This week: the Spanish Armada

The Spanish Armada off the English Coast, by Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1577-1633). IMAGE: WikiMedia Commons.

With 130 ships, 2,431 guns, and 30,000 men, Philip II’s invasion force was, according to one English admiral, ‘the greatest and strongest combination that was ever gathered in all Christendom’.

If it had been successful, the history of the past five centuries would look very different: with England a possession of Catholic Spain, there would be no British empire – and with no British colonies in North America, no United States as we know it either.

Yet as we learn this week on The Past, though the failure of the Spanish Armada in 1588 has long been acknowledged as a central event in British, Spanish and even U.S. history, the reasons for that failure have previously been less well understood.

In the latest issue of Military History Matters, Geoffrey Parker, co-author of a major new book about the Armada, explains how the publication in recent years of new archaeological evidence from shipwrecks around the British Isles, along with unseen documentary evidence from archives in Spain, Belgium, and Italy, has allowed us to see the full picture for the first time.

Elsewhere this week on The Past, we have also been searching the archives for more about the naval history of these isles: we studied the rise of British sea power in the early 16th century; we looked back on the flagship project to conserve the Mary Rose; we explored the military history etched into the townscape of Plymouth; and we travelled to Ireland to identify Armada shipwrecks off the coast of County Sligo.

And finally, if all that helps you find your sea legs, don’t forget to have a go at our latest Quiz, which this week is themed around naval battles. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

The Past is powered by Current Publishing’s unique stable of accessible specialist magazines, each of which is a leader in its field, and by our global network of writers and editors.

Our aim is simple: to create a new essential destination for anyone interested in any aspect of the past – authoritative, easy to read and navigate, beautifully designed and illustrated, and with no annoying adverts, pop-ups and clickbait.

Whether you’re an armchair historian, a budding archaeologist or a heritage enthusiast, we hope that you like what you find on The Past – and if you do, we hope very much that you might also consider taking out a subscription. Subscriptions cost £7.99 per month, or £79.99 for the whole year. But early visitors to the website can save £30 – subscribe by the end of September 2022 and pay just £49.99 by entering the code September22 at the checkout.