A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar at the Portuguese Embassy on the British and Portuguese role during the Peninsular War. The room was full of academics, military, government and interested parties from both countries drawn together to commemorate the contributions of both countries to the eventual defeat of Napoleon and France during the Napoleonic Wars. Academics and historians included Professors Charles Esdaile and Richard Holmes from the UK and Paulo Lowndes Marques, Pedro d\'Avillez and Mendo Castro Henriques from Portugal
There was a lot of interesting material for the Napoleonic historian but two points caught my attention. The first was a recurring theme of the day. Speaker after speaker sought to redraw the lines on the relative contributions of the British, Portuguese (and by extension Spanish) during the war. Not to downplay the British contribution (there were a lot of diplomats in the room) but to recognise that the vast majority of memoirs and accounts of the war are primarily English in origin and that skews our perception. I met a very interesting Portuguese expert and Publisher, Pedro de Avillez who argued very emphatically that we in the UK need a much more balanced view of the conflict
The second point came from the opening remarks of Professor Jeremy Black. He briefly justified the study of this 200 year old conflict pointing out that the parallels between the problems faced by the British army then and now. In the Peninsular War Britain was a coalition partner unable to provide huge amounts of manpower to serve overseas with poor equipment and the need for very deft political manoeuvring both home and abroad. I wonder what lessons from then have been applied to the current conflict in Afghanistan?
Anyway if you would like more details on some of the activities taking place to mark 200 years since the war on the Iberian peninsula then take a look at the work of Peninsular War 200 which has been set up especially to highlight the activities taking place.
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