Sir John Hawkins

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Although his cousin Sir Francis Drake is more famous, Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595) was a more successful seaman and played a pivotal role in the history of England and the emergence of the global slave trade. Born into a family of wealthy pirates, Hawkins became fascinated by tales of the riches of foreign lands. Early in his career he led an illegal expedition in which he captured three hundred slaves in Sierra Leone and transported them to the West Indies, where he traded them for pearls, hides, and sugar - thus giving birth to the British slave trade. His voyages were so lucrative that Queen Elizabeth herself sponsored subsequent missions. Discouraged from his career as a pirate by a near-fatal encounter with angry Spanish troops, Hawkins spent much of his later life in England at the service of the queen. Although he committed treason, murder, and adultery at various points in his career, he was nonetheless knighted in 1588 for his role in defeating the Spanish Armada. In this riveting book, Harry Kelsey, biographer of Sir Francis Drake, tells the story of this extraordinary man. Harry Kelsey is research scholar at the Huntington Library and the author of 'Sir Francis Drake', also available from Yale University Press.