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Sir Francis Drake
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is a very well researched and generally very readable biography of the great sea captain and adventurer. He was of humble origins and the year of his birth is not known (some time between 1538 and 1546). This rise from humble origins inspired great loyalty from his men later on, but sometimes resentment and discomfort from his maritime peers so, for example, he could not be appointed supreme commander of the fleet fighting the Spanish Armada, but had to be vice admiral to Lord Howard of Effingham (though they seem to have worked together well). This book traces his career from his early roles as an officer on John Hawkins's slave trading missions through his numerous and, frankly, rather repetitive missions to attack Spanish colonies in the New World. These actions are sometimes described as piracy or private adventuring: and yet there was no state navy in the sixteenth century and all missions were at least partially and sometimes wholly financed privately, though Drake was not primarily motivated by personal gain, but a profound belief in the cause of his Protestant Queen and country. His circumnavigation of the globe is covered slightly disappointingly briefly (this was my chief reason for reading the book), whereas there is extensive coverage of the Armada invasion and repulsion. Little is known about Drake's personal life - he had two wives but no children and his heir was his younger brother Thomas. A good examination of his life. 4.5/5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2014
The quality of the writing is of the usual high standard for this author. The book would definitely get 5 stars for content but it is let down by seriously sub-standard printing. The print is far too small and varies in boldness from page to page. The maps and illustrations are another issue. At best these appear as poor photocopies and in some cases are so indistinct as to be useless. Maps in various tones of black and grey have place names which are virtually unreadable. These printing issues turn a great read into a chore.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Having read Sugden's briliant Nelson biography, this came as a real treat as it lived up to expectations.

Diverging slightly I was trying to explain to the wife why I enjoyed Sugden's work and I think I nailed it finally - he writes about the life of the person but actually does not shy from showing you their flaws. Admittedly Nelson was more recent and therefore figuratively has more recent 'history' to draw on, but given he's going back a further couple hundred years, this gives you a real insight into what Drake might have been like.

As another reviewer has said the print is small, but not too bad. What is bad is the print quality - some pages appear 'bold' and others quite faint. I'd actually go so far as to say the print quality is pretty shoddy.

Above all that I hate reviews of say, DVDs and Blu Rays, that dwell on the quality of the box and knock it down for that. So this gets a Five Star from me but bear in mind what to expect.
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on 14 June 2015
In large part a good read. When Drake was on the sea it read like a good adventure story - fascinating. When he was back in England the read got boring, more like an academic paper - who he knew, his extended family, the extended family of his wife, etc; useful to understanding who Drake was but I had to drag myself through it. Clearly Drake did a great deal both on sea and land and discovering that breadth of the man that was one of the benefits of the read.
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on 22 January 2015
Great book and very interesting read. Bought the kindle version as other reviews here suggested print quality of hard copy not so good. Sugden seems somehow to bring the characters to life. What would be really great would be some good detailed maps. Both modern day maps and the maps (if any) that Drake had at the time
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on 17 January 2014
I purchased this book for my husband as he is extremely interested in Sir Francis Drake. He loved it. The book is well written, well researched and offered more information on the subject than previous books he had read.
Would recommend this book to anyone interested in Sir Francis Drake.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2012
A word of caution about the compact format paperback edition: text is very small and layout very tight. Pimlico are not alone in this, but here it is made very much worse by the print job: in my copy at least, most of the text is heavily over-inked (frustratingly some short sections, such as preface and postscript, are fine). Unless your vision is 20:20 or better, you should consider a larger format edition, or wait for a digital one.

Top marks for the book itself, the best on its subject.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2012
Historians can be run-over by their own hyperbole due to their astonishment at the achievements of their subjects. Corbett's view of Drake was too favourable in a similar but differently nuanced way to Churchill's Marlborough. Sugden (like Chandler on Marlborough) offers a more balanced view of Drake, if no less enthusiastic, because his achievements never pall. Drake was a huge small man, a giant of the Elizabethan world. This was due to his spirit, a spirit unconquered even by death because it still lives on in our collective memory which lifted him out of a life of poverty to great riches, enormous fame and huge status in British naval history. A spirit driven by the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Drake was a ruthless man with an eye on the main chance such as so deftly renaming his ship as a way to court favour after executing one of his men to allay controversy in England. That face of the stocky man which stares out at us from the Marcus Gheeraerts portrait was more than ready to draw that rapier. Sugden's Drake is the best work on its subject partly becuse it is the latest offering by a Phd scholar with all the known apparatus. Part of this lies in the wealth of modern research that Sugden has been able to utilise (see bibliography).This is manifested by the detail in its pages, for example no other biography has so much on Drake's wealth, how much he got after the circumnavigation and the manors he bought with it. You look in vain for such detail in Thomson. Sugden's Drake is the wonderful antidote to the modern world.
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on 11 July 2014
brilliant quality when arrived which was a little long to wait. great read very well researched
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2009
Typically well researched book by John Sugden. Lots of background and facts - a very good read for those interested in this era.
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