The Peninsular War: Wellington's Battlefields Revisited, Ian Fletcher

The Peninsular War: Wellington's Battlefields Revisited, Ian Fletcher

The Peninsular War and Wellington's battles are amongst the most popular topics in military history, so any new book on the topic really needs to be different to stand out. In this case the focus is on the excellent colour photography that shows the key British battlefields of the (including Corunna, Barrosa and Albuera, the three main British battles that didn't involve Wellington). The photos are accompanied by a narrative that places them in context, but that isn't an important part of the book.

The success of this book thus rests on the quality and relevance of the photos. It scores highly on quality, with some stunning photographs of the wild and rugged battlefields of the war. I'd say the same for the relevance of most of the pictures. Some help give a much clearer idea of the real nature of a battlefield than any number of written descriptions. One example is the photo showing the Lesser Arapil and Greater Arapil on the Salamanca battlefield. This makes clear that they might be quite low hills, but shows both how they dominate an otherwise flat landscape and how rugged their upper slopes are. In contrast the pictures show that the battlefield at Albuera, despite narratives that talk about hills and slopes, was actually rather flat.

We also get to see just how varied the terrain being fought over was - from lush green hills to arid plains and harsh mountains. Although many of the battlefields have changed in the intervening two centuries it is quite surprising how many are unchanged, and how many original buildings have survived. Amongst other things one thus gets a clearer idea of the difficulties faced during any battle in the many villages that feature in the campaigns, where sturdy stone walls acted as a series of mini fortresses.

This is a very attractive book that also gives the reader a much clearer image of the Peninsular battlefields, and that thus acts as a good companion to any general history of the war.

Author: Ian Fletcher
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 122
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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