Spain's Men of the Sea: Daily Life on the Indies Fleets in the Sixteenth Century

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Overview

In the sixteenth century, Spain's control over its vast New World empire depended on the sailors and officers who manned the galleons and merchant vessels of its Atlantic fleets. In Spain's Men of the Sea, Pablo E. Pérez-Mallaína paints a stunning portrait of daily life aboard the ships of the Spanish Main. With a novelist's eye for both detail and drama, Pérez-Mallaína evokes the golden age of seafaring in this thoroughly researched and generously illustrated account.

Spain's Men of the Sea begins in Seville, the gateway to the New World. One of Europe's most cosmopolitan cities, Seville attracted people and goods from around the world. From Seville, Pérez-Mallaína follows the Spanish fleets to the West Indies ports of San Juan de Ulda, Veracruz, Cartagena, Nombre de Dios, Portobelo, and Havana. He profiles the men and boys who went to sea—from the scions of seafaring dynasties and fugitives from justice to the orphans and destitute children apprenticed into service as cabin boys. Some signed on because of family tradition, more signed on because of the lure of New World treasure or simply to obtain free passage to the Americas. Most sailors were poorly paid, but the more enterprising among them supplemented their meager wages by small-scale trade or smuggling. Pérez-Mallaína also describes relations among the ship owners, officers, and crews, and traces the intervention of the Spanish government in disputes over pay and cases of insubordination and mistreatment.

Pérez-Mallaína paints a bleak picture of life at sea and its physical and mental effect on seamen and passengers alike. The seafaring life was defined by cramped quarters, abominable food, seasickness, vermin infestation, and disease. More frightening still was the threat of shipwreck and assault by corsairs and pirates that accompanied all sea voyages. Not surprisingly, most sailors were highly superstitious, and Pérez-Mallaína closes his vivid study with an exploration of their unorthodox religious beliefs, which combined Christian and pagan elements. A significant contribution to maritime history, Spain's Men of the Sea also succeeds as a compelling tale of everyday life and death in the maritime community.

"Pérez-Mallaína writes well and has an engaging sense of humor. The work is richly illustrated, and the illustrations, including many color plates, are well chosen... This book should appeal to all aficionados of the romance of the sea as well as to specialists in Spanish and Latin American colonial history."—Benjamin Keen, author of A History of Latin America

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Editorial Reviews

History: Reviews of New Books
Provides an important reminder that it was Spain which carved out the first world empire.

— Bruce Taylor

Itinerario: European Journal of Overseas History
An incredibly valuable work... It is a pity readers without a command of the Spanish language were forced to wait so long to read it.

— B. R. Burg

Sixteenth-Century Journal
Provides students and scholars with a fascinating read and will serve as a rich sea chest full of anecdotes for lectures.

— Ronald H. Fritze

Mariner's Mirror - David Goodman
A readable and vivid portrayal of everyday life of seamen on the Indies route.
Nautical Research Journal - Delia Scott-Ireton
Pérez-Mallaína writes in an easily read style, often humorous and wry, that makes this book, unlike many a dry history tome, a pleasure to read.
Bulletin of the Society of Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies - Darlene Abreu-Ferreira
One of the greatest achievements of Spain's Men of the Sea is the depth of research and richness in detail. Pérez-Mallaína supports his colourful narrative with ample examples of cases found in the archives, cases of human frailty, human greed, and human resilience. It is to the author's credit that many sixteenth-century characters come to life in this text, either through extensive description and examination of documented events, or through some equally fascinating illustrations of the period.
History: Reviews of New Books - Bruce Taylor
Provides an important reminder that it was Spain which carved out the first world empire.
Renaissance Quarterly - John E. Kicza
A fascinating and comprehensive study... I am pleased to give it my strong recommendation.
Itinerario: European Journal of Overseas History - B. R. Burg
An incredibly valuable work... It is a pity readers without a command of the Spanish language were forced to wait so long to read it.
Journal of Transport History - Kris Lane
Fascinating, charmingly written book.
Sixteenth Century Journal - Ronald H. Fritze
Provides students and scholars with a fascinating read and will serve as a rich sea chest full of anecdotes for lectures.
Bulletin of Spanish Studies - Patrick Williams
Professor Pérez-Mallaína has written a detailed and scholarly account of the lives of the men who sailed on the Carrera de Indias and his book will be of interest not only to historians of Spain and her relationship with her American colonies but also to students of Spanish literature in the Siglo de Oro.
Mariner's Mirror
A readable and vivid portrayal of everyday life of seamen on the Indies route.

— David Goodman

Lloyds List
The author makes commanding use of the material in the great range of archive and other sources he has mined to write a vivid and detailed account of all aspects of the day-to-day working of this great maritime endeavour by Spain... This is one of the best currently available studies of 16th century maritime life, combining impeccable scholarship with entertaining readability.
Nautical Research Journal
Pérez-Mallaína writes in an easily read style, often humorous and wry, that makes this book, unlike many a dry history tome, a pleasure to read.

— Delia Scott-Ireton

Bulletin of the Society of Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies
One of the greatest achievements of Spain's Men of the Sea is the depth of research and richness in detail. Pérez-Mallaína supports his colourful narrative with ample examples of cases found in the archives, cases of human frailty, human greed, and human resilience. It is to the author's credit that many sixteenth-century characters come to life in this text, either through extensive description and examination of documented events, or through some equally fascinating illustrations of the period.

— Darlene Abreu-Ferreira

Renaissance Quarterly
A fascinating and comprehensive study... I am pleased to give it my strong recommendation.

— John E. Kicza

Journal of Transport History
Fascinating, charmingly written book.

— Kris Lane

Bulletin of Spanish Studies
Professor Pérez-Mallaína has written a detailed and scholarly account of the lives of the men who sailed on the Carrera de Indias and his book will be of interest not only to historians of Spain and her relationship with her American colonies but also to students of Spanish literature in the Siglo de Oro.

— Patrick Williams

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801881831
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2005
  • Edition description: 20
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,302,182
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo E. Pérez-Mallaína is director of the Department of American History at the University of Seville. Carla Rahn Phillips is professor of history at the University of Minnesota.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

1 The land environment of the men of the sea 1
2 The origin and social condition of the men of the sea 23
3 The ship as a place of work 63
4 The ship as a place of life and death 129
5 Discipline and conflict 191
6 The mental horizons of the men of the sea 223
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