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Imprudent King

A New Life of Philip II

Geoffrey Parker


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Other Editions of This Title:
MP3 CD (10/9/2018)
Compact Disc (10/9/2018)
MP3 CD (10/9/2018)
Compact Disc (10/9/2018)


A vast archive of documents, unread since the sixteenth century, revises the portrait of  Philip II, Spain’s best-known king

"A superbly informed narrative of Philip II’s long career as Europe’s most powerful king."—Henry Kamen, Little Reviews

"This authoritative, intelligently revisionist biography must stand now as the primary reference."—Iain Finlayson, The Times

Philip II (1527-1598) is not only the most famous king in Spanish history, but one of the most famous monarchs in English history: the man who married Mary Tudor and later launched the Spanish Armada against her sister Elizabeth I. This compelling biography of the most powerful European monarch of his day begins with his conception (1526) and ends with his ascent to Paradise (1603), two occurrences surprisingly well documented by contemporaries. Eminent historian Geoffrey Parker draws on four decades of research on Philip as well as a recent, extraordinary archival discovery—a trove of 3,000 documents in the vaults of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City, unread since crossing Philip’s own desk more than four centuries ago. Many of them change significantly what we know about the king.
The book examines Philip’s long apprenticeship; his three principal interests (work, play, and religion); and the major political, military, and personal challenges he faced during his long reign. Parker offers fresh insights into the causes of Philip’s leadership failures: was his empire simply too big to manage, or would a monarch with different talents and temperament have fared better?

Praise For Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II

"Parker’s highly detailed but also immensely readable book has come far closer to that than any previous account of the most enigmatic of Spanish kings."—Anthony Pagden, New York Times Book Review on The Grand Strategy of Philip II

"He is at pains to know Philip through the testimony of his friends, foes, courtiers and his own words and this authoritative, intelligently revisionist biography must stand now as the primary reference."—Iain Finlayson, Times

"Parker has managed to navigate the archival whirlpools with remarkable flair. His admiration for his subject is evident on almost every page, yet the book is no whitewash. We are constantly made aware of the possibility that Philip might be deceiving us."—Fernando Cervantes, TLS

"This is no mere updating of Parker's previous work on Philip, though. It is the consummate biography of the king, the mature reflection of a master historian at the height of his craft writing about the subject he knows best."—MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History

"A splendid biography of Philip II, ruler of Spain and the world’s greatest empire. In short, highly readable chapters, the author examines Philip’s youth and education for his future role. . . .Based heavily on extensive research in primary sources and a cache of previously unknown documents. Scholars, students, and general readers will enjoy this book. All libraries should purchase it."—Choice

"The research . . . is astoundingly thorough and impressive. The writing is superb. . . . This biography is as definitive as definitive' can get. And, best of all, it's as splendid a book as one could ever hope to read."—Carlos Eire, Books & Culture

"Readers will find in it . . . a superbly informed narrative of Philip II’s long career as Europe’s most powerful king."—Henry Kamen, Little Reviews

"Lively . . . Impressive."—John T. Wing, Historian

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title 2015 by Choice

"The first global empire, a master historian, and a wealth of new archival documents provide the essential elements for this terrific biography of Philip II as both statesman and man. Parker has brought Philip to life and, with him, the challenges of ruling an early modern empire."Stuart Schwartz, author of All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World

"Geoffrey Parker, one of the world’s leading early modern scholars and, most certainly, the greatest authority on Philip II, has written a remarkable, erudite, thoroughly researched, and thoughtful book. Imprudent King benefits from the exhaustive research undertaken for his monumental, ‘definitive’ study of Philip II published in Spanish, but Parker’s deployment of close to 3,000 new documents permits a very different understanding of Philip II’s successes and failures. This, together with Parker’s unique gift as a historian, makes Imprudent King a profound, original and engaging new interpretation of the king’s life and of the manner in which he wrestled with the almost hopeless task of managing the first truly world empire."Teofilo F. Ruiz, author of Spanish Society, 1400-1600

Yale University Press, 9780300196535, 456pp.

Publication Date: November 11, 2014

About the Author

Geoffrey Parker is Distinguished University Professor, Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History, and associate of the Mershon Center, Ohio State University.