THE SPANISH ARMADA: The Experience of War in 1588 by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

THE SPANISH ARMADA: The Experience of War in 1588

Email this review


A revisionist look at the famous defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Fernandez Armesto, a fellow at Oxford, is the author of The Canary Islands after the Conquest (1982) and Sadat and His Statecraft (1986). Traditional history has a small British fleet (roughly a third the size of the Armada) roundly defeating the Spaniards, uncontested rulers of the sea. Fernandez-Armesto, however, argues that the British didn't so much defeat the Armada as the Spanish navy defeated itself--for instance, by failing to invade British territory. He in effect posits that Spanish sailors were so weakened by disease and stormy weather that the British should have been ashamed for not routing them even more soundly. This is, then, sour grapes history. The author, much of whose previous work has also run counter to traditional historic thought, is on more solid ground in his exegesis of Britain's rationale for its victory: the ""black legend"" of Spanish cruelty; the Whig interpretation of history that painted the battle as a victory of English freedom over Spanish despotism; and ""Protestant apologetics,"" demonstrating for the English the superiority of the Protestant over the Catholic faith. This 400th-year anniversary of the historic sea battle deserves a better memorial than Fernandez-Armesto's skewed, polemic account.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press