Sir Francis Drake is one of the great heroes of British exploration. Early in his career, he engaged in piracy (although licensed as a privateer by Queen Elizabeth I) and illegal slave trading. In 1577 he was recruited to lead an expedition around the southern tip of South America, through the Strait of Magellan and helped open new trade routes that allowed Great Britain to compete effectively with the much larger Spanish Navy and the Spanish colonies that dominated the Atlantic coast of South America. He continued across the Pacific Ocean and around the tip of Africa and home to England, becoming the first Englishman to sail around the world.
Drake also played a key role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada which threatened to invade and conquer England in 1588. Vastly outnumbered, he led daring raids on the Armada while it was anchored in Spanish ports, destroying dozens of ships, plundering their riches and sowing confusion and fear. When the Armada finally set sail, the more maneuverable English ships proved decisive in destroying the Armada’s plan of invasion. An unprecedented storm took care of the rest.
In the pantheon of English naval heroes Drake stood alone for centuries until Nelson. Read Ernle Bradford’s Drake: England’s Greatest Seafarer and learn why.
E-Reads is republishing fifteen scintillating works of history and biography by Ernle Bradford. Look for them on the author’s page.