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Sir Francis Drake

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  245 ratings  ·  33 reviews
How well do you know the life of one of Britain’s great maritime heroes?

Discover the truth behind a man who remains a legendary figure of history more than four hundred years after his death.

Sir Francis Drake’s career is one of the most colourful on record. The most daring of the corsairs who raided the West Indies and Spanish Main, he led the English into the Pacific, an
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 25th 2006 by Pimlico (first published 1990)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  245 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Great book, great detail. Very engaging.
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sir Francis Drake by John Sugden is a wonderfully detailed and documented story of a multifaceted hero of his age. From common stock he rose to the epitome of British society. He was a corsair who was the plague of Spain's western colonies and their treasure ships carrying vast amounts of silver to fill the coffers of King Phillip. An audacious warrior, his overweening inclination was to attack. He was the hero that turned back the Spanish Armada, and also a member of Parliament, a favorite of t ...more
John Nelson
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging an informative biography of the famous Elizabethan navigator and freebooter. The book is not without its flaws; for example, the author sometimes resorts to ending sentences with exclamation points, which detracts from its gravitas. The author also insists on blowing his own horn by telling the reader when something has not previously appeared in print. On the whole, though, the book is a worthwhile and interesting read.
John Newcomb
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
He was quite a character and a go getter in his youth. This is a good history of his life and is neither an homage nor a critique. Drake's reputation has been lauded as a saviour of England and founder of the navy and has been demonised as a slaver, pirate and murderer. He was a bit of all these things which makes him such a remarkable figure.
Mark Luongo
Coming on the heels of the book I read earlier this year about the Spanish Armada this biography enlightened me further on the Armada campaign and one of its leading personalities, Sir Francis Drake.
I've always been fascinated by the "singeing of the King's beard", Drake's forays into the ports of the Iberian peninsula to hinder the build-up of Philip II's Armada. The importance of the loss of such a simple thing as seasoned timber, used to make barrel staves which were a key ingredient in trans
Marty Reeder
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the part in this book where Sugden talks about the legends and myths that Drake inspired with later generations because that is exactly what drew me to this book, and--in consequence--my eventual history major. When my 8th grade history teacher taught about Drake, the man’s exploits seemed so daring, so outrageous, so exciting, I was in awe that such a person might have existed.

Well, he didn’t. At least, not in the way my history teacher described it. I don’t know if my history teacher
Foxtrot Romeo
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I started to read this book after I finished all the Uncharted video games. In those games, you play a descendant of Sir Francis Drake.

This biography proved to be a passionating read for anyone seeking adventure and inspiration from the life of Drake.
On top of the life of Drake, this book depicts the inner of the English navy of the 16th century and the complexities of the relationship between Europeans rulers.

I wouldn't qualify this biography as a page-turner since sometimes lots of details cl
Andrew Holmes
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read John Sugden's two volume biography of Nelson which was a terrific read and this is no different. He does a great job of balancing the telling of a story with historical accuracy. The books are very readable and a great way to learn not just about the person but also the politics and customs of the eras they cover.
Shannon Cline
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this bio up for background color for a concert we were producing about the musicians (the then-famous town band of Norwich) who travelled with Drake. As such it was a more detailed account than I needed, but nevertheless an enjoyable read. The author clearly has real affection for his subject (possibly leaning into bias).
Juan  Cordero
May 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring as hell. One of the dullest and flattest stories I've ever read. It's just a linear narration of episodes without any kind of passion and enthusiasm. I couldn't finish it actually.
It's sad because the character and its adventures might be elating if were properly told.
Don't waste your time.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very informative and interesting. Really enjoyed it.
G. Lawrence
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A dense, but well-written work. Sympathetic, but balanced. At times, you can feel the author's excitement seeping from the pages, making it an enthralling read.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Buy, Borrow or Burn: Buy.

Probably the best account on Drake who is one of my favourite historical figures of all time. His life is a journey like no other. Rags to riches.

One Word: Drake.
Jennifer M.
This was so dry and boring I couldn't finish it.
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, elizabethan
Excellent book about an English hero. I thought the author was very balanced; while clearly admiring his subject he is also able to see his flaws. I would have liked more detail about Sir Francis' home life, but John Sudden mentions in the post-script that there is little information available.

There is plenty of detail about the many missions which Drake leads, very often to chase down treasure-laden Spanish ships, to make this as good a read as many novels. Drake, in the prime of his life, is
Geordan Williams
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
John Sugden did an amazing job bringing Sir Francis Drake to life without making the horrible mistake of weaving fantasy with good historical research. I don't necessarily agree with his analysis of Drake's last voyage though. He was saying that over the years Drake had lost his edge, but I wonder if Drake wasn't just an incredible commander of a few ships bent upon piracy. It seems to me that his bold, ambitious moves during the first few voyages were born of necessity. The later fleets he comm ...more
James Stripes
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Sugden's book on Drake is both readable and scholarly. Aside from passages where the author gets caught in a storm of superficial details--much of Drake's activities on land are known but dimly--the book reads as well as a novel. Sugden is thorough in presenting Drake's life from early childhood to his death at sea. His thorough knowledge of secondary and primary sources is evident throughout.
Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Probably the definitive biography of this amazing man, The Queen's Pirate. This guy pulled off some crazy feats as this Admiral of the English navy; sailed around the Caribean, the Atlantic and even completely around the world stealing from the Spanish what the Spanish had stolen from someone else. He should have been dead many times over, but his courage and planning pulled him through. Pure balls is what saved him mostly. Remarkable fellow.
Michael Gruskin
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
A great academic author who has scoured the earth being sure he has every minute fact in hand. You learn not only that Drake was a great landowner but where each parcel was, what it was called, etc.

The problem with great academic tomes is that often the suffeit of facts get in the way of great storytelling. If you are looking for a strong narrative, powerfully told, this is not it.
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Although the beginning was very strong, interesting and engaging towards the middle and end of the book the story got lost in endless details of irrelevant nature. However epic, and historic this man's discoveries were, it is a shame it got lost somewhat in dreading details which went on for ever.
W T withheld
Feb 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Privateers beyond the line!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Victoria Giraud
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully researched and well written. I was thankful since it helped me write Melaynie's Masquerade
Richard Boyett
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it

Not much has changed in 400 plus years. Greed, power, religious persecution, etc. are the overriding themes. John Sugden keeps the reader interested and the book is well researched.
Roger Donald
Nov 28, 2013 rated it liked it
A strong start and interesting account.
Jeff Ford
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
More of a history book than a biography. I was hoping for more insight into Drake as a man rather than a series of dates and events.
Elias Levy
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A well written biography of a most extraordinary individual.
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting read, informative, for the general reader.
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent work from the great writer John Sugden.
Simon Bates
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a man - great read.
Frank Thun
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
What a pirate! but with his limits
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