What Is the Significance of England’s Defeat of the Spanish Armada?

Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The English victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 was significant because it destroyed Spanish domination of the seas. The nationalism that the victory inspired also inspired a new wave of colonies in the New World.

In addition to inspiring nationalism, the defeat of the Spanish Armada gave England the practical freedom it needed to begin large-scale colonizing missions. Without the Spanish threat on the sea in the years after 1588, British ships could ply the waters between Europe and America to bring colonists and supplies to the new lands and return with the products of colonial labor. The event also had implications for the Protestant Reformation. A Protestant country, England, prevailed against the more powerful navy of a Catholic country, Spain.

The fact that a big part of the English defeat derived from bad weather gave some weight to the Protestant claim that their cause was supported by God. The loss of the money used to build the huge fleet of 130 ships in the Armada also weakened the Spanish ability to project power in its new colonies. Many historians view the failure of the Spanish Armada as the beginning of a long, slow decline of Spanish power that eventually resulted in a total loss of its vast empire.