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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WIth both hope and agenda - Parker's "Grand Strategy of Philip II"
I have read this book several times over the past years, and it still remains the standard addition to the Spanish, or even Hapsburg, 'grand strategy' overview of the period between 1500 and 1650, one of the four or five core books in English that focus on the Spanish monarchs' long-term international goals, and their respective successes and failures.*

This...
Published on 14 Aug 2011 by Nikolai G.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Below my expectations
I found the book a bit disorganized, especially the first part of it. There are many returns to 20th century affairs; this is fine but sometimes they are given too long and you lose your concentration with 16th century. Worts of all, there is almost nothing about the colonies and very little about the Mediterrenean. I think these two should have been examined in more...
Published on 13 Jun 2000 by muratbayar@hotmail.com


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WIth both hope and agenda - Parker's "Grand Strategy of Philip II", 14 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Grand Strategy of Philip II (Paperback)
I have read this book several times over the past years, and it still remains the standard addition to the Spanish, or even Hapsburg, 'grand strategy' overview of the period between 1500 and 1650, one of the four or five core books in English that focus on the Spanish monarchs' long-term international goals, and their respective successes and failures.*

This review is inevitably in some way a comment on the previous one. There are high points and low points in the works of many historians, and I just not concede this, of all the studies of Geoffrey Parker, as being the latter.

The arguments of the author are outlined with disarming clarity in the first chapter. It seems to me, that the somewhat skeptical stance of the previous review comes in part from some sort of misunderstanding. This book does, of course, provide a 'peek' into Philip II's mind. The main 'hero' of this study, however, is the Spanish monarchy's strategy itself, the larger goals over which Philip had (as the author and history itself demonstrated) only the power of definition; the king could, and did, outline these goals, but ultimately could not conquer them. This point the previous reviewer missed. The historian himself, dealing with the issue in chapter one, observed: 'The absence of a comprehensive masterplan among the papers of Philip and his ministers does not prove the absence of comprehensive ambitions.' (p. 2) The failure of some of his strategic goals, does not mean Philip never had such goals in the first place. As for the events that led to such failures... To build upon Parker's 'contemporary parallels' and remember Harold Macmillan's comment outlining the main problem for a politician - 'events, dear boy, events'.

Additionally, the judgement is still out on references to contemporary diplomacy. Firstly, they do not total more than two pages of the entire book, if that. It seems strange that these could ruin the reader's 'feel' of the sixteenth century. More importantly, the receipt of such comparative comments remains subjective. Personally, I found them short and to the point. They provide a sense of ideological continuity of diplomacy and politics. And they do give us a good idea of why we consider the early modern world... well, modern.

Regarding the themes, I will again respectfully disagree with the previous commenter. He is, of course, correct in that 'there is very little on the Mediterranean and nothing on the colonies'. But both the book's thematic core and that of the grand strategy policy-making approach it discusses, was the preservation of the Hapsburg patrimony in Europe. This is not to say that the conflict with the Sultan was unimportant to Philip, or uninteresting as a theme to us, whether scholars or reading public. However, in the context of the Spanish government's strategic outlook its importance was felt rather more as a diversion of money and men, and much less as an element of the grand strategy itself. In any case, the author concedes a lack of linguistic access to adequately illustrate the Mediterranean issue, correctly viewing as useless 'another account of Spain's Mediterranean strategy based exclusively on western sources'. (p. xvi)

The same could be said about the colonies, which, played more an auxiliary part in the formation and formulation of Spanish policymaking. It could be argued, that apart from irregular attacks by pirates and corsairs, the Spanish colonies were on the margins of any real 'blueprint for empire', safe as they were from large-scale invasions or diplomatic overtakes. Their importance then was relatively marginal in comparison to that of Old World possessions, and thus, too, outside the main strategic goals, which are the focus of Parker's analysis.

To conclude, I consider this a fascinating analysis, which will be an exciting read both to the scholar of the early modern world and to the lay person with a general interest in history and politics in general, and in strategy in particular.

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*The others are: J.D Tracy's <Emperor Charles V, Impresario of War>, Paul Allen's , and <The Count-Duke of Olivares> & by J.H. Elliot and R.A. Stradling respectively.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Below my expectations, 13 Jun 2000
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This review is from: The Grand Strategy of Philip II (Paperback)
I found the book a bit disorganized, especially the first part of it. There are many returns to 20th century affairs; this is fine but sometimes they are given too long and you lose your concentration with 16th century. Worts of all, there is almost nothing about the colonies and very little about the Mediterrenean. I think these two should have been examined in more detail, since a 'grand' stategy can not be talked of without them. And finally you learn that Philip II had no strategy, let alone a 'grand' one. I appreciate the work and the research behind the book, maybe the problem is that the book is thought for more advanced readers on this period, with a focus on England/Netherlands affairs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What an interesting book at such a reasonable price., 17 Jan 2014
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A fascinating book by an international leader in this field. Exactly as described, very keenly priced, arrived quickly and well packed. Very pleased my early modern Spanish strategy gap has now been admirably filled.
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The Grand Strategy of Philip II
The Grand Strategy of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker (Paperback - 1 Mar 2000)
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