Thursday, May 01, 2008

El Dos De Mayo....The Background

An anniversary such as this one almost inevitably produces attempts to rewrite history and to present events in the best possible and most patriotic light. So the Dos de Mayo uprising is presented as the rebellion of an occupied people against a cruel French invasion of Spanish territory. However, calling the French presence in Spain in 1808 an "invasion" is not strictly accurate. The background to the Peninsular War lies in a couple of catastrophic decisions taken by Spain's rulers, and particularly by Manuel de Godoy.

The first of these decisions was the alliance with France that led up to the Spanish fleet being decimated at the Battle of Trafalgar. The second had more serious consequences, Godoy forged an alliance with France against Portugal as part of Napoleon's efforts to isolate Britain and its allies. It was this alliance that permitted the intitial presence of French troops on Spanish soil, the aim supposedly being to invade Portugal and then partition that country with everybody concerned getting their piece of the action. The French then took advantage of having their troops established in key points in Spain to embark on an occupation by stealth of Spanish territory. It doesn't sound quite so good to say that your country was occupied because you were trying to participate in the carving up of your neighbours, but that is a far more accurate description of what took place. Authors of their own misfortune, the rulers of Spain created the concept of "invasion by invitation".

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