The Hero and the Sea: Sea Captains and their Discontents

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Early modern sea captains were at the vanguard of the English response to secure what was believed to be the nation’s share of territory and trade, and their activities are central to written accounts of explorations and adventures. This article takes as its focus two accounts of English sea captaincy of the “long 1590s.” To address the sea captain’s role in the processes of English overseas expansionism, I discuss first the importance of the execution in contested circumstances of Thomas Doughty, on the orders of Francis Drake on the first English circumnavigation, for understanding more generally the values and practice of leadership at sea. However, my chief concern is on the significance of the murky circumstances of the death of England’s celebrated second circumnavigator, Sir Thomas Cavendish, and the fractious conditions on board that led to it, for analysing the challenges and opportunities of sea captaincy in this period, and for examining the ideologies that supported it and which, in turn, it supported.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalRevue de la Société d’études anglo-américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017

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