The Grand Strategy of Philip II

The Grand Strategy of Philip II
Published : 9 Feb 2000 - Yale University Press
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 influenced 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 distinctive 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. Finally, Parker examines the small but fatal flaws in the execution of Philip's Grand Strategy, assesses the response of the king and his ministers to their failures, and questions whether the outcome might have been different with other policy options, another ruler, or a different strategic culture. Pointing to modern parallels between Philip's problems of governance and those facing Hitler and Churchill, or Kennedy and Johnson, this book provides a commentary on the nature of empires and the decision-making processes of the great powers.


A deeply-researched, sublime and immensely satisfying analysis of the policies of one of the most important figures in western and world history during the past one thousand years.

Paul Kennedy

This is a history that moves backward from the strategic concerns of today; that gives it an edge and an immediacy few other books on Philip have achieved... A highly detailed but also immensely readable book.

Anthony Pagden, New York Times Book Review

A splendid study... Parker offers an enthralling analysis.

Henry Kamen, Times Literary Supplement

A superb study that is part biography, part military history, and part strategic treatise... No less remarkable than Parker's mastery of voluminous Spanish archives is his use of Philip's rule to illuminate the broader problems of grand strategy, including such supposedly modern phenomena as information overload.

Foreign Affairs

The Grand Strategy of Philip II is history on a grand scale. In it, Parker has distilled the fruit of thirty years' research and writing, which have made him the leading authority on Spain's relations with northern Europe in the early modern era...A highly sophisticated and stimulating work.

Bruce Taylor, History: Review of New Books