The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Advanced Placement United States History Study Guide

Period 1: 1491-1607

The Spanish Armada, 1588

Expeditionis Hispanorum in Angliam, 1588, by Robert Adams (London, 1590). (LOC)The rivalry between Spain and England grew throughout the late sixteenth century. In the 1570s and 1580s, Sir Francis Drake led English attacks on Spanish vessels and raided Spanish settlements in the Americas. In 1588, Spain’s King Philip II ordered a naval invasion of England. Philip’s Spanish Armada of 124 ships, 27,000 men, and 1,100 guns departed from Lisbon on May 30, 1588. England meanwhile, led by Queen Elizabeth I, readied a counterforce of 197 vessels, 16,000 men, and 2,000 guns. The Spanish fleet entered the English Channel on July 30, and the two sides engaged in skirmishes for the next few days as the Spanish moved north. On August 8, the fighting culminated in the Battle of Gravelines, in which the English navy decisively defeated the Armada. What remained of the badly damaged Spanish fleet returned to Spain by sailing up through the North Sea, around the British Isles, and into the Atlantic.

Such imperial rivalries in Europe greatly influenced how Europeans perceived and interacted with the Americas and the native peoples. Whether the Europeans sought territory, gold, souls, or national pride, the Americas became a new arena for the ongoing battles for dominance in Europe that were now spreading around the globe.

This map was created in 1590 to accompany A Discourse Concerninge the Spanishe Fleete Invadinge Englande in the Yeare 1588, by Petruccio Ubaldini. The English artist, Robert Adams, provided ten illustrations showing the positions of the two fleets and their actions in July and August. Here, the English, on the left, face the assembled Spanish ships, on the right, in the English Channel.

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