Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
Galleon. The word conjures a specific image in our minds, even though it represents the epitome of a fighting ship from a bygone era. This beautifully illustrated book explores the design and development of the galleons, their technical specifications, and the differences between their armament and the men who manned them. Lardas also examines and analyzes three specific engagements – Golden Hind’s encounter with Nuestro Señora de la Concepción, San Mateo during the Battle of Gravelines, and Revenge against five of Spain’s Twelve Apostles – to show how these warships were used and their effectiveness as fighting machines. However, to fully grasp their significance in world affairs, it is first essential to understand the relationship between Spain and England in the sixteenth century.
Spain stands at the zenith of her power. England, on the other hand, is just beginning her long trek to dominate the maritime world and become a superpower. Spain’s reach extends far beyond its European borders and the riches of its colonial empire entice other countries to seek their own wealth and property in distant lands. The need to protect and the yearning for great treasure requires shipwrights to devise vessels that can travel far distances, carry large cargoes, and defend themselves against raiders.
These must-haves lead to the galleon, a new class of warship that can cross oceans and deliver broadsides to any who dare attack them. What distinguishes a galleon from her predecessors is that she has multiple decks, including a lower gun deck, and three or four masts capable of carrying square and lateen sails. She has high fore- and sterncastles, but she is not always a large ship. Each is financed by a syndicate, rather than a navy, and she is built to carry cargo even though she is well-armed and has the power to seriously damage an opponent’s hull. Spain’s galleon and England’s race-built galleon are sturdy vessels that can survive tumultuous seas and weather, but hazards and shipboard life remain dangerous to a man’s health. Magellan leaves Spain in 1519 with 270 men; when his ship returns home, only eighteen remain alive, but Magellan is not one of them. Drake’s 1577 expedition consists of 150 men, of which only about one third survive.
This comparison between Spanish and English galleons concludes with a brief summary of why they faded from use and how we pay homage to them today with replicas. In addition, Lardas provides a bibliography, index, and chronology of historical events from Christopher Columbus’s landfall in the Bahamas in 1492 until Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s death in 1608. Contemporary artwork, color photographs, paintings, maps, and diagrams are found on nearly every page, while special highlights are scattered throughout to provide further investigation into specific subjects, such as cannon, how a galleon maneuvered, navigation, and two ships – the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and the Golden Hind – and two captains – Sir Francis Drake and Sarmiento de Gamboa.
Most books about galleons focus on Spanish vessels, but Lardas provides a clear, concise, and well-encapsulated overview of the differences and similarities between both nations’ ships. The narrative is enlightening, easy to read, and engaging. The highlighted engagements between the ships are an added bonus that provide readers with a good understanding of the differences in fighting techniques and the dynamics of their evolution. This is an excellent introduction to galleons, as well as a first-class addition to any maritime collection.
Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar
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