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Book Review: Atlas of the
Peninsular War 1808 - 1814

Atlas of the Peninsular War 1808 - 1814, by Worley Publications
2000, Worley Publications

When I first began to be interested in the Napoleonic period in late 2000, it was through the showing of one of the Richard Sharpe movies on television. The Sharpe’s series of novels led me to search for a one-volume history of the Peninsular War. David Gates’ The Spanish Ulcer is a readable volume, but the maps are very poor. So I went in search of an atlas, and was pleased to discover that this title had been recently published. Unable to track it down in the U.S. I ordered it from the U.K.

I admit I had not done my homework. I was expecting an overview of the struggle along with maps and illustrations - something along the lines of The Historical Atlas of the Napoleonic Era. Instead the present volume is simply a reproduction, in black and white, of 131 scans of old maps from a variety of sources.

There is no introductory essay, no note on the source of the maps (some are French, some British, some Spanish, some from other sources), in fact there is not even an author. On the edges of some of the maps are references which may indicate ultimate sources, but I suspect many were scanned from old prints and books.

The collection is in chronological order but is quite uneven. The Battle of Bailen merits three full two-page spreads, while Talavera merits only a single page. Many of the maps are hard to read as the original color has not been reproduced. Even in color, however, maps can hardly be very legible when reduced to fit a standard book page. The map of the Battle of Almonacid, for example, shows two armies, with arrows indicating their movements. The key, however, shows both armies as represented by black rectangles. Obviously the map was meant to be rendered in color with two dark colors, one for each army. In black and white it is very hard to make sense of.

If you are looking for a reference on this period, you should keep looking. Only the most die hard Napoleon and map fanatic should consider adding this title to their collection.

Review posted January 25, 2004

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