Book Review: Under the Flags of Freedom: British Mercenaries in the War of the Two Brothers, the First Carlist War, and the Greek War of Independence (1821-1840)


by Moises Enrique Rodriguez

Lanham, MD.: Rowman & Littlefield/Hamilton Books, 2009. Pp. viii, 533. Maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $65.00 paper. ISBN: 0761845445

Although largely forgotten today, the nineteenth century was the era of the international volunteer.  In Under the Flags of Freedom, Rodriguez, author of the ground-breaking two volume Freedom’s Mercenaries, on British volunteers during the Latin American wars for independence (Northern South America, published in 2005, andSouthern South America in 2006), takes a detailed look at the role of Britons in the Greek Wars for Independence (1821-1832), which is rather well known if only for the death of Lord Byron, as well as two now largely forgotten civil wars in the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal’s War of the Two Brothers (1828-1834) and Spain’s First Carlist War (1833-1839).

For each war, Rodriguez outlines the often complex causes, largely nationalist in the case of Greece, but a convoluted mix of dynastic politics, liberalism vs. conservatism, and more in Spain and Portugal, as well as their international and diplomatic implications. He then looks at why British – most often Irish or Scottish – and some other idealists and dventurers chose to take part.   Rodriguez then gives a good overview of military operations, avoiding over-emphasis on the role of the volunteers.  He concludes by discussing the longer-term impact of the wars, some of which have consequences to the present. 

A good account of some very overlooked campaigns.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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