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The Armada [Paperback]

Garrett Mattingly
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 13 1974 American Heritage Library
This award-winning story of the defeat of the Spanish Armada has been hailed as a historical masterpiece. The book covers Queen Elizabeth's reign over a turbulent nation, while the Duke of Parma plans the invasion of England from the Netherlands. The crucial period from February 1587 to December 1588 is presented in a series of detailed, dramatic scenes. The second part of the book is devoted to the naval battle from the first sight of the Armada off the Scilly Isles to the return of its broken remnants to the ports of Spain.

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About the Author

Garrett Mattingly (1900'1962) was a historian, educator, and best-selling author. He served with the U.S. Navy in World War II and in 1948 joined the faculty of Columbia University, where he taught European history.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great description of the main characters! Feb. 1 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Prior to the description of how the battle itself unfolded, the author gives a comprehensive review of who the principal characters were and how their personalities and actions influenced Spain's decision to proceed with the launching of the Armada (which they called "The Enterprise of England"). These include not only the sovereigns of Spain and England at the time, but also the Pope, lesser (but nevertheless influential) religious figures, politicians, ambassadors and, of course, the main combatants, including Sir Francis Drake and the Duke of Parma (both of them spoiling for a fight). In fact, the progression of the battle as it wound its way along the southern coast of England is almost anticlimactic (not the least reason for which is because we know the outcome anyway). Nevertheless, we are made aware of several key engagements (or near-engagements) during the course of the battle when things could have gone horribly wrong for the outnumbered English fleet and affected the final outcome.

If I could level any criticism at the book, it could have done with more and better maps to guide the reader through the battle and the lead-up to it. There are only a couple, and even then, there are places mentioned in the text that don't appear on the maps provided. There are also a few puzzling printing errors near the edges of some of the text, but it's obvious to the reader what words were intended. Fortunately, the occurrence of these errors is only in a few places.

That being said, it's still a rollicking good read that I couldn't put down until I'd finished it in a couple of sessions. When I did finish it, I loaned it to a friend who finished it in a single reading because he couldn't put it down and gave it back to me the next day!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Better than a novel June 16 2004
This is an absolute page-turner on the Invincible Armada and its demise before Calais in the fateful year 1588.
The book tells the story of the campaign from different angles with chapters on The Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain and England. The author's prose is sometimes difficult to read and stuffed with naval jargon but on the whole quite enjoyable. In fact, the narrative is gripping and comparable with the best historical novels.
What I also find commendable about this book is its relative neutrality. Because it opens with a chapter praising Queen Elizabeth, I was afraid that it would be flagrantly and outrageously pro-Brittish but as the story unfolded the author was able to present each actor in a quite objective way and even the defeat of the Spanish fleet was not as heart-rending as I had feared (I have a lot of Spanish blood in my veins!).
The Armada focuses on political and military events rather than on a colorful historical reconstruction of details. The book contains no lengthy descriptions of clothes or weapons or dietary habits or a social critique of the 16th century. What you do find is a wealth of acute psychological portraits of the main characters (but thank God without any Freudian undertones!). Elizabeth I, Philip II, Drake and Medina Sidonia, the Spanish admiral, are all described incisively along with Henri III, the Duke of Guise, Mary, the queen of Scots, and other minor actors.
The only thing I regret about The Armada is the sore lack of illustrations: pictures of the different vessels used in combat and of their armament would have been most welcome. True, there are two maps at the beginning of the book and they are enough to understand the narrative, but still my imagination was hampered by my ignorance of what pinnaces and galleasses look like.
All in all an excellent book. If you love 16th century history this is the book for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Amazing! Jan. 30 2003
This has got to be one of the absolute best historical books on the Armada. Not only on the Armada but on the politics on the continent as it pertained to England and Spain. It is very accurate in its facts and portrays them in a way that brings the characters and events alive, leaving you with a craving feeling to read more and more. Written like a novel yet with the facts of a history book. A recommend for anyone looking for a gripping historical account of the struggle between Spain and England that resulted in the Armada's attempt to invade England.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hail Britiannia Dec 5 2001
A very readable account of (one of) the moment(s) England was challenged by a continental power and Europe hung in the balance.
Like Churchill more than three centuries later, Elizabeth I was helped quite mightely by the English Channel, but in her case the seemingly miraculous destruction of the Spanish fleet resulted in her near-deification. And rightfully so.
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