Exploration and Settlement

Ferdinand Magellan

Who was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe?

It was English admiral Sir Francis Drake (1540 or 1543–1596), who set out in 1577 to explore the Strait of Magellan. He did so, investigating the coast of South America (he and his crew plundered coastal Chile and Peru in the process), before continuing into the South Pacific and heading northward. He eventually reached the coast of present-day California, which he named New Albion (a name that did not stick), and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603). He continued sailing northward and is believed to have reached Vancouver—still in search of the Northwest Passage. Not finding it (he was much too far south, explorers would later learn), he sailed westward. He reached the so-called Spice Islands (today known as the Moluccas) in east Indonesia in 1579. Drake also found the Indonesian island of Java, before continuing west through the Indian Ocean, rounding the southern tip of South Africa at the Cape of Good Hope and skirting the western coast of Africa northward to Sierra Leone. From there Drake returned home to Plymouth, England, where he landed in 1580, the first Englishman to travel around the world. He was knighted by the queen one year later.

It is also Drake who, along with his fellow countryman Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618), bears the dubious honor of introducing tobacco to his homeland. In 1586 Drake returned from another expedition to North and South America, where he did battle with Spanish fleets for control of lands. He then picked up colonists in Virginia, who carried with them potatoes and the materials and implements for tobacco smoking. Drake remained in the service of the queen for his whole life, going on to fight and defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. On a mission to the West Indies in 1596, Drake died on board his own ship.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App