From Publishers Weekly
This splendid volume takes its title from a Spaniard's description of his compatriots' mood when the Armada sailed; a miracle was not forthcoming, however, for the Spanish or English fleets. The Spanish lacked the strength to overcome the inherent strategic disadvantages of having to bring a fleet and an army together over such a long distance; the English achieved their naval victory by sheer hard fighting, which nearly exhausted their ammunition and in which not only Sir Francis Drake displayed a freebooter's contempt toward disciplined obedience. Hanson (The Custom of the Sea
) is superlative in doing justice to the social complexities of the time and the suffering of the many who fought on both sides. He does an equally fine job capturing the epic scope of this naval confrontation, which may not have caused the decline of Spain but certainly prevented that of England. The annotation is thorough, and the 16-page color insert (along with 21 b&w illustrations) includes a rare unglamorized portrait of Elizabeth—no legendary Gloriana this, but a shrewd working monarch.
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Although Hanson doesn’t say much new in Confident Hope
, he gives the story of the English defeat of the Spanish Armada a modern-day spin. Without King Philip II of Spain’s desire to bring heretical parts of Europe back into the Roman Catholic fold, there would have been no devastating battles. Critics applaud Hanson’s evenhanded approach to the story, meticulous research, and good storytelling skills. They also agree that his thrilling reconstruction of the 10-day battle off England’s southern coast-replete with descriptions of military strategies and profiles of leaders like Sir Francis Drake and unremembered sailors on both sides-is where the book excels. Yet the Armada doesn’t fight its first battle until page 242, which may frustrate even avid history buffs. In sum: Confident Hope
is a gripping, if not final, book on the subject.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.