Kenneth R. Andrews offers the reader an insight into a facet of Elizabethan privateering heretofore largely ignored. Through the author’s words the observer is presented a broader view of all levels of privateering. Although various accounts of the voyages of Francis Drake, John Hawkins, and other notables have been published, the more numerous “lesser ventures” have been largely ignored by historians. Professor Andrews, acknowledging the necessarily exploratory nature of his volume, has nevertheless filled a vital gap in both our quantitative and qualitative knowledge of the “lesser ventures” characteristic of Elizabethan privateering.
The account is divided into three parts: (1) a general introduction to Elizabethan privateering; (2) an examination of the types of venture, the individuals responsible, the costs involved, and the resulting profits or losses; and (3) an effort to relate privateering to English colonization and overseas commerce. The first and third sections will be of interest to both the novice and professional. In the second section may be found numerous accounts of privateering activity. Much of this information is included else where in the form of tables and the reader might be spared some of the monotony of perusing accounts of one voyage after another.
Andrews, through logical interpretations of contemporary sources, reaches several conclusions: (1) profits were made through the efforts of professionals and merchants, often utilizing small vessels and requiring small investments, rather than through the more elaborate efforts of amateurs at Court; (2) London merchants in particular were the beneficiaries of privateering; (3) privateering, with all its evils, was necessary to England’s defense in the Elizabethan period; (4) trade, privateering, and war were inseparable; (5) the Spanish War was the cause of later Anglo-Dutch rivalry, for while the English were busy raiding the Dutch were busy trading; (6) privateering helped to fuse the gentry, merchants, and seamen through common interests and goals; (7) privateering made a significant contribution to the capital required for such joint stock efforts as the East India Company (e.g., “Over a quarter of the £30,000 initially subscribed or promised in 1599 [to the East India Company] came from men known to have invested in privateering” [p. 218]); and (8) because of privateering there were suitable ships and trained seamen available for the needs of the more extensive seventeenth-century joint stock operations (e.g., Christopher Newport).
The author successfully covered his topic and, moreover, made the above suggestions as fuel to fire additional research and interest in this field. He has utilized numerous manuscript collections in England, Spain, and elsewhere to give his readers a carefully documented account of the period. Appended are tables of privateers and prizes for the years 1589-1591 and 1598. These lists, with their shortcomings acknowledged by the author, form the basis for his conclusions. An excellent bibliography and adequate footnoting satisfy the reader’s curiosity as to sources.