The Spanish Armada
Colin Martin and Geoffrey Parker
W. W. Norton, 1988

Review by Dick Miller

The Spanish Armada is a small paperback book, published by W. W. Norton. It is written by Colin Martin, who teaches at the University of St. Andrew's, Scotland. He is also a writer and photographer, who has actually scuba dived on several of the wrecks of the Armada; and Geoffery Parker, a Professor of History at the University of Illinois, who is a Fellow of both the British Academy and the Real Academia de la Historia, in Madrid.

Mr. Martin has published a book about his work on the wrecks, and Mr.Parker has published several books about other military events that occurred during the period of the Armada, and the current books benefits from their combined expertise. Mr. Parker has contributed much information from the official Spanish archives, some of it never before published, while Mr. Martin's input is seen in the extensive descriptions of the fate of the various Spanish ships that were wrecked along the Irish shore.

The book, while small, contains a great deal of descriptive information, detailing, among other things, the reasons why Phillip II undertook the conquest of England, his extensive plans for doing so, as well as the history of the enmity between the two nations, arising from personal, political, and religious reasons. Also examined was the great difficulty with which the fleet was assembled, provisioned and manned, the many different types of vessels that were used, the wide variety of cannons that were collected to equip the ships (many of them fired stones), and the very poor condition of many of these weapons (bored off center, for example).

As someone who has read with a great deal of delight all of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, I was especially interested in those parts of the book that dealt with the sailing of the Armada, and the way in which the Spanish and British fought. I was very surprised to read the authors attribute at least part of the British victory to the lowly gun carriage and it's trucks!

The book, while certainly a scholarly account, is very readable, and deals with both the Spanish and British in an evenhanded manner, even when describing the fates of the crews of those Spanish ships which were wrecked on the shores of Ireland.

Copyright © 1999 by Dick Miller
Commercial reproduction prohibited without written consent of the author.

Back to Book Reviews