on 19 January 2014
Having read David Howarth's "Trafalgar - the Nelson Touch" I already knew the guy can write. This one made me admire his skill even more - what a great book! Sure, the subject matter is so spectacular that it would seem difficult to produce a dull book, but really this one is abolutely top notch. Howarth knows his way around ships and sailing and it shows. What I particularly liked is that he puts things in the right context. Rather than trying to spice up the story by implying what a narrow-run thing it was, he just bluntly states (very correctly) that even if the English navy had not existed, the armada still would have accomplished nothing. The Spanish were fighting the Dutch already for 20 years without much success; there is simply no way they would have been able to subdue England which had about 3 X the population of the Netherlands. Anyway, this one is highly recommended.
on 24 April 2011
As the subtitle implies, this history of the Armada is told mostly from the Spanish point of view and relies more than most on Spanish sources. As in his other books, Howarth speculates perhaps a little more than would be warranted in a strictly scholarly book, especially about what's going on inside people's heads. However I forgive him, for at least three good reasons: imprimis, he never *claims* to be writing a strictly scholarly book, rather history for the general reading public; secundus, he does his speculating right in the open, not making dangerously implicit assumptions; and tertius, his speculations seem very reasonable. Indeed, if I can find any fault in his reading of people's minds, it's that he assumes a little too much cozy English common sense, he has trouble getting inside the heads of fanatics.
But for what he's trying to do, he succeeds wonderfully well: he's put together, from very different and contradictory sources, a single narrative that's easy to follow and that explains what happened and maybe why. Also, he knows ships and sailing, and can explain what's going on in terms of wind and weather better even than the people at the time could. Recommended both as a first book on the Armada for the novice, and as a supplementary presentation of the Spanish side for the Drakeophile who knows the English history pretty well already.
on 2 December 2001
This wonderfully descriptive book by the English author, David Howarth, is well worth reading if you have a desire to learn about the Spanish Armada and the "Enterprise against England". Although this book, 'The Voyage of the Armada' (1981) is not as detailed as 'The Armada' (1959) by Garrett Mattingly, its still a great story and well worth the time to read.
By all accounts this story of the enterprise is told as it was seen through the eyes and experiences of the Spanish soldiers and sailors and is very well done in that regard. Using first hand accounts found in numerous Spanish letters and reports, many previously not utilised before, the story comes alive and gives you a real feeling and understanding of the participants, many who did not survive to tell their tale.
One aspect of the book that I found pleasing was that the author took the story past the battle with the English fleet. David Howarth provides the reader with an account of what happened to the ships and men who actually survived the "dash" up the Channel. Those who were shipwrecked along the Irish coast were subjected to even more terror than they had experienced so far and very few survived.
The real hero of this story is Medina Sidonia, the commander of the Spanish ships, and I found myself wondering could anyone have done any better under similar circumstances? This is a great story with an exciting narrative and although it only runs to 250 pages (hardback edition) I found I came away with a better understanding of what happened and why. This book would be a great companion volume to 'The Armada' by Garrett Mattingly but can stand alone as a decent and well presented account of the "Armada".
on 21 December 2010
I read this book many months ago, so I write with a cool head. It is well written. The book is relatively short, but it seems to me to be detailed enough to cover the whole story. It is not in the least one of those academic writings which you can hardly bear to go through, but rather a history-adventure book. The personalities are analysed, which is necessary to make any history book interesting, but just enough to get acquainted with them. The facts of the story are well told, and the reader's interest is maintained at all times, as far as I remember. I think this book is meritorious in that it adopts a neutral stance, giving credit to each character in accordance with their deeds, disregarding whatever popular myth might have attributed to them. The popular belief that the Spaniards were no match for the English, I believe is dealt a blow. As the author says at some point of the story, whatever mistakes the Spaniards might have made before the deployment of the Armada, once they were at sea, they made none. This is not exactly true, as at some point while crossing the Channel, a dispute broke out between the Captain of the Galley(s) Hugo de Moncada and Medina Sidonia, which resulted in the English Fleet not being engaged at a point when they were unable to manoeuvre due to calm winds. The bottom line, however, is that the men in the Armada were not a bunch of landlubbers, and some might wish to have us believe. Finally, the events that took place during the storms that forced the Armada to sail around the British Isles are gruesome. The author goes into some detail when writing about those events. Those who survived were often beaten, killed or suffered other terrible misfortunes. Some were more fortunate, and there is even some amusement, like one survivor, whose seduction skills more than once gave him the opportunity to avoid capture. Altogether a very good book which I am very glad to have read and which I dearly recommend.