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Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs and their War Against Spain (Hardback)

Maritime Frontline Books Military 17th Century 16th Century

By Brian Best
Frontline Books
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526782854
Published: 9th February 2021


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The Sea Dogs were seafaring merchantmen who originally traded mainly with Holland and France. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, however, they began to spread their reach, sailing further and further afield exploring and plundering. The main source of wealth quickly became the Caribbean, which, until then, had been predominantly the domain of wealthy Catholic Spain.

The first man to trade with the Spanish Main was John Hawkins, who travelled to West Africa, captured the natives and transported them to the Caribbean. There he sold them to plantation owners in exchange for goods such as pearls, hides and spices. He made three voyages and on the disastrous last he took his cousin, Francis Drake.

The backers, including the Queen, were satisfied with the bounty but encouraged the Sea Dogs to seek greater riches. England at that time was a relatively impoverished country compared with Spain. Elizabeth had inherited a high cost of inflation, poor harvests and a legacy of poverty from Edward VI and Mary Tudor. This was a time of religious tension with King Philip of Spain, whose marriage to Mary Tudor gave him the right to rule England. The rift between the Catholics and Protestants was cooled somewhat by Elizabeth’s keeping the peace between the two countries, despite the continuing campaigns of the privateers crewed by the Sea Dogs.

The main thorn in the Spanish side was Francis Drake. Despite efforts to kill or capture him, he continued to plunder the high seas, bringing back Spanish riches to England. This allowed the Queen to flourish. It was thanks in main to the privateering exploits of the Sea Dogs that England became so wealthy, paving the way for the Renaissance that followed.

I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the depths of the adventures of these men, their successes and failures and learning why some of them are still well known names today. I have learnt alot, not just about the men involved but also the development of ships, the Royal Navy and why Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs were feared by their enemies.

For anyone with an interest in the Armada, this is fascinating but I would also recommend to anyone with an interest in the Elizabethan era. This book is clearly the result of much research.

The bibliography has provided me with more reading I'll be adding to my list.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

This was a well written, engaging look at a fascinating period of history. Best does an excellent job of keeping the material detailed without becoming too dry as he explores the nuances of the period, the methods of the Sea Dogs and I thoroughly enjoyed delving into this book.

NetGalley, Rowena Andrews

An interesting read on a turbulent time in England’s history. The stories about the various captains and their adventures were compelling and a great read. I learned quite a bit about this and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer
 Brian Best

About Brian Best

BRIAN BEST has an honours degree in South African History and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was the founder of the Victoria Cross Society and edited its Journal for many years. Brian also lectures about the Victoria Cross and War Art. He is married and lives in Rutland.

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