Regulating the Irregulars: Spanish Legislation on la guerrilla during the Peninsular War

  • Vittorio Scotti-Douglas


Whether irregular warfare holds — together with prostitution — the dubious merit of being the most ancient form of human activity is something that can never be known for certain. However, all that need concern us here is that it is a very old and well-established way of fighting, usually employed against overwhelming odds. Tracing its long history is not the purpose of this chapter, and all the more so as the current author has written on this subject elsewhere.1 But talking about the concept of guerrilla does require at least a short philological introduction that will give us some insight into the origin and the meaning of this word.


Spanish Legislation Army Officer Guerrilla Warfare Civilian Authority Local Populace 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    S. de Covarrubias Orozco, Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana, o Española, F. Maldonado (ed.) (Madrid, 1995), p. 613. Lit. ‘Cuando entre particulares hay pendencia y enemistad formada, que acuden unos a una parte y otros a otra; pero éstas castigan los príncipes de las repúblicas severamente.’Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Published in Valencia, the book was translated by Captain Víctor Caballero, who added to it many personal observations on the use of light troops in war: cf. M. García Hurtado, Traduciendo la guerra: influencias extranjeras y recepción de las obras militares francesas en la España del siglo XVIII (La Coruña, 1999), pp. 103–4. For a general discussion of the assimilation of French military thought in Spain, cf. V. Scotti-Douglas, ‘La guerra “alla francese” nel XVIII secolo e la sua fortuna in Spagna’, Spagna Contemporanea, no. 17 (Spring, 2000), pp. 161–3.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Cf. J. Gómez de Arteche, Guerra de la Independencia: historia militar de España de 1808 a 1814 (Madrid, 1866–1903), II, pp. 692–6.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    As in N. Rivas Santiago (ed.), El alcalde de Otívar, héroe en la Guerra de la Independencia (Madrid, 1940), pp. 28, 30. Partida de guerrilla in the sense of light infantry detachment may be found inGoogle Scholar
  5. F. Casamayor, Diario de los sitios de Zaragoza, H. Lafoz Rabaza (ed.) (Zaragoza, 2000), pp. 49, 65.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    Proclamation of the Junta Central, 26 October 1808, A. Dérozier, Manuel Josef Quintana et la naissance du libéralisme en Espagne (Paris, 1970), II, pp. 165–74.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    For a recent version of the text of this document, cf. F. Díaz Plaja, La historia de España en sus documentos: el siglo XIX (Madrid, 1954), pp. 73–6.Google Scholar
  8. 28.
    Javier Mina, 1789–1817, began waging guerrilla warfare in Navarra in the summer of 1809, and very rapidly became the most famous and feared guerrilla leader in the region. Captured fortuitously in March 1810 and taken to France, he regained his liberty in April 1814. In 1816 he went to Mexico to aid the local insurgents in their fight for freedom and independence, but was captured and shot in November of the following year. For a recent biography, cf. M. Ortuño Martínez, Xavier Mina: guerrillero, liberal, insurgente (Pamplona, 2000).Google Scholar
  9. 29.
    For a discussion of these schemes, cf. P. Pascual, Curas y frailes guerrilleras en la Guerra de la Independencia (Zaragoza, 1999), pp. 71–81.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    The bibliography on Cura Merino is neither very rich, nor of sure historiographical value. The two most recent works, however, are E. de Ontañó n, El Cura Merino, su vida en folletín (Madrid, 1933), andGoogle Scholar
  11. J.M. Codón, Biografía y Crónica del Cura Merino (Burgos, 1986).Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    The text of General Lacy’s Reglamento may be found in J.M. García-Rodríguez, Guerra de la Independencia: ensayo histórico-político de una epopeya española (Barcelona, Caralt, 1945), II, pp. 292–3.Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    For the background to this force, cf. J. Fàbregas Roig, La Guerra Gran, 1793–1795: el protagonisme de Girona i la mobilització dels Miquelets (Lérida, 2000), andGoogle Scholar
  14. J. Fàbregas Roig, Catalunya i la Guerra Gran: l’aportació dels corregiments meridionals (Tarragona, 2000). As yet, however, the period 1808–14 is still awaiting its monograph.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    Further remarks on the propaganda war may be found in V. Scotti-Douglas, ‘Las “comisiones reservadas” de los confidentes de la Junta Central Suprema Gubernativa’, in J.A. Armillas (ed.), La Guerra de la Independencia: Estudios (Zaragoza, 2001), I, pp. 165–90.Google Scholar
  16. 42.
    For an interesting discussion of this debate, cf. J.R. Aymes, ‘La guérrilla dans la lutte espagnole pour l’indépendance (1808–1814): amorce d’une théorie et avatars d’une pratique’, in Bulletin Hispanique, LXVIII, nos. 3–4 (July–December 1976), pp. 337–8.Google Scholar
  17. 51.
    Cf. J.L. Tone, The Fatal Knot: the Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain (Chapel Hill, 1994), p. 94.Google Scholar
  18. 52.
    For a detailed description of this conflict, cf. A. Cassinello Pérez, Juan Martín, ‘El Empecinado’, o el amor a la libertad (Madrid, 1995), pp. 109–70.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vittorio Scotti-Douglas

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations