The Anatomy of a Research Project: The Sociology of the Guerrilla War in Spain, 1808–14

  • Charles J. Esdaile
  • Leonor Hernández Enviz


The identity of the Spanish guerrillas of 1808–14 is not a subject that has ever gripped the attention of the historical community. Whilst there has been general agreement that popular resistance played a considerable role in Spain’s struggle against Napoleon, the men and women who actually took up arms against the invaders have remained cloaked in anonimity. Proud of the heritage of their patrias chicas, a number of local historians have sought to uncover the identities of the leaders of the guerrilla bands that operated in their own provinces, whilst the eagerness of the nineteenth-century Republican, Rodríguez Solis, to emphasise the heroism of the Spanish people encouraged him to embark on an extensive catalogue of the partidas and their exploits that to this day remains an important introduction to the subject.1 Other writers, meanwhile, have concentrated on painting a picture of individual cabecillas and in the process have afforded us a series of more or less useful introductions to the guerrilla in one part of Spain or another. However, this work is but a beginning. Whilst it has given us a picture of the main leaders, and here and there even provided us with the names of a few of their followers, it made no almost attempt to analyse such questions as age, occupation, social class or geographical origin (in fairness to Rodríguez Solis, he does provide some statistical detail on both the provinces that the men he uncovered operated in and the period in which they were active, but his data is so random, unreliable and unscientific that his figures are of little use).


Privileged Class Tenant Farmer Spanish People Extensive Catalogue Guerrilla Band 
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  1. 1.
    E. Rodríguez Solis, Los Guerrilleros de 1808: Historia Popular de la Guerra de la Independencia (Madrid, 1887). For an example of such a regional study, cf.Google Scholar
  2. R. Guirao and L. Sorando, El Alto Aragón en la Guerra de la Independencia (Zaragoza, 1995).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    G. Lovett, Napoleon and the Birth of Modern Spain (New York, 1965), p. 672.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For full details, cf. C. Esdaile, Fighting Napoleon: Guerrillas, Bandits and Adventurers in Spain, 1808–14 (Yale University Press, 2004), pp. 92–3.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    For detailed discussion of the exceptional case presented by Navarre, cf. J. Tone, The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1994), pp. 9–41 passim, andGoogle Scholar
  6. F. Miranda, La Guerra de la Independencia en Navarra: la Acción del Estado (Pamplona, 1977), pp. 119–35.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles J. Esdaile
  • Leonor Hernández Enviz

There are no affiliations available

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