Book Review: Spying for Wellington: British Military Intelligence in the Peninsular War


by Huw J. Davies

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2018. Pp. xiv, 314. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0806161736

British Intelligence Operations in the Peninsular War

Dr. Davies (King's College London) gives us an account of the operational side of British intelligence during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). Opening with a chapter on the British intelligence operations in the eighteenth century, Davies follow with Wellington’s service in India and how it influenced his ability to manage intelligence. There follows a chapter on how Britain’s diplomatic and consular agents ran effective intelligence gathering networks. Davies then looks at Wellington’s intelligence network, building on S. G. P. Ward’s excellent 1957 book, Wellington's Headquarters,

Davies then follows with three case studies, on the Torres Vedras operation (1809-1810), Wellington’s invasion of Spain (1812), and the role of map makers in the Vitoria campaign (1813-1814), demonstrating the increasing sophistication of British intelligence operations.

Davies ends with an epilogue on Wellington’s intelligence during the Waterloo Campaign when a shortage of experienced operatives and staff officers left him with an improvised intelligence service.

Davis offers many profiles of the people involved in collecting and assessing information, often down to the level of the individual agents – British and Spanish – who were out in the field collecting information, as he explains how Wellington and his staff managed the collection, assessment, and use of information, making Spying for Wellington, a volume in the Oklahoma series “Campaigns and Commanders Series” an important read for anyone interested in the Peninsular War or the craft of intelligence.


Note: Spying for Wellington: British Military Intelligence in the Peninsular War is also available in several e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are shared with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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