Books: The Seasick Admiral

THE ARMADA (443 pp.)—Garreft Mattingly—Houghton, Miffin ($6).

Before the 130-odd ships that were the core of the Spanish Armada had been provisioned, searched for contraband women, and set creaking out of Lisbon harbor in May of 1588, one of the captains assessed the expedition's chances; unless a miracle occurred, the English could be expected to knock the Spanish to pieces. "So," he finished with heavy irony, "we are sailing against England in the hope of a miracle."

The Armada's plan for the assault was to sail from Lisbon to Dunkirk, pick up the Duke of...

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