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Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  202 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A vast archive of documents, unread since the sixteenth century, revises the portrait of Spain’s best-known king

Philip II 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 power
Hardcover, 456 pages
Published October 1st 2014 by Yale University Press
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Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
My rating may drop upon further reflection, as the epilogue goes out of its way to spoil its own triumphant party. The Philip who emerges in Palmer's study is a man both austere and ambitious, someone always a bit uncomfortable in their own skin. Inheriting a global empire, Philip was an uber bureaucrat, perpetually drowning in a sea of memos and contracts. He delegated, forming committees, but micromanaged their findings and recommendations. Philip felt he was chosen by God to act as a steward. ...more
Pete H
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Phillip II of Spain ruled over what was arguably the world's first transoceanic empire-at its height, Spain controlled southern Italy, the entirety of the Iberian peninsula, the Low Countries, and a colossal overseas empire stretching across the globe, including the Americas and portions of India. He had access to immense mineral wealth from the Peruvian silver mines, a huge military made up of hardened veterans, and many able and competent civil servants. And yet, in many respects, Phillip was ...more
This was slow, poorly organized and full of sexism, racism and colonialist nonsense.
Theres a lot of info here but it's very poorly organized.
This author is overly wordy.
Emmanuel Gustin
Philip II holds the particular distinction of being simultaneously one of the potentially most boring people in history, a royal bureaucrat who endlessly laboured behind his desk, and one of the most fascinating ones, as his long reign involved him in decisions that still influence our world today. I have always felt some sympathy for him, sympathy for an underdog, because his reputation was blackened by writers and historians almost from his lifetime to today. We have to recognise, however, tha ...more
Anton Tomsinov
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great example of a great biography. Parker is at his finest in this new book on his favourite topics: early modern Spain and Philip II. He is truly the leading contemporary expert on the subject. This book gives us both a personal story of a king as a human with fears, errors, and hopes and a management analysis. Parker’s conclusion is very convincing: the king suffered from obsessive-compulsive syndrome that led to a very inefficient management of his empire. Though hard-working, Philip procr ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Emperor, Geoffrey Parker’s recent biography of Charles V, left a deep impression, so I couldn’t wait to read Imprudent King too. This deals with Philip II, the emperor’s son, the king of Spain, ruler of one of the biggest empires the world had ever seen. Though written several years before Emperor, Imprudent King can be regarded as its historical sequel.

Charles V and his son Philips II ruled over most of mainland Europe for most of the 16th century. Their rule witnessed and played a crucial role
Richard Thomas
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe
This is an important book on a King who certainly in England has had a very bad name. He married poor Mary Tudor and was at a minimum party to her persecution of Protestants and the martyrdom of some 300 mostly humble folk. From about 1570, he supported the Papacy in seeking Elizabeth Tudor's overthrow which culminated in the Enterprise of England or the Spanish Armada as pretty well all English people know it. The King's industry was legendary but of course, Philip did justify the old saw that ...more
Arjen Taselaar
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very readable biography of king Philip II of Spain, who felt his own work to coincide with the work of God. Written by a specialist who seems to know everything, but is still able to write a coherent story that really centres around the man, this is a stunningly impressive work. Defending the Catholic faith seems to have been Philip's overriding objective, and he sacrificed everything to it, even when all money was spent. His faith sent tens of thousands of soldiers to their deaths, an ...more
Susanna Polakov
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
A comprehensive but albeit rather dry and dull account of the life of Philip II of Spain. I dutifully plodded on and in the end felt quite enlightened although there was no joy in the process as with some other better written non-fiction books. Despite the book being a mighty tome, the events happened and decisions taken were missing a wider outlook both in terms of international and internal affaires, which could have helped to explain them. I, then, read a biography of Philip's father Charles ...more
Jack Bharucha
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good historical study. Humanizes a man who was pretty monstrous by our standards, and whose beliefs are far different from those of a modern person. It also shows us the policy side of the vast empire he ran. The story of the Spanish Empire and it's overly worked king have great bearing for how world powers conduct themselves today. ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Not the greatest narratve I've read but nevertheless enjoyable. Perhaps there was too much nitty gritty for me at time - Philip's incontinence at the end for example.

I will continue to read Geoffrey Parker for his take on 17th century Europe though mayb enot any more biographies.
Susan Abernethy
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Link to my review of this book:
Andrew Dockrill
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Frazer
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a thorough account of the life of Philip II, which is essentially based on the thesis that Philip was an obsessive compulsive personality whose inability to delegate, micromanagement of subordinates, obsession with hard work despite ineffectiveness as well as other such Freudian traits led to "imprudent" decisions throughout his reign. Parker also argues that Philip's religious fanaticism prevented him from pursuing reasonable policies, further contributing to his lack of "prudence." Thi ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent look at the dark Catholic potentate, whose religion allowed him to murder with impunity, but not grant freedom of conscience
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If one was to seek a better understanding of the man that was Philip II, one should not look elsewhere.
Cohen Leicester
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very well researched and excellently written, can’t wait for Parker’s book on Emperor Charles V.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brilliant! Parker has command of the sources like no other living historian.
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent biography. A great example of scholarly work, in which Geoffrey Parker treats Philip and his times with great understanding and care, avoiding glorification and apologia.

"I agree with St Augustine that "You cannot know someone except through friendship." This not mean that biographers shoule's precept does require biographers to extend to their subjects the same openness of mind, the sad implicitly trust their subjects: on the contrary, we must be ready for them (whether living o
Eduardo Garcia-Gaspar
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historia
¡Fantástica lectura! Una buena biografía que aprovecha documentos nunca antes usados, miles de ellos, para presentar a un personaje digno de examinar muy de cerca. La abundancia de documentos originales permite al autor citar continuamente al rey mismo, lo que permite adentrarse en una mente sin duda compleja.
El rey gobernó durante 55 años de un territorio extendido por toda la tierra, período durante el que solamente hubo seis meses sin guerra. Además de la narración histórica, el autor present
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ik heb altijd gedacht, dat Philips 2de een bijzonder saai personage was. Dit boek geeft een andere kijk op hem. Hij is - voor zijn tijd - oud geworden (71) en heeft dus lang geregeerd. De schrijver geeft een goed beeld van die tijd. Hij knipt het leven van Philips a.h.w. op in stukjes: de relatie met zijn familie, zijn religieuze gevoelens, de politiek t.o.v. de verschillende landen onder hem, etc. Het is veel, maar het boek geeft voor mij vooral een goed zicht op de eerste 40 jaar van de 80-jar ...more
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very concise history of Philip II. Slightly distant, but so much more readable than most American historical writers present their books. The book makes you realize that there's so much more to study about Philip II. What a wonderful life! ...more
Feb 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Solid account of the personal life of Philip II. Book seeks to give more of an idea of Philip and his life rather than a read of the history of Spain in his rule.
rated it liked it
Dec 27, 2016
Miranda Miguel
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Aug 31, 2017
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May 17, 2017
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Aug 22, 2020
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May 31, 2016
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Geoffrey Parker is Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History and an Associate of the Mershon Center at The Ohio State University. He has published widely on the social, political and military history of early modern Europe, and in 2012 the Royal Dutch Academy recognized these achievements by awarding him its biennial Heineken Foundation Prize for History, open to scholars in any field, and an ...more

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