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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
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 Narrative History at its best ... Sept. 19 2000
No one would write a book about the Armada quite like this again - during the quadcentenial (1988), the interest seemed to focus on the ships, armaments and tactics. Mattingley is weak on these, and if that is your prime interest, look to Geoffrey Parkers book published in 1988. However, for narrative force, characterization and political background, Mattingley has no equals. For me, his account of the Armada, published over 40 years ago , is still the best by far. The narrative swings from Low Counries, to Madrid, to Cadiz, to Paris, finally to the Channel and Calais, then back to France. Mattingley shows that the defeat of the Armada ensured the survival of the Reformation and (not least) the independent survival of England, France and the Netherlands. Yet he is even handed at every stage, indeed Medina-Sidonia (the Armada's commander) is one of the heroes. Other heroes are Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Parma and Henri III of France. Well, maybe anti-hero for Henri III, Henri of Navarre (Henri IV to come) is the true French hero. Indeed, for me, the nastiest figures in the book are not Spanish at all. One is Henri of Guise, Philip's co-conspirator in France, and Sir Francis Drake, who comes across as both paranoid and greedy. Read and be transfixed by its narrative sweep - each chapter is like a dramatic news bulletin adding to the powerful impact of the unfolding story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great history that reads like a novel. July 16 1996
By A Customer
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Account of the Spanish Armada Oct. 19 1998
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. Intially it takes a little bit of getting into but the author offers the reader an excellent account of the events leading up to the 'Enterprise of England' including the campaigns in the Low Countries and the Political manoeuvres of the leaders involved. This is an excellent account and I found myself drawn into the narrative, not knowing what was going to happen next although the end result is well known. This is a good piece of history and story telling!
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