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Philip of Spain (Paper)


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About the Author

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.


The depth of Kamen's research on his subject, who ruled Spain from 1527 to 1598, could overwhelm some readers, as his previous works have done (e.g., The Phoenix and the Flame, Yale Univ., 1993). In this first in-depth biography of Philip II, Kamen's understanding of and acquaintance with the sources is masterly. The author often disagrees with much of the classic beliefs about Philip's personality; for example, his supposed solemnity and predilection for black (Kamen notes that the king was rarely out of mourning). However, regarding Philip's reputed cruelty, Kamen says he was hard but "restrained the severity of his officials on numberless occasions," yet he fails to enumerate these occasions. While Philip dominated Spanish politics and culture for more than half a century, Kamen devotes only a few tantalizing pages to the effects of that reign on subsequent events. The audience deserves more of Kamen's insights toward this end. Still, this is a work of marvelous scholarship; highly recommended.‘Clay Williams, Ferris State Univ., Big Rapids, Mich.

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