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The Grand Strategy of Philip II Paperback – April 1, 2000

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300082739 ISBN-10: 0300082738 Edition: New edition

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In the second half of the 16th century, Spain's Philip II ruled over the original empire on which the sun never set. In Europe alone, he held power over Portugal, the Netherlands, and about half of Italy (including Sicily, the Duchy of Milan, and the Kingdom of Naples). On the African shores of the Mediterranean, he controlled Tunis and Tangier; further south were Guinea and Angola. There were holdings in India and--well, naturally--the Philippines, and in the Western hemisphere, there were Florida, Cuba, Brazil, Peru, and "New Spain," which occupied the modern American Southwest and all of Mexico and Central America.

Most historians have claimed that, in overseeing this empire, Philip had no "Grand Strategy," but instead occupied himself with perpetual reaction to events. But Geoffrey Parker believes that there was a "strategic culture" that influenced Philip's reign, and he makes extensive use of surviving correspondence from the period to demonstrate how that culture revealed itself in Spain's attempts to hang onto the Netherlands and in its relationship--diplomatic and martial--to England. The Grand Strategy of Philip II is a richly detailed history, which will reward any student of modern statecraft with its insights into geopolitical power. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Between 1556 and 1598, King Philip II of Spain was the ruler of the world's first global empire, controlling much of Europe and America. In this volume, Parker, a prolific author and noted historian of Europe and particularly Spain, examines the strategy behind the policy and the decisions leading to Philip's accumulation of power. Beyond a general examination of strategy, the author studies three aspects of Philip's reign: his efforts to maintain authority in the Netherlands, his management of foreign relations with Scotland and England, and his attempt to conquer England between 1585 and 1588. Parker concludes that Philip's failures resulted not from a lack of strategy but from small factors, including his own idiosyncrasies, that played a disproportionate part in frustrating his plans. This superb volume adds much to our understanding of European history and will be of interest to most academic libraries with collections in that area.AMark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300082738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300082739
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on January 11, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Grand Strategy of Philip II" is a rare book. On the one hand, it is a convincing scholarly reassessment of Spanish imperial policy during the pivotal late 16th century. In that sense, the book is written to the high standards of the academy: exhaustive primary research - much of it in the original Spanish, Latin, Italian and French - and close consideration of competing theories from previous, notable works on the period. On the other hand, the book is an exemplary work of modern strategic studies, with a dash of business school case study analysis. This is a piece of academic history that cites such distinguished and diverse authorities as Peter Drucker, Carl von Clausewitz and John Lewis Gaddis and uses a broad range of historical analogies - from the Vietnam War, the Second World War and the US Civil War - to illuminate and contrast critical points. The end result is one of the more compelling works on strategy written in the past few decades.

Geoffrey Parker very much wrote this book in response to Paul Kennedy's poor treatment of Philip II and the decline of the Spanish empire in Kennedy's enormously popular and influential 1987 book "The rise and fall of the Great Powers." On the surface, Parker seeks to refute the conventional academic wisdom that Philip II had no grand strategy in any sense of the term. While the issue of "grand strategy" is discussed throughout, the book really revolves around Philip's planned 1588 invasion of England, which featured the legendary Spanish Armada and ended in utter catastrophe before it really began.

The book is broken into three more-or-less equal components. The first section offers a fascinating overview of the world Philip lived in and the unmanageable world of paperwork and decision-making that he created for himself.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Gibby VINE VOICE on June 6, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Geoffrey Parker's study of Philip II is a landmark. In this penetrating analysis, Parker has successfully distilled and tied together four decades of modern scholarship on strategy, decision making, and organization theory with an original evaluation of Philip of Spain's motivations, priorities, and execution. Gone are the nationalistic generalizations and the structural excuses. Structural and institutional factors get coverage, but the real story is in the man at the top, who had to make the decisions, good and bad.
Parker starts with a discussion on the strategic culture surrounding Philip, to include his "strategic inheritence" from his father, Charles V, the massive information network over which Philip presided (and the irresistable temptation to micro-manage), and the 'messianic imperialism' context that was of Philip's own making.
Messianic imperialism is the backbone for the rest of the book, which deals with the formation and the execution of grand strategy. Parker clearly evaluates Philip's strategy v. the Dutch and the English. For reasons that he explained early in his preface, the Mediterranean theater gets shorter coverage, but it is clear that the Med. concerns were never far from Philip's mind. The French Huguenots also don't get as detailed treatment as they could have gotten, but Parker's summation of the results of Philip's policy towards France is still satisfying.
Parker makes many allusions to strategic and policy issues of the recent past, and it is clear that Philip's problems were not all the different in scope, if not in scale, than those faced by political and military leaders today.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Some people still insist military tactics apply to business. Once I took a public relations course, and our textbook was Clausewitz's treaty on war. If you want to avoid mistakes, to design a sound and practical strategy for whatever your business, then read Geoffrey Parker. In this book, Philip II is judged through the lenses of planning, and most importantly, of results and achievements. Why did Philip failed in his great enterprise? To make decisions is not only a matter of information -Philip was well informed of affairs- but of judgement, passion, and careful coordination with those who execute decisions.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This very good book is an examination of Philip II's methods of foreign policy formulation and execution. As such, this is a detailed look at the governance methods of the most powerful monarch of the early modern period and is illuminating on how states and monarchs functioned during this period. This detailed examination is possible because of the extensive documentation surviving from much of Philip's reign including a huge amount of his personal correspondence and own state papers. Parker is a leading expert on Philip and early modern Europe and a good writer.

Philip emerges as a man with many admirable features, in some respects, a model King. Clearly intelligent and well educated, he was remarkably diligent, spending many hours per day engaged in state business and was very conscientious about his responsibilities. While his work capacity and attention waned in his later years, he was able to sustain a prodigious work load over a period of decades. If there can be said to be a heroic bureaucrat, it was Philip. Given the huge extent of the world wide empire he inherited and the wide array of challenges he faced with a relatively primitive supporting bureacracy and poor communications technologies, Philip did surprisingly well. There were, however, significant limitations, some structural, some a function of Philip's personality. The enormous diversity of the empire creates a huge variety of problems, and policies useful for on part of the empire could be destructive for other parts of the empire. The relatively primitive administrative apparatus made these conflicts difficult to reconcile.
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