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Napoleon - 02 The Spanish Ulcer

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Napoleon
Episode Two

The Spanish Ulcer

The Peninsular War was a contest between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French armies invaded Portugal in 1807 and Spain in 1808 and lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814.

Spain's liberation struggle marked one of the first national wars and the emergence of large-scale guerrillas, from which the English language borrowed the word. The failure of Napoleon's large armies to pacify the people of Spain allowed British and Portuguese armies to secure Portugal and engage French forces on the frontiers while Spanish guerrilleros bled the occupiers. Acting in concert, these regular and irregular allied forces prevented Napoleon's marshals from subduing the rebellious Spanish provinces.

Years of fighting in Spain gradually wore down Napoleon's famous Grande Armée. While the French armies were often victorious in battle, their communications and supplies were severely tested and their units frequently cut off, harassed, or overwhelmed by partisans. The Spanish army, though beaten and driven to the peripheries, could not be stamped out and continued to hound the French remorselessly. In the final years of war, with France gravely weakened following Napoleon's invasion of Russia, a combined allied army under Arthur Wellesley pushed across Spain from Portugal and liberated Madrid. Eventually, the French forces were driven across Spain by the armies of Arthur Wellesley who pursued them across the Pyrenees back into France.

War and revolution against Napoleon's occupation led to the Spanish Constitution of 1812, later a cornerstone of European liberalism. The burden of war destroyed the social and economic fabric of Portugal and Spain and ushered in an era of social turbulence, political instability, and economic stagnation. Devastating civil wars between liberal and absolutist factions, led by officers trained in the Peninsular War, persisted in Iberia until 1850. The cumulative crises and disruptions of invasion, revolution, and restoration led to the independence of many of Spain's American colonies and the independence of Brazil from Portugal.

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