ABSTRACT

In 1596, Spain’s King Philip II found himself bankrupt and at war on three fronts: with England, France, and the Netherlands. English pirates were impeding the influx of New World gold into Seville, and the crown began to default on its debt. The English had successfully raided Cádiz, and they were preparing a new assault, the Islands Voyage, on Philip’s weakened forces. Anti-Spanish feeling circulated freely in England, fueled by the appearance of texts describing colonial brutality in Mexico and elsewhere.1 Meanwhile, the exploits of men like Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, Charles Howard, and Robert Devereux, the third earl of Essex, made it possible, for the first time, to imagine a significant role for England in the Atlantic world. At this zenith of Anglo-Spanish rivalry, the English saw their chance to become the new, temperate lords of the Atlantic.