Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book: 'The Penninsular War Atlas' by Colonel Nick Lipscombe

I have been eager to get a copy of this book since first seeing a notice of it during our trip to Portugal this past autumn. So this Christmas I was lucky enough to find a copy under the tree gifted to me by our dog 'Caleb' (a very sensible hound who obviously listens to his mistress).   I thought I'd provide a few first impressions of the book for those who may be interested.

This is an impressive book, exhibiting very good craftsmanship throughout. In its slipcase it is 12 1/4" x 10 1/8" and weighs around 6.2 lbs. It is a stitched cloth-bound hardcover with 384 pages, including introduction, body, index and notes. The front cover features a colour print (Wellington in Spain by Robert Alexander Hillingford) which while nice in of itself seems to 'tart up' the book to excess. But this is just my opinion as I prefer a more understated art design.

Any who have see Greenhill's excellent Esposito/Elting 'A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars' will be struck by the close similarities between that work and this especially regarding the map layouts and structure of the narrative.

If there was one thing that especially impressed me with this book is that it takes great pains to portray the entire conflict, with all it's actors, not limiting itself to the typical anglo-centric view that has been so prevalent. As such the author draws heavily on both Spanish and Portuguese primary and secondary sources which gives a much more cohesive and balanced view of the Peninsular campaigns. Several notable historians were involved in the creation of the book, notably Charles Esdaile  (who's own work has provided us the best recent history of the Peninsular war), which lends greater credence to the work as a whole.

So, is it worth the $86 CAD pricetag? Yes, definitely - especially for a  research library or for someone who is a dyed-in-the-wool Napoleonic Wars enthusiast/wargamer. The book helps to place in both a geographical and chronological context a very complex and diverse war. I believe it fills a long neglected niche and will probably be considered a seminal work for years to come.

The Peninsular War Atlas
Colonel Nick Lipscombe
Osprey Publishing,
November 23, 2010
ISBN: 1849083649

Note: Both and currently have the book deeply discounted (37% and 34% respectively) so take advantage of these promotions.