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The Wrong Sex

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 7 October 1993

Isabel the Queen: Life and Times 
by Peggy Liss.
Oxford, 398 pp., £19.95, January 1993, 0 19 507356 8
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... Spain has had two queens called Isabel who had, by repute, little in common apart from a tendency to run to fat. In the age of Squidgygate, Isabel II looks like the better source of biographer’s copy – a selfish and libidinous vixen. Isabella the Catholic, who is Peggy Liss’s subject, seems boring by comparison: an exemplary wife and mother, virginal before marriage and chaste within it, who inspired comparisons with St Helena and the Virgin Mary ...

America first

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 7 January 1993

European Encounters with the New World: From Renaissance to Romanticism 
by Anthony Pagden.
Yale, 212 pp., £18.95, January 1993, 0 300 05285 5
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New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery 
by Anthony Grafton, April Shelford and Nancy Siraisi.
Harvard, 282 pp., £23.95, October 1992, 0 674 61875 0
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The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus 
by Valerie Flint.
Princeton, 233 pp., £16, August 1992, 0 691 05681 1
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Land without Evil: Utopian Journeys across the South American Watershed 
by Richard Gott.
Verso, 299 pp., £18.95, January 1993, 0 86091 398 8
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... See America first’: the old tourist-office advertising slogan made it sound easy. The most famous moment in the history of exploration, however, is also one of the most baffling. In the early darkness of 12 October 1492, a lookout, straining from the rigging of the Pinta, set up the cry of ‘Land!’ Yet his identity remains uncertain, clouded by widely differing versions of his name; and the priority of his sight of the New World was disputed by a fellow traveller called Columbus, who claimed the reward for himself ...

This jellyfish can sting

Jonathan Rée, 13 November 1997

Truth: A History 
by Felipe Fernández-Armesto.
Bantam, 247 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 593 04140 2
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... Despite his exotic name, Felipe Fernández-Armesto is an upper-class Englishman of the kind who seem to float on a cloud of contentment, perpetually entertained by the oafish antics of the rest of us down below. His press release describes him as ‘a member of the Modern History Faculty of Oxford University’ and Millennium, his blockbuster on the history of the world, as a ‘highly acclaimed’ bestseller, while translations of his monographs and reference books are ‘pending in twenty languages ...

Fusi’s Franco

David Gilmour, 4 February 1988

Franco 
by Juan Pablo Fusi, translated by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Unwin Hyman, 202 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 04 923083 2
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... Francisco Franco’s uprising in 1936 provoked powerful emotional reactions in Europe and aggravated the continent’s political divisions. Nearly three years later he completed his conquest of Spain on the eve of a war which engulfed the whole of Europe and led to the destruction of his principal international allies. The circumstances of his rebellion, coupled with European events over the following decade, have since made it difficult for writers to look objectively at Franco’s rule ...

Part of the Fun of being an English Protestant

Patrick Collinson: Recovering the Reformation, 22 July 2004

Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 
by Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7139 9370 7
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... proposed by Thomas Kuhn, a new set of answers to old questions, a Darwinian moment? Perhaps. For Felipe Fernández-Armesto, whose Reformation was published in 1996, it was not so much an event in the 16th century, or even an extended process, as a constant manifestation of the spirit of Christianity, at least from 1500 to the present day, ‘a ...

Battle of Britain

Patrick O’Brian, 7 July 1988

The Spanish Armada 
by Colin Martin and Geoffrey Parker.
Hamish Hamilton, 296 pp., £15, April 1988, 0 241 12125 6
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Armada 1588-1988 
by M.J. Rodriguez-Salgado.
Penguin and the National Maritime Museum, 295 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 14 010301 5
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Armada: A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Defeat of the Spanish Armada 1588-1988 
by Peter Padfield.
Gollancz, 208 pp., £14.95, April 1988, 0 575 03729 6
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Froude’s ‘Spanish Story of the Armada’, and Other Essays 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Sutton, 262 pp., £5.95, May 1988, 0 86299 500 0
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Ireland’s Armada Legacy 
by Laurence Flanagan.
Sutton, 210 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 9780862994730
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The Armada in the Public Records 
by N.A.M. Rodger.
HMSO, 76 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 11 440215 9
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The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588 
by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Oxford, 300 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 19 822926 7
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... All these books are concerned with what the Spaniards once called the Felicissima Armada and what the English still, with a quiet smile, call the Invincible Armada (apparently it was Burleigh who first thought of the word, shortly after the event). They differ very much in approach, in emphasis, and even in conclusion – Mia Rodrigues-Salgado, for example, feels that the enterprise increased Philip II’s reputation, particularly in the north – but they all of course agree in trying to place the disastrous voyage in its context ...

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