The Armada Paperback – Aug 1 2003
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2003 by Brian Hawkinson
A very readable account of (one of) the moment(s) England was challenged by a continental power and Europe hung in the balance. Read morePublished on Dec 5 2001 by David Bradley
This is the first book I have bothered to read on the defeat of the Spanish Armada (I'm more a land person) and I must confess I quite enjoyed it. Read morePublished on Oct. 19 1998 by Aussie Reader