"The Grand Strategy of Philip II" is a rare book. On the one hand, it is a convincing scholarly reassessment of Spanish imperial policy during the pivotal late 16th century. In that sense, the book is written to the high standards of the academy: exhaustive primary research - much of it in the original Spanish, Latin, Italian and French - and close consideration of competing theories from previous, notable works on the period. On the other hand, the book is an exemplary work of modern strategic studies, with a dash of business school case study analysis. This is a piece of academic history that cites such distinguished and diverse authorities as Peter Drucker, Carl von Clausewitz and John Lewis Gaddis and uses a broad range of historical analogies - from the Vietnam War, the Second World War and the US Civil War - to illuminate and contrast critical points. The end result is one of the more compelling works on strategy written in the past few decades.
It will be difficult to imagine a more comprehensive book on the preparation of the Spanish Armada for its attack on England in 1588. I specially liked the careful analysis of all the military and political angles. At times it feels like you are in Phillip's head. The use of argument and counter-argument in the analysis is excellent and gives the reader more insight into the personalities, their preferences and the conditions that forced their hand. Masterful!
Geoffrey Parker's study of Philip II is a landmark. In this penetrating analysis, Parker has successfully distilled and tied together four decades of modern scholarship on strategy, decision making, and organization theory with an original evaluation of Philip of Spain's motivations, priorities, and execution. Gone are the nationalistic generalizations and the structural excuses. Structural and institutional factors get coverage, but the real story is in the man at the top, who had to make the decisions, good and bad. Parker starts with a discussion on the strategic culture surrounding Philip, to include his "strategic inheritence" from his father, Charles V, the massive information network over which Philip presided (and the irresistable temptation to micro-manage), and the 'messianic imperialism' context that was of Philip's own making. Messianic imperialism is the backbone for the rest of the book, which deals with the formation and the execution of grand...
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