By Charles Esdaile

Within the Napoleonic interval struggle ceased to be an issue for armies on my own, but in addition grew to become an affair of the folk. So, at the least, runs the standard declare. In Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Russia outraged peasants and townsfolk rose opposed to the French armies and fell upon them with no mercy. From those insurrections we get the trendy notice 'guerrilla', yet did armed civilians fairly play a huge a job within the fight? during this selection of essays a bunch of experts at the Napoleonic epoch tease out the query, and arrive at a few startling conclusions.

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In the fourth, in those cases where popular resistance did spring from below, it was generally ineffectual and in the end prone to slide into mere banditry. And in the fifth it is clear that the subject cannot be studied effectively without a readiness to grapple with traditional military history: as the current author has shown in these pages, the motivation of the Russian army in 1812 needs to be discussed with the aid of some knowledge of its organization and war record; equally, in Fighting Napoleon: Guerrillas and Bandits in Spain, 1808–1814 he has established that the partidas will never properly be understood if the role played in them by the Spanish regular army is not accorded its full weight.

One of ‘constant ambushes, murders and extermination’, it was not like the ones that they had become accustomed to fighting elsewhere in Europe: There were not any battles to compare with Eylau or Friedland, but fighting on a daily basis against invisible assailants, spread out in their thousands behind bushes, at the bottom of ravines, hidden at the corner of every wall; we never enjoyed a truce or any rest, and treason was a constant risk, day and night, whether at the other side of the road or at the head of one’s bed.

18. Eyck, Loyal Rebels, pp. 69–70. 19. For all this, cf. L. Tone, The Fatal Knot: the Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1994), pp. 9–41, 162–71 passim. 20. An excellent eye-witness account of the guerrilla war in the Serranía de Ronda may be found in Rocca, Memoirs, pp. 122–63; for a critical discussion, meanwhile, cf. J. Esdaile, Fighting Napoleon, pp. 124–5. 21. For events in Galicia in 1808–09, cf. J. Esdaile, ‘Rebeldía, reticencia y resistencia: el caso gallego de 1808’, Trienio, no.

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