Elizabeth’s Age of Exploration

Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, kingdoms throughout Europe sponsored voyages to find new lands and faster trade routes. Spain and Portugal dominated exploration during during much of this period. In England, there was no significant progress in exploration during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary. It was only with the efforts of Elizabeth I that England became a new major player of exploration. While Elizabeth sponsored voyages, it was in fact Henry VIII’s naval reforms that launched the beginning of Elizabethan exploration. Continue reading

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Sir Francis Drake: Naval Hero or Warmonger?

Sir Francis Drake, c. 1591.
Sir Francis Drake, c. 1591.

Was Sir Francis Drake a pirate or a privateer? Firstly, despite having actually delved into piracy early in his career, Drake has often been referred to as a privateer rather than as a pirate directly. Of course, the terms “privateer” and “pirate” are relatively interchangeable as both employ the same techniques in order to accomplish basically the same goal. In other words, both cases would use seafaring expertise to raid unsuspecting vessels whilst out in the ocean far from land or unwanted naval incursion. The only discernible contrast between both parties was the notion that privateers received private government funding to carry out their raids, especially during wartime.[1] Essentially, privateers are just pirates under the employment of a group that benefits in some way from their actions. Continue reading

Broadening the Scope: The Expansion of Imperial Aims from the Tudors to the Stuarts

The accession of James VI of Scotland as King James I of England after Elizabeth’s death marked a significant shift in the three kingdoms. Elizabeth’s choice of remaining without an heir meant with her death came the end of the Tudor dynasty and the foreign policy they employed for decades. With the Tudors, their intention of consolidating power over Scotland and Ireland meant their foreign endeavors ended at the isles themselves. With James’ acquisition of the English throne, he became, in theory, a figure head for unity and a symbol for hope that England, Scotland, and Ireland could unite and transform into “Britain.” With this transformation, “Britain” could turn its sights outward and adopt a new, more aggressive, foreign policy. James would later prove, however, that his plans differed. Continue reading

Sixteenth Century Ireland: Kingdom or Colony?

In the sixteenth century, England underwent a period of expansion and transition. Both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I undertook the mission of trying to govern and merge Ireland into England in the most effective and financially profitable way. However, unlike Wales, which was successfully incorporated as essentially an extension of England in the mid-1530s, Ireland remained in constant flux. The fact that Ireland received the title of “kingdom” in 1541 would only go on to make things more confusing. However, while under Henry VIII, England’s policy towards Ireland was more consistent with the rule of a kingdom, while Queen Elizabeth I’s policy towards Ireland was more consistent with that of a colony. This has led to debate among historians about whether Ireland was a kingdom or was treated more like a colony, and which method of rule, Henry VIII’s or Queen Elizabeth’s, was more effective in terms of expediting England’s expansion in the British Isles. Continue reading