cover image Gibraltar


Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins. Viking, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2162-8

The Adkinses (Jane Austen’s England) offer an alternative to the repetitive accounts of field operations that often dominate military histories of the 18th century: a page-turning tale of one of the era’s longest and most significant sieges, described from the perspective of those who lived through it and situated in wider military and diplomatic contexts. Gibraltar, a small territory at the bottom of the Iberian peninsula that’s considered the key to the western Mediterranean, had been in British hands since 1704. Spain attempted to retake it during the American Revolution; in June 1779, the Great Siege began. As the noose around Gibraltar tightened over the next three and a half years, sicknesses and shortages overshadowed battle and bombardment. A particular strength of this work is its domestic dimension; the besieged had ample time to write, and to air fears and grievances. The authors use primary accounts to bring to life the experience of Gibraltar’s residents, including the roughly 1,500 wives and children of soldiers who lived there, and demonstrate that Gibraltar’s defense depended more on endurance than heroics. Specialists may find little new material, but this well organized, fast-paced book is a worthwhile addition to the literature on a still-neglected subject.[em] Agent: Kate Hibbert. (Mar.) [/em]