Cover image for The grand strategy of Philip II
The grand strategy of Philip II
Parker, Geoffrey, 1943-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xx, 446 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


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DP179 .P39 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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From 1556 until his death in 1598, Philip II of Spain ruled the first global empire in history. This book investigates the strengths and weaknesses of Philip's strategic vision, the priorities that underlay his policies, the practices and prejudices that influneced his decision-making, and the external factors that affected the achievements of his goals. Geoffrey Parker begins by examining the defining charactersitics of Spain's strategic culture: the king's disticntive system of government; the information overload that threatened to engulf it; and the various strategic priorities and assumptions used to overcome the disparity between aims and means. He then exploits the surviving documentation - from the Hasburgs, their allies, and their adversaries - on the formation of strategy in three crucial case studies: Philip's unsuccessful efforts to maintain his authority in the Netherlands; his defective peacetime management of foreign relations with Scotland and England; and his failed Armada campaign against England.

Author Notes

Geoffrey Parker is the author or editor of more than twenty-five books. He is Andreas Dorpelan Professor of History at Ohio State University.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Philip II inherited a massive global empire from his father, Charles V. In addition to its domination of the Iberian Peninsula and the Netherlands in Europe, Spain controlled most of Central and South America and used the Philippines as a base to control trade with China and the East Indies. Yet the reign of this ambitious, deeply religious monarch marked the beginning of the decline of Spain as a world power. In this well-researched and thorough study, Parker examines Philip's strategic vision, successes, and devastating failures. His analysis of Philip's blunders in attempting to tightly control the Netherlands is particularly instructive as an example of what not to do in ruling a subject population. Less ambitious general readers lacking a solid background in European history will struggle with this scholarly work, but students of European history should find it both informative and absorbing. --Jay Freeman

Library Journal Review

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.ÄMark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Parker, a renowned military historian, has studied the career of Philip II for more than 30 years. The author convincingly argues that Philip, who ruled the Netherlands, Naples and Sicily, Milan, the Franche-Comte, and the Spanish kingdoms and Portugal along with their overseas empires, attempted to implement a defensive grand strategy with the political goal of preserving his dynastic inheritance and the religious goal of defending Catholicism. Parker assesses that strategy through a symmetrical analysis of Philip's policies in England, Scotland, and the Netherlands. Ultimately the most powerful man in late-16th-century Europe failed to achieve his strategic aims, in part due to structural factors such as weaknesses in the imperial infrastructure combined with multiple arenas of conflict, and in part due to unfortunate turns of events. Throughout Philip stamped Spanish strategic culture with his personality, demanding detailed information and centralized decision-making, with a stubborn refusal to cut losses and a prioritizing of religious over political goals. Parker concludes that despite obstacles, Philip came very close to succeeding. Extensive endnotes, discussion of sources, exhaustive bibliography, chronology, plates, tables, and figures. Parker's book is accessible to general readers and valuable to scholars. P. G. Wallace Hartwick College