The war known in Britain as the Peninsular War and in Spain as the War of Independence or the Napoleonic War (1808–14) deserves to play a bigger role in Latin Americanists’ understanding of Spain’s history. It was the first foreign conquest of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula in over a thousand years. Spain and Portugal’s incredibly bitter struggle against the French invaders, joined by the British expeditionary forces under the Duke of Wellington, was a profoundly destabilizing turning point for them and for their American imperial possessions. Charles Esdaile has already published several books on this subject and handles the present sweeping study with the authority and compound focus that you would expect from a leading specialist. This is a “big” book in every sense—a military history of the war that fully incorporates Spanish political affairs as well.

Characterized by dense narrative, the...

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