Gibraltar

Publication Details

Our latest book, Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History, is to be published in the UK by Little, Brown in hardback on 7th September 2017, ISBN 9781408708675. At the same time, it will be available as an e-book in various formats. There will also be an unabridged downloadable audiobook produced by Hachette Audio (UK), narrated by the acclaimed actor John Telfer. In the United States and Canada, the same book will be published in hardback by Viking on 13th March 2018, ISBN 9780735221628, as well as an e-book.The book is 449 pages long, plus a prologue, black-and-white and colour plates, and several maps.

A rip-roaring account of the dramatic four-year siege of Britain’s Mediterranean garrison by Spain and France – an overlooked key to the British loss in the American Revolution’.

 


UK hardcover (September 2017)


US hardback (March 2018)

The two jacket designs are both based on paintings by American artists. The Little, Brown jacket is based on a painting by John Singleton Copley, while the Viking one is based on a painting by John Trumbull.

The Great Siege

Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History is an epic tale of courage, desperation, endurance and intrigue, brought to life by eyewitness accounts and in-depth research using unpublished archives and contemporary late 18th-century accounts. For more than 3½ years, from June 1779 to February 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.

 

Looking from the Moorish Castle at Gibraltar towards La Linea in Spain. The runway marks

the position of the isthmus. A great deal of development and land reclamation has taken place since the Great Siege

Located between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, on the very edge of Europe, Gibraltar was by then a British military garrison and also home to several thousand civilians, a place of varied nationalities, languages, religions and social classes. During the siege, soldiers, civilians and their families withstood terrifying bombardments, starvation and diseases. Very ordinary people lived through the most extraordinary events, from shipwrecks and naval battles to an attempted invasion of England and a daring sortie out of Gibraltar in order to destroy Spanish fortifications. Deadly innovations included red-hot shot, shrapnel shells and a barrage from immense floating batteries. This is military, naval and social history combined, 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 2 square miles of awe-inspiring rock.

Furnace for heating red-hot shot, depicted on the funerary monument

of George Augustus Eliott at Buckland Monachorum church

American Revolution

The British government’s obsession with saving Gibraltar was blamed for the loss of America in the War of Independence – also known as the American Revolution. When France sided with the American colonies and offered all sorts of help, they soon saw the possibility of destroying Britain’s sea power, but Spain’s naval support would be needed. The French began a diplomatic campaign and eventually persuaded Spain to join forces against Britain. In return, France promised to do everything possible to assist Spain in gaining control of Gibraltar and the island of Minorca. Spain also agreed to support a French invasion of southern England, where the main bases of the Royal Navy were located.

 

The siege of Gibraltar, the siege of Minorca and the attempted invasion by an armada of French and Spanish warships were all inextricably linked with the struggle of the American colonies for independence from British rule. Such a complicated conflict drew in soldiers right across Europe, from Morocco to Italy, to fight on both sides, and the Great Siege of Gibraltar was not finally resolved until the American War of Independence was ended with a peace treaty in 1783.

A soldier of the 72nd Manchester Regiment at the gunpowder magazine

near Willis’s battery, part of the ‘City Under Siege’ display at Gibraltar.

The 72nd was originally raised to serve in America, but was sent to Gibraltar instead.

Barbary apes

Many visitors today want to see the Barbary macaques – usually referred to as apes, but they are actually monkeys without tails, the only free-ranging monkeys in Europe. Before the Great Siege, there were considerable numbers of macaques, and officers would shoot them for sport. Little mention is made of them during the siege, but with food so scarce, some may have been eaten. They would have retreated to safety on the eastern side of Gibraltar, which was then virtually inaccessible, except by boat.

A Barbary macaque


The eastern side of the Rock where the macaques were found

Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival

We will be taking part in the 2017 Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival, talking on our new book ‘Gibraltar: The Greatest Siege in British History’. This prestigious and popular festival takes place over four days, 16th to 19th November. The venues include the Garrison Library, which was founded in 1793 by John Drinkwater. He was in the 72nd Regiment throughout the Great Siege and afterwards published his detailed diary. See our Events page for further details of this and other talks we are giving.

Talks and other events

Our publicist is arranging talks and other events, which will be added to our website’s Events and Interview page. She can be contacted as follows: Hayley Camis, Press Officer, Little, Brown Book Group, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ. Tel. 020 3122 6000. Email: Hayley.Camis@littlebrown.co.uk.  @hayleycamis

 

A World War Two gun on the site of Willis’s battery.

During the Great Siege, Willis’s battery played a key role


Spain viewed from a gun emplacement in the siege tunnels


The south end of Gibraltar viewed from the Straits

For other stories related to Gibraltar and the Great Siege on our website, see the Trafalgar page for various bits and pieces; newsletter 22 for the depression gun during the Great Siege, newsletter 44 for the Pillars of Hercules, newsletter 47 for Coxheath Camp, and newsletter 48 for the sinking of HMS Britannia in World War One.