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8 de Agosto de 2017.
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British Experiences of Iberia

Comparing my first experiences of Iberian life to the British soldiers who arrived in 1807.

Upon arriving in Madeira I read The British Soldier in the Peninsular War (G. Daly, Hobart, 2013) in order to learn more about the history of the island. I have compared my experiences to the soldiers who occupied Madeira from 1807.

The first thing that struck me upon arrival was the temperate weather and dramatic terrain. Lieutenant Sherer of the Cumberland Regiment was similarly taken, describing the wooded mountains of Portugal as ‘enchanting’. However upon entering the cities the initial optimism of the soldiers turned to revulsion; John Douglas wrote home complaining of poor hygiene and disease in Lisbon. While I have not been to Lisbon, this is untrue of Madeira in 2017. I have never been to a city with less litter.

British soldiers did not have a positive view of Portuguese cities and they were similarly disappointed by the food. They were frustrated by the absence of roast beef and complained that too much garlic, vinegar and sardines were served. While I am disappointed too by the absence of roast beef, I will not complain as I have discovered bolo do caco and pastel de nata, which are delicious.

Regarding the people, the most important aspect of any country, the British soldiers had a very positive view of the Portuguese. Lieutenant Sherer wrote warmly of the great hospitality of the Portuguese, a quality I recognise already having only been in Madeira for three weeks. The positivity shown towards the people of Portugal is in contrast to the Spanish, whom William Coles of the 40th Regiment referred to as ‘cold’ and ‘haughty’. Again I will have to strongly disagree with my predecessors, as my Spanish colleagues within AAUMa have been some of the most friendly and welcoming.

While much has changed since 1807, not least the reasons for the British coming to Madeira, the beauty of the island and the warmth of the locals seems to remain intact from the 19th century.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Josef Butler is a volunteer from London. History and Politics graduate from the University of Leicester. Currently living in Funchal and collaborating with AAUMa as part of the History Tellers programme.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.