In Drake's Wake The Early Voyages
It is most enjoyable to review a book which I first saw in its embryonic form. It has been rather like watching a child reach maturity. It is rewarding to congratulate our founder and editor upon the publication of his first book. In Drake's Wake the early voyages is the first of four volumes chronicling Drake's travels across the globe and in England. Michael has travelled in a quest to follow Drake's footsteps and keels worldwide to test all the primary sources in the field. Michael's clever merging of the accounts of Drake's voyages with the experiences of his own travels makes for fascinating reading. Some of his adventures are as fantastic as Drake's were.
Most Drake scholars and historians rarely see the Drake places. They probably go to Plymouth, Tavistock, Buckland Abbey, may be to Cádiz and possibly Sagres and that's it; any other research is done with a guide book and an atlas. I would hazard a guess that very few Drake scholars have seen the Latin American locations or Drake's stopping places in West Africa. Now the readers have their chance to view them through the eyes of somebody who has actually stood where Drake stood; and usually at the same time of year. Since many of the locations are in the under-developed countries, most locations remain unspoilt. What is unique about this book is that it is the first topographical biography which also gives the reader a Drake's-eye view.
Michael is a very capable photographer so the book is beautifully illustrated. The illustrations are enhanced by around twenty well drawn maps by John Thrower. Some of these maps, such as Drake's march across Panamá and the sites of the mule train robberies are unique to this biography. We learn a great deal about the locations and also gain a further insight into the character of Drake both as a commander and a human being. For example we perceive the level of determination needed to traverse the steep Panamanian landscape; even when over-burdened with gold.
This is a book which both the Drake scholar and the armchair traveller will enjoy. Historians will find the carefully delineated field research techniques particularly interesting. Furthermore Michael has given a section of the appendices to John Thrower's erudite papers on reconstructing the site of Nombre de Dios and analysing the value of Drake's treasure haul. I would definitely recommend this book, mainly because I enjoyed reading the interesting and thought provoking text.