Philip of Spain


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Henry Kamen

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"A historian’s biography of Philip II as Renaissance prince, refuting the Elizabethan propaganda picture of the spider of the Escorial."—New York Times Book Review (And Bear in Mind)

"In humanizing a man too often viewed as a cardboard tyrant, Kamen has made a valuable contribution to European historiography."—Booklist

Philip II of Spain—ruler of the most extensive empire the world had ever known—has been viewed in a harsh and negative light since his death in 1598. Identified with repression, bigotry, and fanaticism by his enemies, he has been judged more by the political events of his reign than by his person. This book, published four hundred years after Philip's death, is the first full-scale biography of the king. Placing him within the social, cultural, religious, and regional context of his times, it presents a startling new picture of his character and reign.

Drawing on Philip's unpublished correspondence and on many other archival sources, Henry Kamen reveals much about Philip the youth, the man, the husband, the father, the frequently troubled Christian, and the king. Kamen finds that Philip was a cosmopolitan prince whose extensive experience of northern Europe broadened his cultural imagination and tastes, whose staunchly conservative ideas were far from being illiberal and fanatical, whose religious attitudes led him to accept a practical coexistence with Protestants and Jews, and whose support for Las Casas and other defenders of the Indians in America helped determine government policy. Shedding completely new light on most aspects of Philip's private life and, in consequence, on his public actions, the book is the definitive portrayal of Philip II.

Henry Kamen has been professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona since 1993. Before that he held various university posts in England and the United States. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is the author of several books on European and Spanish history, including The Phoenix and the Flame: Catalonia and the Counter Reformation, published by Yale University Press.

A dual main selection of the History Book Club

"The most persuasive, detailed, and readable biography to date of Spain's most celebrated monarch."—Anthony Pagden

"Philip’s defenders in our own century, writes Kamen, gave us "bad history," while his detractors gave us appreciably better history but not without an animus against his person. The present book adjusts the portrait in a way not unbecoming to the king." —James Sullivan

"Kamen's prose is lucid, succinct, and thorough, without getting bogged down in details that would appeal strictly to specialists. In humanizing a man too often viewed as a cardboard tyrant, Kamen has made a valuable contribution to European historiography."—Jay Freeman, Booklist

"Kamen has stirred up the sea of historiographical debates, challenges conventional thinking, and forced many of us to reconsider traditional views of the king and his times."—Antonio Feros, Canadian Journal of History

"Philip II was human, and Henry Kamen meticulously shows him, smiles and all. . . . Kamen's solid biography makes Philip a believable politician, cautious, flexible, conscientious and unsuccessful. Against the odds, Kamen almost makes him likeable."—Christopher Haigh, Catholic Herald

"Based on extensive research, this work explicitly makes connections between the King’s private dilemmas and public decisions."—Choice

"In this important revisionist work Kamen presents a portrait of a king dedicated in his search for peace in 16th-century Europe and, therefore, unwavering in his support of the Inquisition."—Choice

"An absorbing portrait of a prince trying to maintain order at almost any price. . . . Kamen imparts a fine sense of Phillip’s daily life, his tastes and temperament."—Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor

"Kamen makes his case for Philip from an impressive deployment of the massive archival sources, discovering a more human and spontaneous monarch."—Ann Geneva, Financial Times

"Philip of Spain should be welcomed by history buffs and, in particular, by those sensitive to the mistreatment of Spain in the usual tellings of the European story."—First Things, Institute on Religion and Public Life

"Our assessment of Philip Ii and his world is now greatly enhanced by a new study by Henry Kamen, consistently among the most stimulating and controversial historians of early modern Spain. . . . Broad-ranging and controversial, Philip of Spain provides a fine basis for further study of what, in this treatment, appears the decisive period in early modern Spanish history."—Bruce Taylor, History

"Kamen is apparently the first scholar to decipher Philip's hand-writing-providing new insight on numerous documents left by the king."—History Today

"Henry Kamen has written the first fully researched biography of Spain's best known monarch."—Hilary Pratt, Irish Independent (Dublin)

"The undergraduate will benefit greatly from this straightforward narrative, of a long and eventful reign. Well-written, intelligently illustrated, and presented chronologically."—Stuart Moore, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

"Most books leave a final impression or two, and those left by Kamen's are both intriguing and unsettling, precisely as this dismantler of myths would intend them to be. . . . Given the labyrinths which have been negotiated and made accessible in this modern telling of a famously diverse and dramatic life, the narrative journey has been conducted with rare facility and not a little flair."—Kenneth Mills, Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History

"This vividly written life of a great and well-intentioned ruler cannot be too highly recommended. Above all the reader is provided with an intimate portrait of a remarkable man, whose character was an amalgam of fascinating contrasts, and who occupied a unique role in history."—Journal of the International Monarchist League

"A scholarly and comprehensive biography that reconsiders the reputation of King Philip II of Spain. . . . Kamen . . . now offers the first true biography of Philip. . . . Essential reading for all students of the turbulent 16th century."—Kirkus Reviews

"Kamen's understanding of and acquaintance with the sources is masterly. . . . This is a work of marvelous scholarship."—Library Journal

"The complexity of this man is fully explored in this excellent biography, drawing on many unpublished sources, including his own correspondence. . . . It is certainly a surprising figure that emerges out of this study of one of the most powerful rulers of the past."—Tim Newark, Military Illustrated

"Philip as a private man takes pride of place in this excellent book. Philip of Spain is a fine achievement, and should be taken very seriously by scholars. Since it is well written, it can also be read for pleasure by the general reader."—Hugh Thomas, New York Times Book Review

"Philip of Spain, by Henry Kamen. A historian’s biography of Philip II as Renaissance prince, refuting the Elizabethan propaganda picture of the spider of the Escorial."—New York Times Book Review (And Bear in Mind)

"A humane work, as well as a provocative one, notably in its treatment of Elizabeth, whose apparently authoritarian behavior was, Kamen suggests, simply the result of a loyal decision to act decisively on behalf of her beloved but incapacitated husband."—Publishers Weekly

"Altogether, we have here a fine new study of Philip II, full of fresh information, insights, and opinion, that all interested in the king must read. It is to be hoped that Henry Kamen or another with his qualifications give us a definitive Philip for our times."—Peter Pierson, Sixteenth Century Journal

"After four centuries of mud-slinging, this fine new biography sets out to chip away at this accumulation of grime and myth."—John Adamson, Sunday Telegraph

"A valuable contribution."—Antonia Fraser, Sunday Times (London)

"This is a book that all early modernists should read, particularly historians of Tudor England. Kamen pulls no punches. This is Philip II, warts and all."—Andrew A.Chibi, The Historian

"Despite an abundance of specialised studies of his reign, there has been no full-length biography of Philip II. Henry Kamen's impeccable scholarship provides it."—Raymond Carr, The Spectator

"Although scores of authors in many countries will write about Philip II as 1998 (the quatercentenary of his death) approaches, few will marshall such an impressive range of new material, and even fewer will provide such a favourable portrait."—Geoffrey Parker, The Times

"Henry Kamen is one of the most prolific, and perhaps the most challenging, of historians of early modern Spain in the English-speaking world, and he does not disappoint us now."—I. A. A. Thompson, Times Literary Supplement

ISBN: 9780300078008
Publication Date: February 8, 1999
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
32 b/w illus.
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