Comments on The Spanish Armada

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada

Programme information and audio


  • 1. At 09:32am on 07 Oct 2010, Basia54 wrote:

    Every Thursday morning I look forward to your programme because of your choice of subjects and every Thursday morning I end up turning off the radio in irritation. Why? Because you and your guests insist on talking in the present tense when discussing historical events. I am not a child and do not need simplification of language to understand the subject matter!!!!!
    In addition, your guests may start using an appropriate tense but you always seem to infect them with your style of speaking in just one tense.

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  • 2. At 09:47am on 07 Oct 2010, Andy wrote:

    Mic placement.
    This has happened before but this morning it was bad enough to make me stop listening and it really shouldn't be something that Radio 4 has to be reminded of. I couldn't hear Mia Rodriguez-Salgado because it sounded like she was in another room. Please sort this out. In this instance it ruined for me what was a very interesting programme.

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  • 3. At 10:18am on 07 Oct 2010, Christopher Dale wrote:

    I understand that time is short but the team spent so much time arguing details to show how much each knew that a great deal of detail was missed. To start with the English ships had clear gun decks designed for firing and refiring the guns. Many of the guns were culverines with longer barrels that could fire a ball a greater distance. There was no use yet of the recoil to bring the guns back inboard but they could be dragged back on a block and tackle so they could be reloaded inboard hence their rapid fire. Many of the Spanish guns were field guns totally unsuited for use onboard ship. The Spaniards also had to shin over the gunwales to reload. No mention was made of the fact that the English command on the ships was unitary with sailors doing the sailing and the fighting, the Spanish line of command was split into fighting marines and sailors. The rig of the English ships only got scant mention, the ships could sail closer to the wind and hence get back to windward of the Spaniards. And most of the above is only part of how much better was the management of the English ships.

    The management of the English ships was beginning its ascent to the point where by 1805 at Traffalgar it was superior to anything either the French of the Spanish could match.

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  • 4. At 11:55am on 07 Oct 2010, Lester May wrote:

    Gosh - some people are hard to please. I was very happy with the programme, so thanks BBC and Melvyn Bragg and contributors.

    The Battle of the Spanish Armada gives the Royal Navy its first Battle Honour - ARMADA 1588 - worn by later ships of the same name as those involved 422 years ago. Thus the Mary Rose and HMS Victory and HMS Ark Royal, HMS Triumph and HMS Vanguard, in the fleet today, wear the honour.

    I liked the link with this morning's news too. Francis Drake and Lord Howard of Effingham, with John Hawkins, founded the Chatham Chest in 1590, so as to pay pensions to disabled seamen; it was, arguably, the world's first occupational pension scheme. Those reflecting on Lord Hutton's interim report might ask why it has taken us 420 years to begin to grapple with this matter!

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  • 5. At 12:22pm on 07 Oct 2010, andy dobel wrote:

    Once again, a thoroughly enjoyable and educational discussion. However, (of course there has to be one!) why is it that in any retelling of the Armada story, English casualties are ignored or not thought worthy of mention. I refer to the estimated 7,000 - 10,000 sailors who died of disease during and especially after the repelling of the Spanish forces - many held on board in port to die for fear of spreading disease on land. Lord Howard writing to Cecil describes seeing "his" men dying on the streets of Margate. Many more were treated disgracefully receiving very little pay, maybe just enough to journey home. Our golden Elizabethen era? Historical facts are always open to interpretation and argument, but at least let us have them in the first place. One can only imagine the horror that enfolded on those ships, but the callousness and indifference of the ruling classes, including presumably E1, is par for the course. Looking forward to next week.

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  • 6. At 1:30pm on 07 Oct 2010, NoelNoel wrote:

    Help please - anyone have more info?...
    I found one of the most strategically interesting details in today's excellent Armada programme was that the English ships were built to attack in a different way to the Spanish ships.
    This relates in its significance to an earlier Tudor Navy fact (not part of this programme) that I have long sought more information about and I wonder if anyone in this discussion can help me --
    In his book The Tudor Navy 1485-1603, Arthur Nelson states in the author's note: "The Tudor Navy was the nursery from which the future Royal Navy... Commonwealth Navies and the American Navy evolved."
    I would love to know more about how the Tudor Navy influenced the American Navy but that one sentence at the start of the book is all the author said about it and I have been unable to find any more info on that specific subject. I tried to ask the author himself to elaborate, but having tracked him down I found that alas the poor man is now dead.
    Can anyone point me at sources for more information on this please?
    Many thanks.

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  • 7. At 1:30pm on 07 Oct 2010, Peter Green wrote:

    Bad time management ruined the programme, as usual. The last 5 minutes were ludicrously rushed.
    I entirely agree with the previous comment about the dumbed down use of the present tense - perhaps English past tenses are just too difficult for the poor dears!

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  • 8. At 3:01pm on 07 Oct 2010, John Thompson wrote:

    Elizabeth,ever frugal, was to sell munitions to her own soldiers to make a profit in the year of the Armada.Elizabeth often sailed nearer to the wind than her advisors,often called the bluff of rebels or of foreign powers when others had not seen that it had been a bluff.She believed God was on her side.She would not marry to make political alliances because she thought it better for England to win her own battles without allies.In the year of the Armada the Pope himself said “she is a great woman;and were she only Catholic she would be without her match”.Tudor England owed a lot to sheergood luck.She was a long way behind France and Spain politically,and Italy in the arts.She was not a 1st class power and her economy was not stable.And,although the Armada was soundly defeated before the storm blew up and shattered it,the Spaniards certainly contributed to her own defeat.If Parma could have landed and kept open his supply line,his infantry must have won the war.

    Within a 100 years of Elizabeth’s death,England became the wealthiest country in the world.Shakespeare’s success was largely bound up with the political success of Elizabeth.After Marathon and Salamis,Greece had the works of Aeschylus and Sophocles.Did the Armada do the same thing for Shakespeare,at a time of national self-confidence?”I have the body of a weak and feeble woman,but the heart and stomach of a king..I think foul scorn that any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm”.She also told her subjects years later(1593):” I fear not all his threatenings(King of Spain)..I shall be able to defeat him and overthrow him”.It’s good also to remember she did not seek war,but “my mind was never to invade my neighbours,or to usurp over any.I am contented to reign over my own,and to rule as a just prince”.Perhaps in these days of pre-emptive wars we should remember this.

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  • 9. At 3:06pm on 07 Oct 2010, Peter Bolt wrote:

    Lacking the intellectual elitism of some of your more strident critics, I thoroughly enjoyed the prog, irrespective of what tense was used, being aware,because it was mentioned at the beginning it all happened during the time of QE 1 (the monarch, not the ship).
    Although, I conceed, I am not sensistive enough to be so angered by misuse of tenses, I am sufficently aware of the common courtesy in life to dislike sarcasm and point scoring pedagogics.

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  • 10. At 5:05pm on 07 Oct 2010, ooergosh wrote:

    I found this programme absolutely fascinating, perhaps particularly because having studied this period for A level, I became aware of how much more interesting the truth was than the sparse and somewhat jingoistic facts given to us by our teachers.
    And it was such bliss when, just for a few minutes at a time, one of the guests used past tenses - I could enjoy the content without having to concentrate on not getting confused! And even the wondrous Melvyn slipped easily into it: "Did they?" he asked!

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  • 11. At 8:13pm on 07 Oct 2010, jgcenfrance wrote:

    As a former history teacher I relaly enjoyed the programme. Particularly it was pleasing to hear Melvyn Bragg keep his guests on track - almost as if it was a seminar,
    However, more time was needed to discuss direct and indirect consequences. The school bell was an enforcer in time management. Some may remember A J P Taylor's uncanny ability to lecture without notes and without checking his watch!

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  • 12. At 8:43pm on 07 Oct 2010, Stuart Morris wrote:

    A refreshing account of the build-up, but the latter part was a bit rushed. Scope for a second programme?
    Surprised that there was no mention of the fierce Battle of Portland, which although not militarily decisive had a severe effect on the Spanish.

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  • 13. At 7:15pm on 08 Oct 2010, 1958inbetweener wrote:

    Sorry, this is off-topic I admit, but it has been bugging me for many years: why is In Our Time straplined as a programme about 'the history of ideas' ? Some of the programmes (for example those on philosophy, religions or mathematical concepts) clearly fit that description, but others are often only a narrative of historical events and interpretations. Entertaining, and very welcome, but not obviously connected to 'the history of ideas'.

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  • 14. At 06:17am on 13 Oct 2010, Francisco wrote:

    I'm only 15 mins into podcast of the programme so I apologise if my point is made later. Whilst listening, I couldn't help thinking of the programme The Long View (the edition on 9/11). It made the point that, seen from the Spanish point of view, the West Indian Expedition was Spain's 9/11.

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  • 15. At 00:52am on 16 Oct 2010, Lester May wrote:

    For NoelNoel. I am afraid the answer to your question about the American Navy is rather prosaic.

    The Tudor Navy laid the foundations of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy, increasing in importance after the Anglo-Dutch Wars ended in 1674, and the most important from 1713 until 1914 and still the largest until 1940, influenced all Anglophone countries' navies and many others besides, such as the Japanese Navy and, to some extent, the Kaiser's Navy.

    There are many traditions in the US Navy that originate with the Royal Navy; look at the USN website, particularly that for Annapolis naval college. The most obvious, perhaps, are the rank titles and stripes for officers, the naval salute and the general style of uniforms. Read "Empire of the Seas" by Brian Lavery (2009).

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