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Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan Privateer Paperback – 6 Mar 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press UK SR (6 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300204760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300204766
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Review

"I have read nothing that provides a better sense of the demimonde in which sea-dogs like Frobisher lived. This is an immensely entertaining biography." William S. Maltby, University of Missouri" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James McDermott is an independent scholar and former special adviser to the Canadian Museum of Civilization's Meta Incognita Project. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By rakehell@earthlink.net on 14 Sept. 2001
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book written about one of England's first Maritime explorers. Frobisher usually is written with such notables of the time as Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh even if his famous voyage to the Northwest was a failure. He still managed to retain his dignity and eventually became one of England's greatest sailors. Mr. McDermott's book is a wonderful and complete picture of a quite-not-so-honest Yorkshire man who rose up to become a great explorer despite his past dealings with privateering and the law. Frobisher's last biography (AFAIK) was published in 1923 (William McFee) yet Mr. McDermotts excellent research and writing clearly rates above Mr. McFee's outline of a man whose history was written by happenstance and luck. I found this book to be invaluable research of a not-so-well-known man whom I portray at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in California. Well researched and well written.A must for any 16th century maritime history fan or historian. Cheers!
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By Denis Harvey on 27 Feb. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When you care enough to send the second best expolorer 17 Feb. 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Martin Frobisher is remembered today for Frobisher Bay in Canada and as a sea captain in Elizabeth's fleet against the Armada. In death, as in life, his exploits are often overshadowed by more flamboyant seafarers such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins. Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan Privateer attempts to rescue the captain from semi-obscurity and place his life in the context of its times. The spotty documentation on much of Frobisher's life makes this no easy task but the author is able to fill in the gaps with dexterity.

Frobisher was born in Yorkshire England in the mid 1530s. After the death of his father in 1542, Frobisher was set to live with various relatives ending up at his maternal uncle's in London. Sir John Yorke was a well-connected merchant who set Frobisher to sea most likely because he was a drain on Yorke's finances. Frobisher fell out with his uncle after the latter failed to help him escape from captivity in Portuguese hands and soon struck out on his own. By the 1560s Frobisher was well established as a privateer. In this profession he often showed little regard for the legality of which ships were "good prizes" and which were not. He was called often in front of the admiralty court to answer charges of piracy.

In 1576 Frobisher became the captain of an expedition to find the northwest passage from Europe to China. This expedition failed in its goal but did spark a gold rush when a souvenir rock brought back was thought to contain gold. Two more expeditions found no gold and nearly bankrupted many of the investors in the scheme.

Frobisher's abilities as a captain earned him a place among Elizabeth's admirals during the Spanish Armada of 1588. His command decisions during that time remain controversial to this day. While some see Frobisher as an unskilled ship handler who needlessly put his ship in danger, the author is convinced that Frobisher was courageously placing his ship in harm's way to interpose himself between the coast and the Spanish fleet. Unlike other of Elizabeth's captains, Frobisher was never able to become a member of the Queen's inner circle. He rose on merit alone and his star continued to wax even as other of the `sea dogs' watched their reputation falter. Most of the famed sailors modern readers would view as his peers were disliked by Frobisher as much as he was disliked by them.

After the Armada, Frobisher continued in her majesties services as a privateer. He quickly returned to his former way of intercepting and plundering ships from both friend and foe. Despite his greed, he was clever enough to understand that England's main interest was in destroying Spanish treasure even when it could not be captured. In this view he was more willing to place public good above personal self-interest more than the Queen and members of the privy council. Frobisher's courage never deserted him; he was killed in 1594 leading a landing party on a Spanish fort.

James McDermott has deftly accomplished a difficult task. He has written a comprehensive portrait of an unlikable character without overly condemning him or attempting to redeem him. Well researched and documented, Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan Privateer, is an informative and entertaining book well suited for academic and general reading.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Wonderul and excellent research tome 15 Jun. 2001
By rakehell@earthlink.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book written about one of England's first Maritime explorers. Frobisher usually is written with such notables of the time as Drake, Hawkins and Raleigh even if his famous voyage to the Northwest was a failure. He still managed to retain his dignity and eventually became one of England's greatest sailors. Mr. McDermott's book is a wonderful and complete picture of a quite-not-so-honest Yorkshire man who rose up to become a great explorer despite his past dealings with privateering and the law. Frobisher's last biography (AFAIK) was published in 1923 (William McFee) yet Mr. McDermotts excellent research and writing clearly rates above Mr. McFee's outline of a man whose history was written by happenstance and luck. I found this book to be invaluable research of a not-so-well-known man whom I portray at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in California. Well researched and well written. A must for any 16th century maritime history fan or historian. Cheers!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Relatively Unknown Figure 19 July 2006
By Alexander Bielakowski, Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Sir Martin Frobisher (1535-1594) was both a pirate and a Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy. The dichotomy of those two positions works as a good introduction to a man who spent much of his career searching for the fabled Northwest Passage, but also, in 1588, had a significant role in thwarting the Spanish Armada (which earned him a knighthood). Yet, Frobisher never achieved the historical status of his contemporaries Sir Francis Drake or Sir Walter Raleigh. In fact, the only reminders of Frobisher's existence are Frobisher Bay in Canada and a plaque at St. Giles Cripplegate in London.

The author, James McDermott, traces Frobisher's life from his boyhood in Yorkshire to expeditions in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean. It was Frobisher's three unsuccessful voyages in search of a northwest passage to Asia, which caused him to turn to piracy against the Spanish Empire in the Caribbean. The respectability of his later undertakings for Queen Elizabeth do not overwhelm his unsavory early activities or his personal ruthlessness.

McDermott, an independent scholar and a leading authority on both Martin Frobisher and the Northwest Passage, spent almost 30 years researching his topic. The end result is the life story of an unlikable individual, who climbed the social latter despite the cost to others around him. The author based his story on all of the available archival and printed primary sources, as well as numerous secondary sources. The only other full-length biography of Frobisher was William McFee's Life of Sir Martin Frobisher, which was published in 1928.

This work is primarily recommended for those interested in naval history or the Elizabethan period.
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