As the title implies, this book is not solely about Drake. The text focuses upon the Panamanian isthmus from about 1500 to 1800. However, the book is of value to Drake scholars because it devotes two chapters to Drake's visits, which are interestingly analysed with maps and drawings.
I particularly like this book because it sets Drake's voyages in the framework of the social, economic and political development of the isthmus. We tend to view Drake as a key figure in Britain's maritime expansion and this book does well to remind us that he is a significant character in another country's history. To emphasise this point an American woman visiting Plymouth told me, "Honey, Francis Drake is as much ours as yours." It refreshes Drake scholars like me, to be reminded that we cannot study Drake in a vacuum. We have to set him in the context of Elizabethan England, Hapsburg Spain and developing Panama. He has been called "Drake of England," "Drake of Plymouth" and "Drake of Tavistock" but as Peter Wood subtly reminds us, he could also be dubbed as "Drake of Panama," of which, I think he would have approved!
The Spanish Main is also interesting because we can learn what was happening in Panama before, in between and after Drake's contacts. I found the sections explaining the passage of treasure along the Camino Real - the Royal Road and the origins and activities of the Cimarones particularly useful.
I recommend this book for good background reading to enhance the knowledge of Drake and of the area which he knew as the Spanish Main!
The book is out of print but is available in some libraries. However, it does turn up in charity shops. I found mine in Oxfam, possibly because it makes an excellent gift, since it is beautifully bound in gold and lavishly illustrated with maps and specially commissioned pictures. I received the companion volume, The Armada with the same binding as a Christmas present in 1982.