Back to the video list: History of the British Isles


Sir Francis Drake (1540 – 1596) layer the foundation of Britain's proud naval tradition by circumnavigating the world from from 1577 to 1580.






  • Date: 13 Dec 1577 – 26 Sep 1580
  • Location: Earth
  • Events: Drake circumnavigates the earth & leads a successful campaign against Spain



  • Growing contrast between the Catholic Spain & the Protestant England on a religious level (see also: The English Reformation)
  • From 1492: After Christopher Columbus discovers America Spain becomes the hegemonial naval & colonial power
  • 1562 – 1563: Sir John Hawkins starts the English sea trade & raids against Spanish ships & overseas possessions
    • Drake accompanies Hawkins on this & further expeditions
  • From 1572: Drake undertakes own expeditions
  • Naval conflict between Spain & England



  • 15 Nov 1577: Drake leaves Plymouth but must return to repair his ships after a storm
  • 13 Dec 1577: Drake leaves Plymouth aboard Pelican & 4 other ships (Elizabeth, Marigold, Christopher & Swan)
  • 30 Jan 1578: Near Cap Verde Drake captures the Portuguese ship Santa Maria which joins the squadron under the name of Mary
  • Christopher & Swan have to be scuttled because of the high number of lost sailors
  • 18 Jun 1578: Drake reaches San Julian & decides to stay for the winter
  • Drake burns the Mary because she is rotten
  • 02 Jul 1578: Drake tries & executes his friend Thomas Dougherty for mutiny
  • Drake’s famous motivational speech: „...I must have the gentleman to haul and draw with the mariner, and the mariner with the gentleman...“
  • 17 Aug 1578: Drake’s fleet leaves San Julian & enters the Magellan Strait on 20 Aug; here he renames his flag ship Golden Hind
  • 06 Sep 1578: Drake enters the Pacific
  • The Marigold sinks & the Elizabeth returns to England because of bad weather so that the Golden Hind is the only remaining ship
  • 05 Dec 1578: Raid on Valparaiso & other Spanish ships & ports
  • 01 Mar 1579: Capture of the Cagafuego (Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion) which is fully loaded with gold & silver
  • 17 Jun 1579: Drake reaches the Californian coast
  • 03 Nov 1579: Drake reaches the Moluccas
  • 26 Mar 1580: Drake reaches Java
  • 22 Jul 1580: Drake reaches Sierra Leone
  • 26 Sep 1580: Return to Plymouth
  • 04 Apr 1581: Drake is knighted


Consequences & Impact

  • The circumnavigation of the earth is a massive economic success:
    • England’s budget is secured for the following years
    • Spain suffers substantial losses
  • Apparent Forerunner of the (undeclared) Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604)
  • Sir Francis Drake becomes a national hero
  • Sir Francis Drake achieves great influence in politics & the Royal Navy
  • Sir Francis Drake sets the basis for the ethos & the command structure of the Royal Navy, esp. through his actions in San Julian:
    • The commander of a ship or fleet enjoys absolute authority at sea
    • All members of the Royal Navy must fulfil their duties & work together independent of social origin or societal rank
  • First sign of England’s rise to global naval supremacy