A History of the Peninsular War

A History of the Peninsular War is a non-fiction scholarly historical work, covering the Peninsular War (1807-1814) in the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars, comprising seven volumes. It was written by Sir Charles Oman. Clarendon Press published the first volume in 1902 and volume seven in 1930.[1][2][3][4][5]

A History of the Peninsular War
Image of the book jacket for this book. The 1995 version.
Volume 1 book jacket 1995 republication
AuthorSir Charles Oman
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectHistory, Napoleonic Wars
PublisherClarendon Press (1st edition), Greenhill Books (republished), Stackpole Books (republished)
Publication date
1902-1930, 1995-1997, 2004 (paperback)
Media typePrint, e book, world wide web
WebsiteThe Napolean Series

About the seven volumesEdit

This seven-volume history is described as appealing, scholarly, thorough, and definitive.[1] The author does acknowledge politics and diplomacy throughout, but the main narrative focus seems to be on military events.[2] Additionally, human beings on the field are the focus rather than military units "with numerical designations."[2] The books present equal analysis to all the powers involved in the seven year conflict. Many of the important actors and decision makers in the armies of Spain, Portugal, the first French empire, and Britain are included.[1] Oman's writing style is late Victorian, cleverly humorous, and genial in places, demonstrating a facility for story-telling. Meanwhile, he ensures the pertinent facts of the many covered events are presented.[1]

Regarding scholarship, Oman went "through everything available" and then dug for more, discovering diaries, memoirs, military dispatches, general orders, "parliamentary papers", filed newspapers, pertinent national archives, and so on.[1][2] He personally reconnoitered relevant geographical areas enabling him to give first hand descriptions of the topography. Also, Oman's "studies of personalities and their thought processes, [has revealed] the depth of his research."[1]

Oman is widely perceived as unbiased with his coverage. In fact, one of his main objectives for writing this history was to counter Sir William Napier's seemingly flawed recounting of events in Napier's own six volume work entitled, "History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France." [1][3] Oman perceived Napier's account as heavily biased, exaggerating Spanish defeats and minimizing Spanish successes, while also diminishing entrenched Spanish resistance which frustrated the Duke of Wellington.[1] Interestingly, Napier had high regard for Napoleon while at the same time being critical of the Spanish.[2] Oman also said a tremendous amount of source material had become available since publication of Napier's work, as another reason for creating this historical account.[2]

Producing this seven volume history spanned 30 years [6] and it demonstrates Oman's unflagging "industry, perseverance, and volume of reading."[4] He personally reconnoitered the "very scene[s] of action [of] nearly all Wellington's battlefields."[4] Appendices, lists of casualties, and clearly illustrated maps complete this endeavor.[4][6] Godfrey Davies, in his book Wellington's Army, pointed out weaknesses in Oman's work in regard to his estimates of Wellington as a general and Wellington's relations with his officers and men.[7]


This history was published between 1902 and 1930 in seven volumes: [1][5]

  • Volume 1 was published in 1902. It covers the years 1807–1809. It is entitled " Treaty of Fontainebleau to Corunna. " 673 pages.
  • Volume 2 was published in 1903. Coverage includes January to September 1809 and is entitled " Corunna to end of Talavera campaign. " 670 pages.
  • Volume 3 was published in 1908. It covers September 1809 to December 1810 and is entitled " Ocana, Cadiz, Bussaco, Torres Vedras. " 575 pages.
  • Volume 4 was published in 1911. It covers December 1810 to December 1811 and is entitled " Massséna's retreat, Fuentes de Onoro, Albuera, Tarragon " 672 pages.
  • Volume 5 was published in 1914. It covers October 1811 to August 1812, and is entitled "Valencia, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Madrid." 642 pages.
  • Volume 6 was published in 1922. Coverage encompasses the beginning of September 1812 to the beginning of August 1813. It is entitled "Siege of Burgos, retreat from Burgos, Vittoria, Pyrenees." 790 pages.
  • Volume 7 was published in 1930. Coverage includes August 1813 to the middle of April 1814. It is entitled "St Sebastian, invasion of France, Nivelle...[2]

Greenhill Books of London and Stackpole Books of Pennsylvania republished all seven volumes between 1995 and 1997.[1]

Wellington's armyEdit

Within the first nine years of researching and writing this history, Oman had also gathered other notes and materials that only tangentially correlated to "A History of Peninsular War." He wouldn't be able to use the material for this seven volume history.[8] So, he used the material to write a different book entitled "Wellington's Army 1809—1814." It was originally published in 1913. The book includes the "organization, day by day life, and psychology" of Wellington's Army during the Peninsular War.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Robinson, R.E.R. (Autumn 1997). "Review Article". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 75 (303): 191–197 (7 pages). JSTOR 44230079.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Stevens, Wayne (June 1931). "Review". The Journal of Modern History. 3 (2): 305 (4 pages). doi:10.1086/235739. JSTOR 1871731.
  3. ^ a b Hicks, Peter (2020). "A History of the Peninsular War by Sir Charles Oman". The History Website of the Fondation Napoléon. Napolean.Org. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Editors (April 1931). "Announcement and review". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. 10 (39a): 120–121. JSTOR 44230394.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b "Review of A History of the Peninsular War, Vol. II, January–September 1809 by Charles Oman". The Athenæum (3953): 145–146. 1 August 1903.
  6. ^ a b Anderson, Troyer S. (October 1931). "Review article". The American Historical Review. 37 (1): 111 (2 pages). doi:10.2307/1842275. JSTOR 1842275.
  7. ^ Godfrey Davies, Wellington's Army (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954), p. ix.
  8. ^ a b Oman, Charles (1913). "Preface and Chapter 1". Wellington's Army 1809—1814 (1st ed.). Edward Arnold. Internet Archive. Reproduced in 2018 by Outlook Verlag GmbH.

Further readingEdit