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The Armada (American Heritage Library) Paperback – December 13, 1974

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Series: American Heritage Library
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Fifth Printing edition (December 13, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395083664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395083666
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,106,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
Not all "classics" of history age as well as Garrett Mattingly's "The Armada," which was first published in 1959 to coincide with the quadricentennial of Philip II's failed attempt at the so-called "Enterprise of England." His scholarship may be subject to legitimate contemporary scrutiny and reassessment, but his writing is timeless.

The naval commander of the Spanish Armada, the duke of Medina Sidonia, emerges as the unlikely hero in Mattingly's narrative of the epic events in the fateful year of 1588. Medina Sidonia has for centuries been the primary scapegoat for the failure of the Armada, a fate that the duke himself perpetuated by taking blame for the disaster and frequently admitting that he was not up to the challenge. Mattingly's rejoinder is "hogwash" - Medina Sidonia did an admirable job in leading the Armada to within a whisker of success despite the tremendous odds stacked against it for a variety of reasons. The author suggests that Horatio Nelson himself could have done no better than the much-maligned duke. As far as finger pointing goes, Mattingly condemns the duke of Parma, the Spanish land commander in the Netherlands and generally considered the greatest general of the age, for his failures to be adequately prepared to meet the Armada and sail on to the invasion of England. (Modern scholars such as Geoffrey Parker have vigorously defended Parma's performance recently.)

Mattingly focuses on several aspects of the naval engagement itself that are worthy of note and rather counter to conventional wisdom. To begin with, he rightfully stresses the unprecedented nature of the sea battles that ensued when the Armada met the English fleet off the southern coast of England in the first week of August 1588.
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Format: Hardcover
Given Mattingly's insight into Mendova's political manuevers in Paris, Philip II's understanding of European powers, and the role of the Catholic Church in European politics, this was required reading for a college course on European Diplomacy (1500-1918). While a naval historian might find fault in the lack of details and maps, Mattingly does cover the moves and countermoves by the English and Spanish reasonably well, especially for novice sailors like me. However, Mattingly correctly focuses on the lasting influence of the English Enterprise by the Spanish Armada: the flawed belief of a power shift in European politics and the myth(s) it produced.
Yes, in keeping with the title of the book, the moves by Spanish Armada are covered in a "daily diary" format, which actually serves to better highlight the real driving force of this work. Mattingly loves to dive into all the source material available and gain a sense of the diplomacy, delayed communication, and potential thoughts of the majors players. In doing so, Mattingly presents all the rumors and views (circa 1588), shows how historians have ran with those "facts" (now rooted in a collective memory), but he then corrects and deals those assumptions as flawed, baseless, or plausible. For example, Drake is often given credit for defeating the Spanish Armada, though he was not in command of the British fleet. Contrary to some stories, the Spanish were not damned by poor weather, but actually had the best seas imaginable. These are minor points, but were often touchstones for historical and political spinning. Mattingly does well in not only debunking these "truths" but in determining when and why they began.
This is not revisionist history in the "politically correct" sense of the word.
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Format: Paperback
I have read this book twice this year. The first time - I read it non-stop, captured by the sheer drama of the narrative. The second time - I took the time to savor the potraits Mr. Mattingly crafts so well. He is a master of his subject, and skillfully takes a complex and convoluted event and presents it in a way that is humorous, insightful, captivating and colorful. It is, in my mind, reflective of the highest standards of fine writing - be it historical or not. A thoroughly enjoyable book - this is one book that will be a recurrent read.
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