cover image Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake

John Peter Sugden. Henry Holt & Company, $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1489-1

Circumnavigator of the globe, naval nemesis of Philip II of Spain, Sir Francis Drake (1543?-1596) personified England's coming-of-age as a sea power. In this long-overdue biography (there has been no major treatment of Drake in memory), Sugden ( Tecumseh's Last Stand ) incorporates into his lively narrative fresh information about Drake's family, his slave-trading expeditions to the West Indies, his command of English sea forces against Ireland, his hit-and-run raids on the Spanish main and his leading role in the defeat of the Armada. The book includes a gripping account of Drake's 1577-1580 voyage around the world and his audacious challenge to the Spanish (the author points out that King Philip's naval resources were roughly six times those of Elizabethan England), culminating in his preemptive strike at Cadiz in 1587 and his decisive action against the Armada in the English Channel a year later. Drake's nonmaritime deeds receive equal treatment in these pages: as vigorous social climber, businessman and parliamentarian. No armchair admiral will want to miss this one. Illustrations. (Mar.)