Book Review-‘Tropic Suns: Seadogs aboard an English galleon’ by J. S. Dean

By John Ratcliffe, published November 2020


Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh and their ilk continue to stir the imaginations of academic and popular historians alike, despite the often scant evidence on which their voyages can be reconstructed. Here Professor James Seay Dean attempts to convey the realities of life during Tudor and Jacobean expeditions to the West Indies, emphasizing that spoiled provisions, scurvy and fever often proved a greater menace than Spanish steel. The author draws on an impressive list of secondary sources in order to examine period naval architecture, provisioning, navigation, tactics, medicine and trade. Dean’s background in square-rigged vessels is readily apparent, as he displays a grasp of navigation and ship handling that would be difficult to gain without practical experience. Selections from Hakluyt, Purchas, Smith, and Mainwaring demonstrate a familiarity with the source material, as do well-chosen passages from Shakespeare and the more esoteric writings of John Dee…

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Filed under: Atlantic | Tudors | Francis Drake | Health at Sea | Caribbean
Subjects include: Manpower & Life at Sea | Science & Exploration | Ship Handling & Seamanship

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