April 20, 2011

Book(s) of the Week: Tudor Pirates

This week in Tudor History, Sir Francis Drake severely damaged the Spanish fleet at the Bay of Cadiz on April 18, 1587. This event delayed the Spanish invasion of England for over a year. This event is not that well known, but it got me thinking about Sir Francis Drake and Tudor Piracy.

Sir Francis Drake is probably the most famous English pirates of the Elizabethan Era. The Queen did not name him a pirate, however, but a "Privateer." Because the Spanish continually complained about Drake's constant attacks on their treasure ships, the Queen said that she would stop it. However, she rewarded him with a knighthood in 1581. He was second in command against the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Doing a bit of research, I found a few interesting books on Drake and Tudor Piracy.
The first I want to point out is Francis Drake: The Queen's Pirate by Harry Kelsey. According to amazon, the book discusses how "Francis Drake roamed the world under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I. He enriched her coffers by attacking Spanish merchant ships in the Caribbean, raiding ports, looting churches, and taking a cut of the slave trade--the acts not of a military man, Harry Kelsey argues, but of a pirate, and of a cowardly one at that as he was given to fleeing at the first sign of danger, leaving his men behind. Even so, for his services Elizabeth awarded Drake a knighthood and a degree of immunity until he failed to appear at his post during a naval engagement against ships of the Spanish armada. He then lost the queen's favor and disappeared from history's stage. Drake has few champions today, certainly fewer than he did in Elizabethan times. Even then he was none too popular. This well-written revisionist biography explains why."

Here's the amazon link.

Another book I wanted to highlight is Under the Bloody Flag: Pirates of the Tudor Age by John Appleby. This fascinating book mentions Francis Drake, but explains that "Although the young Francis Drake became the most famous pirate of the period, scores of little-known pirate leaders operated during this time, acquiring mixed reputations on land and at sea. Captain Henry Strangeways earned notoriety for his attacks on French shipping in the English Channel and the Irish Sea, selling booty ashore in southwest England and Wales. John Callice and his associates sailed in consort with others, including another arch-pirate Robert Hicks, plundering French, Spanish, Danish, and Scottish shipping, in voyages that ranged from Scotland to Spain. The first British pirates led erratic careers, but their roving in local waters paved the way for the more aggressive and ambitious deep-sea piracy in the Caribbean."

Here's the amazon link.

Finally, I wanted to point out The Pirate Queen: Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire by Susan Ronald. This book shows how Elizabeth, "the iron-willed, financially astute monarch utilized piracy and plunder as a vital tool in guaranteeing English independence from foreign domination and in transforming a backwater nation into a nascent empire." It seems to be a new and interesting approach to Elizabeth.

Here's the amazon link.

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