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Carla Rahn Phillips

Carla Rahn Phillips is Union Pacific Professor Emerita in Comparative Early Modern History at the University of Minnesota. Following retirement after 44 years at the University of Minnesota, she moved to central Texas, where she is an adjunct member of the History Department at the University of Texas, Austin. She is also associated with the San Diego Maritime Museum and the University of California, San Diego.

Throughout her career, her research has focused on the economic, social, and maritime history of Spain in the early modern period. She has published a significant number of books, articles and book chapters, including Six Galleons for the King of Spain: Imperial Defense in the Early Seventeenth Century, published in 1986, The Worlds of Christopher Columbus, co-authored with Professor William D. Phillips, and The Treasure of the San José: Death at Sea in the War of the Spanish Succession. She has also translated a number of works into English, including Pablo Emilio Pérez-Mallaina’s Spain’s Men of the Sea: The Daily Life of Crews on the Indies Fleets in the Sixteenth Century, as well as her latest work, The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581-1584, published for the Hakluyt Society in 2016.

She has been the recipient of many awards and honours, including the Royal Order of Isabel the Catholic, conferred by King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2008. She is a Corresponding Member of the Spanish Royal Academy of History, and in 2013, she was elected Fellow of the Society for the History of Discoveries.

In episode 15 of History Hub’s podcast series – ‘Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra: conversations on the history of Portugal and Spain, 1415-1898‘ – Professor Phillips is in conversation with series host Dr Edward Collins. In the episode, which is available to podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud, they discuss The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581-1584.

The Armada of the Strait

The Spanish Armada sailed for the Strait of Magellan under Don Diego Flores de Valdés in 1581, and came at a crucial juncture in global politics. Philip II of Spain had assumed the crown of Portugal and its overseas empire, and Francis Drake’s daring peacetime raids had challenged the dominance of Spain and Portugal in the Americas. The armada was intended to ensure the loyalty of Portuguese Brazil; bolster its defences against hostile native peoples, and English and French pirates and interlopers; and fortify and settle the Strait of Magellan to prevent further incursions into the Pacific.

Previous accounts of the Armada of the Strait have largely reflected the writings of Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, governor-designate for the planned colony at the Strait, who blamed all the misfortunes of the enterprise on Diego Flores de Valdés, but Professor Phillips’s recent edition of Pedro de Rada’s account present a very different version of the expedition, which challenge long-standing conclusions regarding the place of Sarmiento and Flores in Spanish history and the accomplishments of a long-forgotten armada sent into the terrifying waters of the South Atlantic.

Listen to ‘The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait of Magellan, 1581-1584’, with Professor Carla Rahn Phillips.

Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra

This History Hub podcast series features interviews with experts in the areas of Portuguese and Spanish history, from the beginning of the Portuguese discoveries in 1415 to the end of Spanish dominion in America in 1898. The interviews, conducted by historian Dr. Edward Collins, cover a range of topics on the domestic and overseas histories of both nations, which include, among others: the Portuguese explorations of Africa and Asia, Spanish navigation and settlement in America, the church in Portugal and Spain, monarchy and intermarriage in the Iberian kingdoms, natural science and mapping in America, the role of nautical science, Irish historical relations with Portugal and Spain, and imperial competition in Europe and overseas. The interviewees comprise a number of established and renowned academics, as well as up-and-coming researchers from universities and institutions worldwide.

This History Hub series is funded by UCD Seed Funding and supported by UCD School of History. Series editor is Mike Liffey (Real Smart Media).

Download series episodes on iTunes or listen via Soundcloud.


Image: detail from ‘Map of Luís Teixeira’ (c.1574) with the division of Portuguese America into captaincies. By Luís Teixeira (The Ajuda Library) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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