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Philip of Spain

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300078008
ISBN-10: 0300078005
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The depth of Kamen's research on his subject, who ruled Spain from 1527 to 1598, could overwhelm some readers, as his previous works have done (e.g., The Phoenix and the Flame, Yale Univ., 1993). In this first in-depth biography of Philip II, Kamen's understanding of and acquaintance with the sources is masterly. The author often disagrees with much of the classic beliefs about Philip's personality; for example, his supposed solemnity and predilection for black (Kamen notes that the king was rarely out of mourning). However, regarding Philip's reputed cruelty, Kamen says he was hard but "restrained the severity of his officials on numberless occasions," yet he fails to enumerate these occasions. While Philip dominated Spanish politics and culture for more than half a century, Kamen devotes only a few tantalizing pages to the effects of that reign on subsequent events. The audience deserves more of Kamen's insights toward this end. Still, this is a work of marvelous scholarship; highly recommended.?Clay Williams, Ferris State Univ., Big Rapids, Mich.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Philip II of Spain has received an almost uniformly bad press; scholars, particularly English and American, generally portray him as a narrow-minded, religious fanatic who reacted with predictable brutality to any stirrings of liberal religious or political thought. Kamen, currently a professor for the Council of Scientific Research in Barcelona, strives mightily to present a more balanced portrait. He scores points in indicating that the supposedly insular Philip traveled widely, mixed socially with Protestants in the Netherlands, and seemed willing to grant them a measure of religious (but not political) toleration. Instead of the absolute monarch often described in diatribes by Anglophiles, Kamen's Philip emerges as a ruler of a fragmented Spain who strived continually to cope with centrifugal forces. Kamen's prose is lucid, succinct, and thorough, without getting bogged down in details that would appeal strictly to specialists. In humanizing a man too often viewed as a cardboard tyrant, Kamen has made a valuable contribution to European historiography. Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (February 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300078005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300078008
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,457,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Arthem on February 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
I suppose it is true of many a biography, and in individual experience, that we rarely recognize greatness in people we know well. Kamen does an excellent job painting an unconventional portrait of Philip. In the process, however, the "Black Legend" is reduced to a somewhat flighty renaissance princeling.
For whatever reason, I never received the anglophile's disdain for Philip. Perhaps it was Warren Carroll's portrait of Philip in his Christendom series, or Hillaire Belloc's view, both of which tended to paint Philip as the tragically ineffectual hero of Catholic Europe, standing in the breach against both the heretic and the Turk, and only partially saving Europe while dooming his own Empire.
As ought to have been expected, Kamen's well researched and presented portrait shows a complex individual, capable of progressivism (ala opposition to blood purity laws and early support for Tridentine reforms), while simultaneously enjoying the public manifestations of the Inquisition. The casual nature of Philip's early marriages contrasts starkly against his reaction to the death of his fourth wife. "Philip the Bureaucrat" would seem to be an apt title for a King paralyzed by paperwork, and unable to govern his vast realms due to slow communication, shifty underlings, and a byzantine political system that only Umberto Eco could love.
It is hard, in the end, to get a bead on Philip.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "clavastida" on June 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
About time the Prudent King received treatment worth his contemporaneous status! Not much has been written on Phillip II that would pass the most superficial test of historical accuracy. This book, a survey of his reign, is balanced and well written. Kamen describes neither a demon (the characterization of Phillip which most English readers would find familiar) nor a saint (the preferred version among Spanish monarchists), but the first modern bureaucrat. Kamen scholarship has some precursors in the English historical world, ie Elton, Parker, but his contribution to popular history in the form of biography is unique at this point. The 30 Years War, the casus belli for Modern Europe, is inconceivable without Phillip II's presence. This book paints with an informed brush the Spanish dynastic cause. I recommend this book highly.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Diego Izurieta on December 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kamen offers a very complete and detailed description of the great grandson of the Catholic Kings and the difficulty of managing the most extensive empire the world has ever known. The facts are taken from great sources and presented in an honest fashion. Kamen strays from legends and myths and even challenges some of them as he did in "The Spanish Inquisition". The dedication of Felipe II to his realm is explained realisticly. Finally, the chronology is followed with discipline and is commendable. I would recommend this book to anyone desiring information on this Hapsburg leader.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By noli@greenwich.com on December 4, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Kamen touches on all aspects of Philips life with great intuity. He exposes a man that was emotionally scarred more than once in his life, a man that worked incessently for the good of his country and of his religion. As well as being a pious and hard working man he was also a lover of fun, a side rarely seen in a personage of such stature. This book is a wonderful read and cannot fail to leave the reader wondering about Philip II of Spain, a monarch that until now has been over shadowed by his father Emperor Charles. On top of this Kamwen examines many of the aspects that affected the political events of the age.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
For anyone who has visited Philip's magnificent El Escorial palace outside Madrid and wondered at the power of this monarch when looking at his sober and modest bedroom (furnished only with a small chapel), this book is a must. Philip was the greatest Spanish King ever (his father, Charles, was not truly Spanish), possibly upstaged only by Juan Carlos, the current modern ruler. He was the first ever European monarch to be able to claim that the sun never set on his dominions, which stretched from Europe to America to the Phillipines.
Kamen explores his life and unintentionally offers information from which Spaniards, and their descendants in America, can explain much of their/our present culture. He possessed the mightiest army in Europe, but living inland, he did not develop a navy capable of bettering the British; this had implications for the future American nations that we still see today. He received enormous wealth from his American colonies, but it was all dillapidated in the senseless war and occupation of Holland and Belgium. He intended to modernize Spain by importing goods from the rest of Europe, but not ideas; this aided the development of North Europe and Italy but not of his country. And above all, he followed a policy of strict religious intolerance that insured that his realms remained Catholic --as was his wish---, but prevented his country and the future Spanish-speaking nations of America from developing truly democratic traditions. Spain, in particular, has seemed to oscillate like a pendulum ever since between intolerance and liberalism. When you read this book, you will trace this particular trait back to Philip as the greatest inheritor of Spain's eight centuries of nation-building through war.
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