• International researchers trace the influence of the Spanish War of Independence on European poetry

    March 12, 2014

    The project, coordinated by experts from the University of Oviedo, has found more than 600 references by English, French, Portuguese and German authors who wrote about the struggle against the Napoleonic troops

    From left to right, professors Peralta, Laspra, Coletes, Cáceres Würsig y Dufour.

    The Spanish War of Independence through the verses and under the light of foreign authors. Researchers from the University of Oviedo coordinate an international team that is recovering the literary testimonies that flourished in Europe around the Spanish struggle against the Napoleonic troops. Coinciding with the two hundred anniversary of the War of Independence, the experts will finish their work with the edition of four bilingual anthologies that gather the literary contributions that this episode generated among English, French, Portuguese and German authors. No other episodio of the history of Spanish, with the exception of the Civil War, has ever been subjected to such a study.

    Tenured Professor of English Philology of the University of Oviedo Agustín Coletes Blanco leads a multi-disciplinary team composed by experts of five French, German and Spanish universities. So far, the researchers have traced more than 600 references by poems written in these four languages about the Spanish War of Independence, focusing on the vast majority of them that support the patriotic cause, gaining adepts among the European public opinion. To recover the texts, the researchers have conducted an exahustive search in bibliographical sources as heterogeneous as the press of the time, traditional songs, clandestine publications or files of the Napoleonic police.

    The project, originally titled Otras lenguas, otras armas: poesía proespañola inglesa, portuguesa, francesa y alemana de la Guerra de la Independencia (1808-14). Edición, traducción y estudio, funded by the Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness, is also developing an extensive digital registry with all the references found by the researchers. All this material is freely open to be consulted at

    Poetry as a weapon of war

    The Spanish War of Independence was a landmark in the complex European political landscape, and therefore propaganda acquired a special relevance. The task conducted by the international researchers will finish with the edition of four bilingual anthologies that will gather the most relevant testimonies. The first of said anthologies, which compiles the English part of the project, has just been published by Espasa, with the sponsoring of the Dos de Mayo Foundation, with the title of Libertad frente a Tiranía: Poesía inglesa de la Guerra de la Independencia (1808-1814). Antología bilingüe. The University of Oviedo is in charge of the German anthology, which is about to be released.

    The texts of the English poets reveal a "completely partisan poetry that did not praise at all the figure of Napoleon", explains Professor Coletes. British support to the Spanish independence is practically complete and can clearly be seen in its literature. The case of the French literature is especially noteworthy, since, against the texts that praise the Napoleonic Empire, there are some that support the Bourbons exiled in London during Napoleon's reign.

    The Portuguese poets praise heroic episodies like that of May 2 and the fight of the Spaniards to achieve their freedom. In an early form of "Iberianism", other poems position themselves in favor of joining both crowns under the figure of Queen Charlotte. Finally, German-speaking poetry is also pro-Spanish, acknowledging their own desire for independence from the Napoleonic regimen and, curiously enough, making Cervantes, a soldier and writer, the example to be followed.

    Research Team

    • Agustín Coletes Blanco (University of Oviedo)
    • Alicia Laspra Rodríguez (University of Oviedo)
    • Gabriela Gândara Terenas (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
    • Beatriz Peralta García (University of Oviedo)
    • Gérard Dufour (Aix-Marseille Université)
    • Dolores Bermúdez Medina (University of Cádiz)
    • Remedios Solano Rodríguez (Higher School of Vallendar, Germany)
    • Ingrid Cáceres Würsig (University of Alcalá de Henares)