ by Rory Muir. It’s an awesome, blow by blow, in-depth account of one of the pivotal battles of the whole Peninsular war. Great stuff!


    I also recommend “Wellington Invades France’ by Ian Robertson. This is an detailed account of Wellington and Soult in the Pyrenees and Southern France. This book is interesting because shows Wellington in a different light, as the aggressor, with the French taking the strong defensive position.


    Hope this helps some, mate.

  26. Austin


    David mentioned in the Bernard Cornwells Shape series in this Episode. I’m currently reading the books and it seems that the french persicuted the spanish alot, but did they really? David mentioned that the spanish did their share too. So which did more? I’m guessing it was a little bit of both. Also im still wondering about the napoleon sociaty, how can you join?

  27. Ulia

    Hello Kaboth and everyone,

    Never had the opportunity to read Max Gallo’s “Napoleon”,but I did saw the mini series (which in my opinion one of the most closest to the true Napoleonic history), but I have a little problem of getting books that are published in US, and most of my knowledge about Napoleon is based on books that I could find in Russian. Even David’s “Napoleon for Dummies” that I would love to read take already month and a half to get,and I’m still waiting. That is why this podcast is a great source of information and knowledge that I can get from non Russian point of view.
    As for the changes that are seen in Napoleonic decision making,I do think that he got tired and as David and Cameron mentioned on the last episode,became a victim of the myth of his own invincibility, in which I believe,he actually believed.

  28. Antonio

    Congratulations for this new show, brilliant as always.

    I totally agree with Maria – Napoleon, it’s invasions and the destruction, famine, misery and violence against civilians is mostly ignored nowadays in Portugal, as it is in Spain.

    The Lines of Torres Vedras were a formidable obstacle – a sort of Maginot line extending for miles, from the Atlantic coast to the River Tagus (patrolled by the Royal and Portuguese Navies), riddled with artillery and obstacles, entirely connected by a signal telegraph that could raise the alarm in just a few minutes. The Anglo-Portuguese army waited patiently behind one of the greatest defensive military works of the XIX century, while the French starved for weeks on a barren, deserted terrain, with no hope for reinforcements, constantly harassed by guerrilheiros, exhausted and without a clue of what waited for them behind these lines. Some of the fortresses still stand to this day, which is a tribute to all those who built it.

    In spite of the roles played by the brave guerrilheiros and the magnificent and well disciplined British Army, let’s not forget the role of the Portuguese regular army, reorganized and rearmed by Sir Wellesley. By the time of the Battle of Bussaco they had become first class soldiers, trusted enough to fight side by side with the British (and the King’s German Legion), all the way into the South of France.

    Your faithfull listener


    Lisbon, Portugal

    PS: Esdaille’s book on the peninsular war would be my choice also.

  29. Cameron

    Antonio and Maria, I’d just like to say that I’m really glad we have at least two listeners from Spain and Portugal who can fill in details like this!

    Antonio, how would you say Napoleon is thought of in Portugal today? Is this period of history taught much at school?

  30. I would be as interested as Cameron in how Napoleon is seen today in Portugal and Spain. Another interesting angle is what effect the events in Napoleonic Portugal had on Brazil.

  31. Maria

    Hello everyone.
    I remember now a shameful thing about the 9000 French
    imprisoned after Bailen. They were sent to a little island (Cabrera). There was no food, no water; only and old, almost ruined castle. The French remained in the island of Cabrera until 1814. Only 3600 survived. There was cannibalism. I mean, both French and Spanish caused atrocities during the Peninsular War. By the way, the English (yes, the English) destroyed a lot of Spanish factories (oh, there where factories in Spain, yes). After the war, Spain was invaded… by English products.
    Oh, for a Spanish Napoleon fan it’s painful to talk about this!

  32. Antonio

    Thank you very much, Cameron and Colin. It is a pleasure and a honor to colaborate in such a great podcast show!

    Commonly, Napoleon himself is an indifferent historical character over here. That’s not surprising, if you remember that he never actually set foot in Portugal. However, the names of the generals who commanded each of the three invasions (Junot, Soult and Massena) are easily recognized.

    Here’s an anecdote: General Loison became well known for its cruelty against unarmed civilians, to the extent that we still have one popular expression based on this bastard (who had lost one arm in some previous campaign), and that we use whenever someone dies in a not very pleasant way. That expression is “ir para o maneta” and can be roughly translated as “going to the one-armed fellow”!

    In a nutshell, the French invasions of Portugal are locally more related to the French Marshals than to Napoleon himself, who remains a distant figure.

    On the other hand, Colin, it was due to the French invasions that the Portuguese royal family fled to Brasil, thus avoiding the fate of the Spanish royal family. The national Elite also sailed to Brasil, leaving Portugal without most of its educated and influential families.

    In time, this created a unique situation: Portugal was being ruled from its colonies, in a strange twist of fate! Brasil was a rich, populated and powerful colony, and once it got a taste of being ruled from within, there was simply no turning back – sooner or later, Brasil would win its independence.

    Some years after the French were repelled for the third time, the King relutantly returned to Portugal (who can blame him? Wouldn’t you prefer to rule from a tropical paradise?) and his son, who stayed behind in Brasil, soon declared indepence from Portugal.


    Lisbon, Portugal

  33. Cameron

    Fabulous stuff Maria and Antonio!

    Maria – I don’t understand. Why did the British destroy Spanish factories? On what grounds?

    Antonio – From a distance I wonder – why didn’t the Portugese take advantage of the absence of the King and nobles to declare a Republic? Were they, like the Spanish, too enamored with their Royals to want self rule?

  34. Antonio

    Thanks, Cameron.

    That’s a very interesting question. Those “what if” books suddenly came up to my mind when you raised your question!

    From the top of my head, I thought of three reasons:

    1 – The people were not in the mood for a regime change while fighting against the enemy, specially when the hated enemy himself is associated with the republican form of government. Let us say that declaring yourself a republican at the time would be like showing a communist party card in a SS convention!

    2 – Declaring a republic would alienate our only ally against the French: the British. That meant that the British would either be forced to retreat from Portugal (and abandoning the war effort in the Peninsula. What if that happened?) or to intervene by force in the Portuguese domestic affairs. Besides that, declaring a republic would certainly start a long civil war – as it did before in France – which is not a very convenient thing to have while fighting the French.

    3 – There was no reason to declare a republic. In fact, even France wasn’t a republic anymore! We may not have been enamorated by our Queen, but there’s no way we would change her for some Corsican Emperor nor for some other member from his family or staff.

    In short, a Portuguese republic would make both Great Britain and France our enemies and we would lose either way.


    Lisbon, Portugal

  35. Maria

    Thank you, Cameron
    I must to apologize. I’ve wrote “a lot of Spanish factories”. That’s not exactly true, because actually the Industrial Revolution was starting in Spain when the war took place. Of course the French destroyed fabrics, like the Real Fabrica de Porcelana del Buen Retiro (a Fine-China factory near the Palace of Buen Retiro in Madrid, also destroyed), but for example the English destroyed the textile factories of Bejar near Salamanca. Why? Strategic reasons, said them. Commercial reasons, perhaps. Only Great Britain was benefited with this war. For Spain, Portugal and also France was a total disaster.
    Last thing, I can’t resist to tell all you what kind of man was the king Ferdinad VII a.k.a. “el Rey Felón” (the treacherous king). When he was exiled in France he congratulated Napoleon everytime his troops won a battle… in Spain. I would like to know what Napoleon thinked of such man.

  36. Mike

    While I myself am a 4th generation descendent of Portuguese and Italian immigrants (from the Azores and Calabria respectively)…many of our family friends immigrated to the United States from the Azores (Sao Miguel) and mainland Portugal (Douro valley area and the Algarve). When speaking of the Peninsular War with them, I always found it curious that they do not mention Napoleon much at all, but rather, as Maria and Antonio said, his Marshals, and “The Invasions”. They always mention that Portugal was invaded by France “three times”. They are also very proud of the fact that the Portuguese becamse such fierce fighters and with British aid, a very competent and professional army. I don’t sense much bitterness having been learned in school, but more a genuine pride at the accomplishments of the Portuguese forces of this period.
    I always have mixed emotions, because being Italian as well, I see Napoleon in a very positive light and as a progressive force in Italy, but I do see the destruction wrought in Spain and Portugal from all sides.

  37. Mike

    As far as throwing out the royals, the Portuguese, like the Spanish were a very conservative, Catholic nation. I don’t think they saw anything, but an invading French army trying to throw out their King and divide their country up. Republicanism as a concept hadn’t made much headway into Portugal during this period. And indeed, later in the 19th century it took civil war and internal development and progress to lead up to constitutional monarchy, and then in 1910, the Portuguese Republic. More of an Edmund Burke thesis of evolutionary political history, that democratic change could and would come about without the violent upheavel of revolution that had occurred in France (as in the case of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England, progressing up to the democracy of the 20th century).
    Even under the Republic I believe the “French Invasions” are looked upon as foreign usurpers trying to overthrow legitimate, divine right monarchs and Church. Much as Maria said – Franco’s regime used this for nationalist purposes in Spain, Salazar in Portugal looked with pride on the accomplishment of the Kingdom of Portugal for nationalist purposes, even though he ruled a republican state.
    Maria and Antonio am I wrong here?

  38. One of the things I find intrigueing about this podcast on a purely personal level, is remembering back to a conversation with my Grandfather some 35 years ago. Someone had compared the quality of the Italian contribution to the Second World War unfavourably to the German one. I was on ly a teenager at the time and I had offered the opinion that people in northern Europe were more warlike than people from the south of the continent. His reply was that you couldn’t say that because the Portuguese were extremely good soldiers.

    Now I know a lot more about history than I did back then I realise that Portugal has not been involved in any European war since the time of Napoleon. My grandfather’s assessment can only have been based on a reputation gained 90 years before he was born.

  39. Mike

    And also from the fact, that in ancient times both the northern tribes of Europe and the Romans, Greeks, and Carthaginians of the south/Mediterranean were warlike – the Greeks under Alexander and the Romans (i.e. Southern Europeans) being the most successful for perhaps 1,000 years.

  40. Antonio

    Very good insight, Mike. Nice to meet someone who shares our roots. Azores is probably one of the most beautiful, quiet and misterious places in the whole world.

    Now, I only wish I had your memory, Colin. Sometimes I don’t remember what I said 35 minutes ago!


    Lisbon, Portugal

  41. Mike

    Obrigado Antonio,

    I have only been to the Azores (Sao Miguel) once, in 1993, to visit some family and friends there for 2 weeks, but it was truly a beautiful experience. Like no where else I have ever been before. I also traveled to Portugal back in 1991 when I was 14. First place I ever had a little too much to drink as well 🙂 – drinking Sangria in a fado house in Porto. I’d love to go back again with my wife, as I would appreciate the culture, language, and history so much more now.

    Somerset, Massachusetts, USA

  42. Rob

    hi guys, firstly congratulations on a great podcast about such a great figure in history.
    Having gone thru and been a listener for the last year of about every podcast on TPN i stumbled across this Napoleon podcast. Over the last 2 weeks i have listened to every singe episode (whilst i was at work) and it made me look forward to coming to work to continue the adventure.
    As an avid fan of Roman History and the History of Wars it was refreshing to learn about all the other things that Napoleon had bought not only to France but to all of Europe.
    Now i have caught up, i await eagerly for the next episode.

    Ps. cameron, on a totally different subject, i have just finished reading GOD DELUSION and was wondering if you have thought of interviewing Richard Dawkins for your Gday world Podcast. It would be great.

    Rob – Perth WA

  43. Cameron

    Hey Rob! Glad you like this show as well. Regarding Dawkins – well, I’m a huge fan of his, as you possibly already know. And I have considered reaching out to him however, as he’s done quite a few podcast interviews of late (especially on the excellent “Point Of Inquiry” podcast), I don’t know what else I could add. I tend to aim for guests who we haven’t heard from or people that I think I can add something unique to.

    For those of you who don’t know what “G’Day World” is, it’s my REAL day job, the one I’ve been doing since Nov 2004, and where I get to vent on politics, religion, science, the arts and technology.

  44. OH, my, where to begin! I really need to keep up with these postings! But, here are at least a few responses.

    Austin, I was the President of the Napoleonic Alliance, which is now the Napoleonic Historical Society. Send me an email reminder and I’ll send you samples of the publication and information on how to join. We’d be delighted to have you! BTW, where in Wisconsin are you? I lived in Fond du Lac and Madison for a time and go back to visit family every now and then. My best friend is your Secretary of State, Doug La Follette.

    As to who tortured whom, I guess there was plenty to go around on both sides. Neither the French nor the Spanish covered themselves in glory on that issue.

    There is no question that Napoleon lost some of his edge towards the end of his career. I think his health and age were a factor, and that he may well have been just plain tired of it all. But more importantly was the fact, pointed out above, that his enemies were on to his game. They had begun modernize their armies and learn the tactics that Napoleon used. His hat may still have been worth 50,000 men, but it just wasn’t enough. Remember, he was fighting a two-front war against, off and on, virtually all of Europe.

    Even so, he was brilliant during the Campaign of France in 1814, should have won Leipsic in 1813, and most certainly should have won the Waterloo Campaign. Indeed, there should have been no Battle of Waterloo as such.

    Regarding books, I agree with Christopher’s three suggestions, but also still think that David Chandler’s “Campaigns of Napoleon” is really hard to beat for an excellent overview.

    That’s it for now. Thanks for listening, and I’ll try to do better with the postings! 🙁


  45. Bom Dia Antonio,

    I can’t remember 35 minutes ago either. But I think most people find things that you pick up when you are young stay with you.

    I guess that most wars get more gruesome as they go along as people become insensitive to the horror of it all. But the difference between the Italian campaigns and the Peninsula campaigns do seem to come from different ages. One full of heroic battles for bridges and grabbing flags, the other a catalogue of attrocities and horror.



  46. Antonio

    Bom dia, Colin!

    Your last post led me to think about what really may have provoked such a strong popular reaction against the French, as opposed to Italy or other countries in Europe.

    Is it possible that the French army, who at the time was used to short and victorious campaigns in central Europe, near France and its bases of supplies, caused this reaction when it was forced to pillage the food supplies of the local population for so long?

    What would you do if you and your family were facing starvation? Wasn’t the lack of a proper supply chain the main reason for all this hostility?

    The fact that the French army, who, from the lowest private to the highest ranking officer, acted as professional thieves, taking everything that wasn’t nailed to the floor (including scientific instruments from universities, Churches and even opening up graves to look for gold!) must not be forgotten also.

    In more than one occasion the French were forced to abandon its loot while retreating, which probably saved them from their pursuing enemies. The Anglo-Portuguese army was delayed in Vitoria while pillaging the French baggage train (what an irony)!

    Could Napoleon have predicted the effects of its policy of expecting its army to live off the land? And if so, was there anything he could do when faced with the challenge of maintaining such a long chain of supplies?

    Wellington, on the other hand, enforced strict discipline when it came to the relations between its army and the population. The Anglo-Portuguese army payed for the food it requisitioned, which surely must have been an essential factor to win the sympathy of the Portuguese and Spanish peasants. Also, it is much easier to supply a army from the sea, with a dominant navy, accompanying its progress from the coast.


    Lisbon, Portugal

  47. Maria

    About the popular reaction against the French troops, I agree with Antonio. But I would like to add something: in the Iberian Peninsula had always been a strong reaction against invaders. A interesting comparation can be made with the reaction against the Romans. The Roman Republic needed two hundred years to take possesion of the Peninsula. The earliest example of the guerrilla it’s the resistence against Roman army, the most powerful of this era (as the Napoleonic was in the early 19th Century). There’s a link about the most famous leader of the war against Rome, Viriathus, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viriathus, a national hero in Portugal and in Spain too (we know he as Viriato, by the way).

  48. Michael R Hodder

    Some of your listeners may not be aware that you can use Google Book Search to find, and download in full, a number of books written in the early nineteenth century by men who served in the Napoleonic wars. A search for ‘rifleman’ for instance will reveal some interesting books. It is valuable to get the views of the junior officers and ordinary soldiers rather than just the ‘important’ people. These guys were tough and reveal how hard war was, and is, for all concerned.

    In episode 20 you commented about taking an Ipod into action. Arthur Batchelor, age twenty, was one of the British Navy boarding party recently held by the Iranian Navy while in action. He complained that they took his Ipod away from him when he was captured! Hard to believe – but I am ashamed to say it is true and is not funny.

  49. Cameron

    Ah the brutalities of war, eh? I wouldn’t want to live without my iPod either, I know how Arthur must have felt.

    Mind you, he’s lucky he didn’t get captured a year from now, when David and I will probably be recording our series on Alexander of Macedon! Just imagine if the Iranians had found THAT on his iPod. Not nice. 🙂

  50. Cameron,

    Is that a promise to get Napoloen finished in a year?

    I am almost dissappointed – I am quite enjoying the relaxed pace.


  51. Cameron

    Colin – no promises but hey, we’re up to 1807. How long can we possibly make 8 years last? Okay, we’ll probably do a show on St Helena as well. And one or two “post hoc” shows. But I can’t see how they could take more than another year! 🙂

    Antonio – you’re right. The convention needs an upgrade to protect iPods, broadband wireless access, Skype and Twitter. Oh and access to The Podcast Network. 🙂

  52. Mike

    David or Cameron,

    Have you ever heard the music composed for Napoleon’s coronation by LeSueur and Paisiello? I was able to get my hands on a CD through Amazon about a year ago (not cheap either, but I had been searching for years). Very impressive. It was used in parts of the PBS Napoleon documentary a few years back. Now that would be some GREAT music to use on the podcasts!


  53. Cameron

    Mike, I went and listened to some of the clips on Amazon. Nice but not as evocative as Le Marsellaise. Still, you’re right though, certainly more ‘fitting’, but I’d have to negotiate rights, permissions, .

  54. Mike

    Sure, no I understand. I wonder though – since Napoleon had banned Le Marseillaise, does anyone know if France actually had a “national anthem” during his reign?

  55. Maria

    Hello, Mike. I think the “national anthem” in Napoleon’s France was the “Chant du départ” , music by Méhul and lyrics by Marie-Joseph Chénier. But I’m not sure…

  56. Maria,

    The Chant du Depart was more of a French Revolutionary number. The favorite “national anthem” of Napoleon was “Veillons au Salute de l’Empire,” which can be found on several CDs out there. My favorite is “Les Marches Napoleoniennes,” which was produced back in 1987.

    For further information on Napoleonic music, you might consider my piece in the research section of the Napoleon Series website (http://www.napoleon-series.org/). It is a little dated, but it will give you a wonderful start on finding some outstanding Napoleonic music (they are all in my personal collection). And Mike, you are quite correct, that is a very nice CD of music from the coronation.



  57. Please can you help me? I have a bronze medal of The Duke of Wellington it is hollow and inside are 12 parchments each one depicting a Wellington Victory. The medal was made before the battle of Waterloo. On the outside is a wonderful head and shoulders of the Duke, on the resverse is a dedication to the her the Duke (Old Nosey) I would like to sell the medal to someone who is a Napoleon or Duke of Wellington fan. The medal is unique!
    Its history and very rare! I would like to get $1,000 for it.. itsx is a bargain…. Do you know anyone who would be interested … Many thanks Sam

  58. Greg

    I have downloaded the first 10 episodes and enjoyed very much. However in iTunes I now get error 3259 messages and cannot down any more episodes. Any ideas?

  59. On this episode, you never got around to answering the question: who invited the British into Iberia?

  60. I realise this is years late – but I have only just discovered your podcast.


    The British became involved because Portugal was their ally.

    And the Spanish might have been slightly miffed at the French because effectively kidnapping the head of state of your erstwhile ally is hardly the sort of thing to endear you to the populace.

    Napoleon didn’t drive Moore to the sea, he chased him for a bit, the British fell back and evacuated the army, after defeating the Soult at Coruna. Leaving Soult with half his army dead or wounded and unable to hold down that area of Spain. Hardly a great French victory – especially as the same army was then refitted, and redeployed in Portugal.

  61. Gavin (Portsmouth, England)

    Didn’t like the way you guys raced through this important chapter, it was a discredit to Wellington, the British army, the Spanish army and almost no mention of the Portuguese input. Very disappointed. But none the less I am very much enjoying these podcasts and hoping to catch up to the latest ones soon.

  62. Javier Palacios


    I would like to remark something about the causes spanish people uprised against Napoleon. It seems to me as if you think spanish people were stupid not acepting french “progress” and pointing as an example the abolition of the spanish Inquisition. Let me share some numbers: Spanish inquisition death penalties during their 300 last years of existance were 12, french revolution figures are around 16.000 and 35.000 deaths and between those kills a lot of them were inocent people only because they were cristians…

    I think you really don’t want to accept spanish people were really happy with their cristian faith but thats the only reason they uprised, not because they rejected french “progress” (we can see examples of that progress all around Spain with the destruction they caused to huge number of churches, you can visit as an example the church of Santa Engracia in Zaragoza…) it was because their love to God as they were trully convinced catholics.

    Spanish people are really aware of the two armies that most destruction caused over their cultural heritage, the first one is Napoleonic army and the second one the english army during the same war, more destruction than that caused during the whole spanish civil war.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We Love To Hear From Our Listeners.

Get in touch with us!