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Vous consultezIan Robertson, An Atlas of Peninsule War, Yale University Press, 2010
AuteursPeter Hicks du même auteur
François Houdecek du même auteur
This book of maps is fascinating and infuriating in equal measure. The title claims that it is an atlas of the Peninsular War, and yet the work only includes engagements involving the British Army, “plans of battles and sieges in which the Spanish fought alone against the French [being] not included”! The maps are on the other hand beautifully clear and modern, compiled by someone who claims to have personally seen many of the places recorded. As a result they are for the most part easy to use and (so the book would have us believe) the best available (although no comment is made on the very recent Spanish publication which would appear to be in direct competition, namely Cartografia de la Guerra de la Independencia (Ministero de Defensa e Ollero y Ramos Editores, 2008)). The compiler/author Ian Robertson is furthermore an experienced military historian so the accompanying text ought to be of high quality. And yet, the tone of the historical accounts is quite jingoistic; everyone except Wellington is treated with avuncular condescension: the Spanish soldiers are all pathetic in pitched battles but ‘plucky foreigners’ when it comes to sieges (p. 6); the Portuguese Royal family is “feckless”; the French are treacherous – Junot enters Portugal gratuitously (p. 17). It ought to be possible to tell this story in a more sophisticated way? Even French historiography is brushed off as lying via a startlingly nationalistic quotation from a travel book to Spain published in 1845! (p. 7). Modern authors’ accounts of the war in Spain (René Aymes, Charles Esdaile, Jean-Marc Lafon, etc.) seem not to have penetrated. Furthermore, despite the exemplary clarity of most of the maps, some of them reveal the same one-sided approach too – for example, some charts only give the movements for one army (pp. 77, 95, 97, 123).
2 In its format, Robertson’s book is quite similar to the exceedingly useful book produced by Colonel John Elting and Brigadier Vincent Esposito, A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars (first edition, Praeger Inc., 1964, second, revised edition, Greenhill Books, 1999) with its combination of detailed maps and a somewhat ‘enthusiastic’ text. And whilst the book here would appear to be superior to its ancestor in that it provides a greater number of maps, Robertson’s maps are occasionally inferior in that they occasionally do not give precise details concerning commanders and corps in the map itself and the reader is expected to glean them from the accompanying text. In fact, unlike in the Esposito/Elting volume, the maps are almost never understandable on their own, and one strongly gets the feeling that they were drawn more with the specialist in mind than the general reader. There is also an annoying unevenness in the way the different maps are treated, for example, on p. 15 only the British units are identified not the French, and on p. 65 only the names of commanders are given.
3 Whilst this volume has much to offer, English readers are still waiting for the definitive, complete Peninsular War atlas.
POUR CITER CET ARTICLE
Peter Hicks et François Houdecek « Ian Robertson, An Atlas of Peninsule War, Yale University Press, 2010 », Napoleonica. La Revue 3/2010 (N°9), p. 155-156.
URL : www.cairn.info/revue-napoleonica-la-revue-2010-3-page-155.htm.
DOI : 10.3917/napo.103.0155.