The History of the Americans

The History of the Americans


Drake Burns Down the West Indies and St. Augustine!

October 17, 2021

We are back in the summer of 1585, and careful listeners could hear the ever louder drums of war between Spain and England. In this episode we tell the story of Drake’s voyage to the West Indies in 1585-86, which fundamentally ended with the rescue at Roanoke Colony.  There are three reasons why we are devoting an episode to Drake's West Indies expedition. First, it was this mission more than any other affront to Philip that made direct war between Spain and England inevitable. Without that war, and without the defeat of the Spanish Armada in the course of that war, it is far from clear that English settlement in North America would have unfolded as it did, or that it ever would have happened.  Second, Drake burned down St. Augustine and affected the course of the Roanoke Colony, both of which are decisively within the mandate of the podcast. Finally, Drake’s West Indies voyage was a great moment in military history, an extraordinary example of amphibious warfare long before we used that term.

Oh. And please listen to the end -- I tackle a historical mystery and wonder if some of the academic historians who have written about it have done so ... carefully.

Selected references for this episode

John Sugden, Sir Francis Drake

Angus Konstam, The Great Expedition: Sir Francis Drake on the Spanish Main 1585–86

Mary Frear Keeler (Editor), Sir Francis Drake's West Indian Voyage, 1585-86 (Hakluyt Society, Second Series)

3:10 to Yuma