The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain

The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain

The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain

The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain


"From 1808 to 1814, Spaniards waged a guerrilla war against the French Empire, turning Spain into a nightmare for Napoleon's armies and making the Peninsular War one of the most violent conflicts of the nineteenth century. In The Fatal Knot, John Tone recounts the events of this conflict from the perspective of the Spanish guerrillas, whose story has long been ignored in histories centered on Wellington and the French marshals. Focusing on the insurgent army of Francisco Espoz y Mina, Tone offers a new interpretation of the origins and motives of this first guerrilla force and describes the devastating impact of Mina's guerrillas on Napoleon's troops. Tone argues that traditional explanations for the guerrillas' resistance are inadequate. The insurgents were neither bandits in search of booty nor patriots fighting for king, country, and church. Rather, they were landowning peasants who fought to protect their own interests within the old regime in Navarre, a regime that was marked by something like a true "moral economy," reflected in the economic and institutional empowerment of the peasantry. It was this social order and the guerrilla movement it generated that constituted Napoleon's "fatal knot.""--BOOK JACKET. Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


That unfortunate war destroyed me; it divided my forces, multiplied my obligations, undermined my morale. . . . All the circumstances of my disasters are bound up in that fatal knot.--Napoleon Bonaparte on the Spanish war, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, 1823

IN 1808 napoleon seized Spain, ending an alliance with the Spanish Bourbons that dated back to 1796. By the summer of 1808 French troops occupied Madrid and the most important forts in the country. the Bourbons, their armies in disarray, were forced to abdicate, and Napoleon turned Spain over to his older brother, Joseph. Spain seemed the easy prize Napoleon had predicted it would be.

The Spanish people, however, proved more resilient than its government and armies. With their cities occupied, their royal family deposed, and half of their ruling elite co-opted by the Bonaparte regime, Spaniards formed a revolutionary government, raised new armies, and initiated a war of liberation against France. the English took advantage of the Spanish resistance to place an expeditionary army in Portugal, and during the next six years, English, Portuguese, and Spanish forces battled France in Iberia when most of Europe lay prostrate before Napoleon. As the emperor himself later observed, it was the long, costly war in Spain that led to his destruction.

Napoleon sacrificed 300,000 men in Iberia. As damaging to France as the number of casualties, however, was the burden of maintaining large numbers of troops in the peninsula for six years. From 1810 to 1812 Napoleon had 400,000 men in Spain and Portugal, and he maintained . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.