Philip III and the Pax Hispanica, 1598-1621


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The Failure of Grand Strategy

Paul Allen

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Impoverished and exhausted after fifty years of incessant warfare, the great Spanish Empire at the turn of the sixteenth century negotiated treaties with its three most powerful enemies: England, France, and the Netherlands. This intriguing book examines the strategies that led King Philip III to extend the laurel branch to his foes. Paul Allen argues that, contrary to widespread belief, the king’s gestures of peace were in fact part of a grand strategy to enable Spain to regain military and economic strength while its opponents were falsely lulled away from their military pursuits. From the outset, Allen contends, Philip and his advisers intended the Pax Hispanica to continue only until Spain was able to resume its battles—and defeat its enemies.

Drawing on primary sources from the four countries involved, the book begins with a discussion of how Spanish foreign policy was formulated and implemented to achieve political and religious aims. The author investigates the development of Philip’s “peace” strategy, the Twelve Years’ Truce, and the decision to end the truce and engage in war with the Dutch, and then with the English and French. Renewed warfare was no failure of peace policy, Allen shows, but a conscious decision to pursue a consistent strategy. Nevertheless the negotiation for peace did represent a new diplomatic method with significant implications for both the future of the Spanish Empire and the practices of European diplomacy.

Paul Allen is adjunct assistant professor at Weber State University.

“Allen . . . has succeeded admirably in presenting a thorough diplomatic history of the Dutch Revolt from the perspective of the court of Philip III, and this contribution will have important implications for students of early modern warfare and foreign policy.”—Ben Ehlers, Journal of Military History

“Allen’s work is pioneering—his book is the first careful study of a crucial moment in the evolution of western European diplomatic strategies.”—Henry Kamen, author of Philip of Spain and The Spanish Inquisition

“The first volume to use Spanish archival sources to examine this time period, Allen’s book is an important study of how peace accords were viewed in this period of European history. Of value to research and academic library collections on European history.”—Library Journal

“A good history of a neglected period.”—David Seymour, Military Illustrated

“Allen makes a forceful case, based on extensive archival sources in England, France, the Netherlands, and Spain, for interpreting negotiations leading to the Treaty of Vervins and the Twelve Years’ Truce as pieces composing a ‘grand strategy’ rather than, as prior studies have contended, pragmatic necessities imposed on a bankrupt state and its lackluster ruler. . . . A complete critical apparatus enhances the book’s value for both general and scholarly readership.”—Choice

“[An] excellent study. . . . [A] fascinating and lucid history of seventeenth century diplomacy.”—Ruth MacKay, American Historical Review

“[T]his book has much to offer. It urges scholars of early modern Spain to reconsider the dynamics involved in governing a world-wide empire fraught with religious division and economic instability. It also encourages historians to rely less on the simplistic explanations of the interplay between a weak king and his favorite. Philip III was a powerful king at a critical moment in European history. Paul Allen does much to remind us of that.”—Allyson M. Poska, Renaissance Quarterly

“[A] gem of international history.”—Peter O. Pierson, International History Review

ISBN: 9780300076820
Publication Date: February 9, 2000
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
6 b/w illus.
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