Sir Francis Drake Essay - Critical Essays

Sir Francis Drake

John Sugden has written the first biography of Sir Francis Drake in almost a century. A lecturer in history and an avid student particularly of naval history, the author has been meticulous in sorting through contradictory elements in Drake’s life and fleshing out a coherent portrait of this towering figure. Drake was born sometime around 1540 in the West Country of England, then in the throes of religious turmoil between Protestants and Catholics. Drake grew up to be a devout Protestant and believed passionately that as he fought for England, he was doing God’s will. His first introduction to seafaring was under the command of Captain Sir John Hawkins, a notorious figure who could rightly be labeled a pirate.

Sugden refuses to slant his story by overanalyzing or by seeking to fit his subject into some prejudged conclusion. SIR FRANCIS DRAKE is a product of impeccable scholarship. Sugden presents the facts and, in so doing, has captured the man and his times with great clarity. It is true that drake could be considered a pirate himself. From the Spanish perspective that would definitely seem to be the proper view; but in the eyes of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake was a defender of English interests. Sugden does point out that given the standards of his time, Drake showed unusual concern for those he captured. He was a complex man who earned the respect of those who served under him and was rightly feared by those he met in battle. Drake was brilliant admiral, as he proved on many occasions. He became a national hero after his exploits against the Spanish Armada in July, 1588. Drake fought for the Protestant cause and helped make England a great maritime power. Sir Francis Drake has became a legendary figure because of his many accomplishments, including circumnavigating the globe. SIR FRANCIS DRAKE is a magnificent biography that may well become the standard by which all other portraits of Drake will be judged.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVII, April 1, 1991, p. 1540.

Chicago Tribune. June 3, 1991, V, p. 3.

The Christian Science Monitor. April 30, 1991, p. 15.

Contemporary Review. CCLVII, October, 1990, p. 221.

History Today. XLI, January, 1991, p. 56.

Kirkus Reviews. LIX, January 15, 1991, p. 98.

Library Journal. CXVI, February 1, 1991, p. 84.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 21, 1991, p. 4.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, February 1, 1991, p. 70.

The Times Educational Supplement. July 6, 1990, p. 27.

The Times Literary Supplement. July 27, 1990, p. 806.