Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History
This book is fascinating. It’s excellently well written, painting the characters involved in a very engaging way—one of those superbly done factual books where you know how the end plays out, but you wish it were different as you turn page after page for the story unfolding. You are transported to the late 18th century, and are made to understand the mindset of everyone caught in the conflict. The siege must have been living hell, with Spanish and French forces blockading and bombarding the Rock for over three and a half years; the figures provided for the weight, number, and type of ordinance that were exchanged are astonishing. But it is the consequences of Gibraltar’s endurance that is so striking—the realization that, had things played out differently in those years from 1779, armies and shipping could have been sent to the relief of the American colonies instead, and might have overturned the newly-minted Declaration of Independence.
The cost of retaining the Rock was high; the timing of the book, with the future of Gibraltar an important part of the Brexit negotiations, could not be bettered.
My usual touchstone for a non-fiction book is whether I learned from it; this certainly qualifies. But what I will retain is the story: the stoicism of all involved, and the realization of the consequences of that heroism