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Publisher's Summary

For over three and a half years, from 1779 to 1783, the tiny territory of Gibraltar was besieged and blockaded, on land and at sea, by the overwhelming forces of Spain and France. It became the longest siege in British history, and the obsession with saving Gibraltar was blamed for the loss of the American colonies in the War of Independence.

Located between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, on the very edge of Europe, Gibraltar was a place of varied nationalities, languages, religions and social classes. During the siege, thousands of soldiers, civilians and their families withstood terrifying bombardments, starvation and diseases. Very ordinary people lived through extraordinary events, from shipwrecks and naval battles to an attempted invasion of England and a daring sortie out of Gibraltar into Spain. Deadly innovations included red-hot shot, shrapnel shells and a barrage from immense floating batteries.

This is military and social history at its best, a story of soldiers, sailors and civilians, with royalty and rank and file, workmen and engineers, priests, prisoners of war, spies and surgeons all caught up in a struggle for a fortress located on little more than two square miles of awe-inspiring rock.

Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History is rich in dramatic human detail - a tale of courage, endurance, intrigue, desperation, greed and humanity. The everyday experiences of all those involved are brought vividly to life with eyewitness accounts and expert research.

©2017 Roy & Lesley Adkins (P)2017 Little, Brown Book Group

Critic Reviews

"A fascinating, well-crafted account of a siege that defined Britishness." (Andrew Lambert, BBC History Magazine)

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 09-30-17

Fascinating

From 1779 to 1783 the Spanish and French Ships had blockaded the British owned City of Gibraltar. The Spanish also besieged the city by land. The obsession with saving Gibraltar was blamed for the loss of the American colonies by some historians.

The authors tell the story of the siege. They tell the stories of the soldiers, their families and civilian workers who withstood the bombardment, starvation and diseases for three years. The fortress was located on about two square miles of rock. The British Army conducted daring guerilla strikes into Spain. In the end, the French Navy was eventually sunk when their gun batteries overheated and exploded. I enjoyed the descriptions from Mrs. Green’s diary about the various diseases that went through the city and army base. I found the information about smallpox the most interesting. Sometimes smallpox was brought in on a ship that ran the blockade and at other times it seemed to be a seasonal outbreak. Mrs. Green appeared to be most upset that Governor Elliott did not allow vaccinations to stop the epidemic. Mrs. Green had excellent descriptions of other diseases and the effects of starvation such as scurvy. The authors report that food prices were extremely high but the Governor did not allow price fixing because of the high profits to be made which were the incentive to the privateers to risk running the blockade.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The Adkin’s writing style is to intersperse narrative with first-hand accounts that give an accurate picture of the times. The authors reveal step by step every major decision made by Governor Elliott and the military staff. This provides a fascinating insight into the officers and the wives as well as the enlisted men and civilian workers. The book format provides a comprehensive bibliography and index as well as maps, diagrams and photographs. The Adkins are well-known British archeologists and historians and have written a number of books. For the more serious reader the book format would make an excellent reference book.

The book is fifteen hours long. John Telfer does a good job narrating the book. Telfer is a well-known English actor and audiobook narrator.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful