At the end of the 18th century Spain remained one of the world's most powerful empires. Portugal, too, was prosperous at the time. By 1808, everything had changed. Portugal was under occupation and ravaged by famine, disease, economic problems and political instability. Spain had imploded and worse was to come. For the next six years, the peninsula was the helpless victim of others, suffering perhaps over a million deaths while troops from all over Europe tore it to pieces. Charles Esdaile's brilliant new history of the conflict makes plain the scope of the tragedy and its far-reaching effects, especially the poisonous legacy that produced the Spanish civil war of 1936-9.