Sea History 092 - Spring 2000

Page 61

enriching Europe with shiploads of silver. This portrayal of Spain's men of the sea is indeed bleak. Conditions aboard a ship of this time would shock contemporary sensibilities. Cramped quarters, spoiled food, little or no medical care, brutal discipline, vermin, and possibly death awaited those choosing the sea as a means of earning their daily bread. Yet there were many reasons why men sought this employment. Many came from a worse poverry on land, hoping to achieve quick riches. Others sought relief from monotony and isolation at home. Some followed a fam ily tradition of the sea while the chance of upward social mobiliry drove others to the ships. Many signed on as an illegal means of immigration, hoping ro desert upon reaching the New World. Perez-Mallaina examines many of these voyages beginning with a description of the port of Seville and the ships that made up these fleets . The emphasis remains, however, on the human element in all its variery. No aspect of the life of a Spanish seaman of the 1500s is left untouched. The social structure of the crews beginning with pages, apprentices and seamen and ending with pilot, master and captain is dealt with in detail. Fascinating information on topics such as the men's food, clothing, games, reading habits and pay is given to the reader. Issues such as sexualiry, religion and other social concerns of the men are treated as far as the historical evidence permits. This excellent social history uses case studies and available statistics to reconstruct an important element in the rise of Spanish power in the sixteenth century. The notes contain many primary Spanishlanguage sources with a few well-known English-language secondary sources. Period plates and illustrations bring the text to life. An important aspect of this highly recommended work is the fact that it brings a Spanish perspective to the English-language historiography of the Atlantic world. HAROLD N. BOYER

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