He was born in London , his father was the Spanish journalist Felipe Fernández Armesto and his mother was Betty Millan de Fernandez-Armesto, a British-born journalist and co-founder and editor of The Diplomatist , the in-house journal of the diplomatic corps in London.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto joined the history department at the University of Notre Dame in 2009, after occupying chairs at Tufts University and the University of London ( Queen Mary College ). He had spent most of his career teaching at Oxford , where he was an undergraduate and doctoral student. He has had visiting appointments at many universities and research institutes in Europe and the Americas, and has honorary doctorates from La Trobe University and the Universidad de los Andes . He began his teaching career at Charterhouse School in Godalming, Surrey.
In 1982 he published The Canary Islands after the Conquest: The Making of a Colonial Society in the Early Sixteenth Century , an archival study of the Canary Islands during the period of their original settlement. In 1987 he published Before Columbus: Exploration and Colonization from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic 1229-1492 , a study of the earliest phase of European imperialism when Europeans left the Mediterranean and colonized the islands along the northwest coast of Africa.
Fernández-Armesto gained media attention in 2007 for his alleged brutalising by five policemen in Atlanta, Georgia , as a result of jaywalking.