To what extent was ship design and technology responsible for the English defeat of the Armada?The full question was: Assess the importance of ship design and technology as a reason for the English...

To what extent was ship design and technology responsible for the English defeat of the Armada?

The full question was:

Assess the importance of ship design and technology as a reason for the English defeat of the Spanish Armada

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The mighty Spanish Armada (or Grande y Felicísima Armada, "Great and Most Fortunate Navy") sailed from Lisbon (in occupied Portugal) in 1588 with the intention of tranporting a Spanish army to the shores of England, where they hoped to overthrow the Protestant realm of Queen Elizabeth I. The Armada totaled at least 150 armed ships, bound for the coast of Flanders where a Spanish army of 30,000 men awaited transport to England, and at least 25,000 soldiers and sailors were already aboard when the fleet embarked.

The British awaited the Armada with nearly 200 ships of their own, but the Spanish firepower was much stronger. The much smaller British ships actually held an advantage over the Armada: The large-hulled Spanish ships needed a deepwater port for anchorage, a rarity along the English Channel. 

The English had learned more of the Armada's strengths and weaknesses during the skirmishes in the English Channel and had concluded it was necessary to close within 100 yards to penetrate the oak hulls of the Spanish ships... During all the engagements, the Spanish heavy guns could not easily be run in for reloading because of their close spacing and the quantities of supplies stowed between decks...

At the Battle of Gravelines, the English ships, with their smaller hulls and superior maneuverability, were able to "maintain a position to windward so that the heeling Armada hulls were exposed to damage below the water line." The ensuing British victory culminated in the eventual destruction of more than 60 Spanish ships,

... resulting in a revolution in naval warfare with the promotion of gunnery, which until then had played a supporting role to the tasks of ramming and boarding. The battle of Gravelines is regarded by some specialists in military history as reflecting a lasting shift in the naval balance in favour of the English, in part because of the gap in naval technology and armament it confirmed between the two nations, which continued into the next century.

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