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The Armada [400th Anniversary Edition]

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Chronicling one of the most spectacular events of the sixteenth century, The Armada is the definitive story of the English fleet's infamous defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The esteemed and... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Debunking Collective Memory and Highlighting Diplomacy

Given Mattingly's insight into Mendova's political manuevers in Paris, Philip II's understanding of European powers, and the role of the Catholic Church in European politics, this was required reading for a college course on European Diplomacy (1500-1918). While a naval historian might find fault in the lack of details and maps, Mattingly does cover the moves and countermoves by the English and Spanish reasonably well, especially for novice sailors like me. However, Mattingly correctly focuses on the lasting influence of the English Enterprise by the Spanish Armada: the flawed belief of a power shift in European politics and the myth(s) it produced. Yes, in keeping with the title of the book, the moves by Spanish Armada are covered in a "daily diary" format, which actually serves to better highlight the real driving force of this work. Mattingly loves to dive into all the source material available and gain a sense of the diplomacy, delayed communication, and potential thoughts of the majors players. In doing so, Mattingly presents all the rumors and views (circa 1588), shows how historians have ran with those "facts" (now rooted in a collective memory), but he then corrects and deals those assumptions as flawed, baseless, or plausible. For example, Drake is often given credit for defeating the Spanish Armada, though he was not in command of the British fleet. Contrary to some stories, the Spanish were not damned by poor weather, but actually had the best seas imaginable. These are minor points, but were often touchstones for historical and political spinning. Mattingly does well in not only debunking these "truths" but in determining when and why they began. This is not revisionist history in the "politically correct" sense of the word. Rather, it lays out the various stories, notes the points of the bias, and seeks to synthesize a coherent story given the available primary sources. Mattingly presents history as it should be - a clear story driven by primary sources which respects the prism of bias inherent in sources. Buy this book.

A golden oldie - but still the greatest

I first read Mattingly's book as a grammar school (high-school to readers on the other side of the pond) history student in England in the 1960s, and have been coming back to it regularly ever since for the sheer pleasure of it. My old paperback copy wore out, so my family gave me the hardback version. The great strength of Mattingly's treatment is that he went far beyond the purely naval aspects of the campaign. He set it squarely in the context of the politico-religious struggle for domination in western Europe, with England and the Dutch Protestants on one side, Spain and all her allies and dependencies on the other, and France paralysed by a ferocious three-cornered internal struggle in which both sides intervened. He is particularly strong on the events before and after the battle of Coutras which prevented France from either pursuing the ultra-Catholic preferences of the house of Guise (of which Mary Queen of Scots' mother was a member), or the traditional French policy of opposition to the Hapsburg rulers of Spain, which the Catholic King Henri of Valois and his Protestant heir-apparent Henri of Navarre would both have preferred. Mattingly shows great insight in realising that it was the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (the event with which he opens his narrative) that freed Philip to launch the Armada; sending it while she was alive would have risked putting a pro-French queen on the English throne. I do nevertheless find two serious gaps in Mattingly's handling of the geopolitical context. The first is the Dutch, who after all had been fighting the war, and suffering the casualties, longer than anyone else except Spain. Mattingly ignores their internal dynamics and skates over the detail of their relationships with England, in both areas doing far less than justice to a key element in the strategic equation. The second gap is the lack of treatment of the Scottish dimension. Scotland, ruled by Mary's son James VI, was the dog that did not bark in the night in 1587-88, and the reasons for that deserve analysis. Yes, after his mother's death James was nearest heir to the English throne, but just HOW did he dissuade the Scots - over whom his power was strictly limited - from using the excuse for their usual descent on England? Mattingly's general strength on the geopolitical aspects does not mean he is weak or lacking in detail on the naval and military aspects: quite the contrary. Coverage of Drake's 1587 raid on Cadiz is pretty much obligatory in a history of the Armada, and Mattingly gives it blow by blow (incidentally revealing what a thoroughly impossible man Drake was to work with). But he is equally strong on Parma's capture of Sluys, which he hoped would be his troops' embarkation point, in the face of dour resistance by the Dutch-English garrison. When it comes to the Armada itself, his grasp of detail is supreme. Mattingly was probably the first of all the many hundreds of Armada historians to read a tide-table and work out

The Beginning of a Century of Change

The defeat of the Armada inaugurated a period which, for English history at least, culminated in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the triumph of a bourgeois science-based way of life.In this book, Mattingly, unlike many others who have concentrated on the naval aspects of the episode, explores the motivations of the states and individuals involved. In brisk, experienced vignettes, he presents the dilemma facing the English government faced with the intractable problem of the putative heir to the throne, Mary, Quen of Scots, a Catholic, at a time when Elizabeth's throne had been explicity threatened by the Pope.We see the weakness of France; the relentless attempts of the leading Catholic power, Habsburg Spain, to suppress the Protestant inspired revolt of Holland, which involved military action close to the Kent shore, and action in which England was already heavily involved and expensively subsidizing.The cutting of the Gordian knot by the execution of Mary precipitated the Spanish attack. Philip II hoped to achieve several objectives at once: to remove Elizabethan Protestantism from Europe; to end English interference with his military action in Holland; finally to crush the Dutch Republic and re-establish the unity of Christendom.The social and religious motivations of the actors are brilliantly portrayed by an expert in the diplomatic records of the period.Perhaps the most telling thing you can say in favour of this book is that it is not written for the professional historian, but cannot be ignored by any of them.

A complex subject rendered simply and beautifully!

I have read this book twice this year. The first time - I read it non-stop, captured by the sheer drama of the narrative. The second time - I took the time to savor the potraits Mr. Mattingly crafts so well. He is a master of his subject, and skillfully takes a complex and convoluted event and presents it in a way that is humorous, insightful, captivating and colorful. It is, in my mind, reflective of the highest standards of fine writing - be it historical or not. A thoroughly enjoyable book - this is one book that will be a recurrent read.

Great history that reads like a novel.

I first read The Armada in high school and have gone back to re-read it every couple of years since. In telling the story of the ill-fated Spanish Armada, Mattingly draws an amazing picture of Europe in a time of deep turmoil. He deftly and succinctly introduces the huge array of people who ultimately decided the fate of the mission, everyone from Mary, Queen of Scots, to Francis Drake to the Duke of Parma. Mattingly's greatest accomplishment is his portrait of Queen Elizabeth. By letting us see her from a variety of points of view, he gives us a greater understanding of how difficult her role as queen was. Mattingly is especially good at showing Elizabeth's ability to create power for herself when she her position gave her very little. The queen comes across as the most thoughtful and crafty of leaders. The writing is superb. Despite it's realtively esoteric topic, The Armada is accessible to anyone. I have happily given it to people who dislike reading history and had them tell me how much they enjoyed. And, unlike some popular histories, the writing is easily matched by the scholarship.
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