Sir Francis Drake

February 2009
11 black and white illustrations
208 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843841869
Format: Hardback
Library eBook

Sir Francis Drake

The Construction of a Hero

Bruce Wathen

A cultural history of the representations of Sir Francis Drake, from contemporary accounts to the present day.
For four hundred years Sir Francis Drake's exploits have fascinated, inspired and entertained. Every age has sought to reconstruct the narrative of the great Elizabethan seafarer: the basis of his fame has shifted continually over the years, from single-handed victor over the Spanish Armada, to hero of commerce, explorer, and ruthless entrepreneur. In each incarnation, however, he has always been portrayed to answer the demands and anxieties of each new era.

Here, for the first time, the history of Drake as a cultural icon, and of his myth, is explored, from his appearances in west-country folklore to Elizabethan poetry, from eighteenth-century garden architecture to Victorian pageants and twentieth-century films. There is a particular focus on the `long' nineteenth century, during which Drake's reputation underwent a rigorous reconstruction to present him as a hero of empire.

BRUCE WATHEN gained his PhD from Exeter University.

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Table of Contents

Auxilio Divino
'Sir Francis Drake Revived'
'Behold the warrior dwindled to a beau'
'Homage to Britannia'
'Who the New World Bade British Thunders Shake?'
'The Prose Epic of England'
'Mould him in bronze'
'Gun to Gun he'll Challenge us'
'a pirate, and a good one'
The Future


An interesting and scholarly account of the numerous metamorphoses of Drake. FOLKLORE

A welcome addition to the steadily growing bibliography of Drake studies, concentrating as it does on the construction, transformation, and manipulation of the figure of 'Drake as a cultural icon' in the period stretching from his lifetime to the present. ENGLISH

A fascinating and masterful survey of the afterlife of this figure: a tour de force of cultural history, this rich book deserves to be widely read and recognized. [...] Wathen's book is an impressive scholarly accomplishment, a well-written and thoroughly researched study that also provides a readable account for no-specialist and non-academic audiences. BIOGRAPHY: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY QUARTERLY

The author mines a remarkably wide range of sources and mentions the development of serious biographical studies over the past two centuries. SEA HISTORY
An attractively-presented, ambitious and thought-provoking study. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY
Draws on a huge range of literary and visual material. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
Presents an indispensible compendium of Drakeana, and a congenial guide through many generations of evolving British nationhood. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY