The Spanish Armada

The Spanish Armada

The Experience of War in 1588

Book - 1988
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The "defeat" of the Spanish Armada by the Royal Navy in 1588 is a story every schoolchild knows. Linked in British history with the beginning of England's naval supremacy, it has been presented for years as a David-and-Goliath showdown in which the Armada, then the uncontested ruler of the seas, was roundly defeated by a British force that was roughly a third the size of the Armada.
The Spanish Armada challenges that view. On the 400th anniversary of the famous sea battle, it offers a more balanced account of the confrontation between the Spanish and British naval powers than has previously been presented. According to Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, the British did not "defeat" the Spaniards; rather, the event should be seen as a "failure" of the Armada to invade British territory. Miles from home, with many of its crew sick, and fighting in stormy waters, the Spanish fleet did well, Fernandez argues, not to be completely routed. Further, he says, it reflects badly on the British not to have inflicted more damage on such a disadvantaged opponent.
In this well-written and documented book, Fernandez-Armesto examines the causes of the historical representation of the battle of 1588 and re-creates the event from both sides. The Spaniards, with their tendency to hyperbole, he says, exaggerate the defeat they suffered at British hands. The story told by the British he attributes to three distorting influences: the "black legend" of Spanish cruelty; the "Whig interpretation of English history," which paints the battle as a victory of English freedom over Spanish despotism; and "Protestant apologetics," according to which the confrontation proved the superiority of the Protestant religion. (One British description of the attack referred to it as an example of "the incessant malice of the enemies of the Gospel.)"
Based on numerous first-person accounts, the author's retelling of the confrontation is replete with details of 16th-century life--especially that aboard a sea-going ship. Beginning with the raising of funds, he chronicles the planning (which was muddled on both sides), the strategy, and the actual warfare (waged against both the enemy and the weather). Stressing the common experiences of both sides, Fernandez-Armesto offers a fresh view of one of the most famous sea battles in history.
Publisher: Oxford [Oxfordshire] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1988.
ISBN: 9780198229261
Characteristics: x, 300 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.


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