Andrew Abram, The English Garrison of Tangier Charles II’s Colonial Venture in the Mediterranean, 1661-1684 (Helion, 2022)
King Charles II’s marriage to the Portuguese Infanta brought, amongst other things, the acquisition of Tangier. The resultant Tangier garrison existed from 1661 to 1684, and its story, which will be considered by many to be well off the beaten track, is fascinating and made even more so by Andrew Abram. This weighty tome, coming in at just over 380 pages, is a bit of a tour de force.
Abram starts by describing the army of Charles II and the troops sent out to garrison this new acquisition. There follow chapters on the development of the harbour and the impact of the various governors. There is, of course, the inevitable confrontation with the Alaouite Dynasty, which was securing its interests in Morocco, and the armies and various conflicts, including the siege of the garrison, are covered in detail. The demise of the colony and the multifaceted reasons for it bring the book to a conclusion. It is supported by numerous appendices and a substantial number of period illustrations.
The story of Tangier is one of underfunding, desperate men in desperate situations, unreasonable demands, politics, and skulduggery, with a series of conflicts that the garrison was totally unprepared for. At the end of the day, it is a tragic tale, but don’t let that put you off as it is a fascinating and well told adventure.
I came to this book knowing virtually nothing about Charles II’s reign and even less about the Tangier garrison. I learned a lot about the subject, and it opened a window not just on the colony but on how the country took some of its first steps in its colonial expansion. I came away deeply impressed by Abram’s ability to provide huge amounts – and I mean huge amounts – of detail while maintaining a narrative that flows through the complex politics of the time. It is reasonable to say that this book is everything you never knew you wanted to know about Charles II’s escapade in Tangier.
This is recommended for those with an interest in the period, whether history buff, wargamer, reenactor, or someone new to the period who likes a good book on an unusual subject told by someone who knows their stuff and has the skill to make is it an enthralling read.
(Reviewed by Mike Huston for Full Paper Jacket)