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Year 4 History and Geography

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A Great Explorer: Sir Francis Drake

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In Year 3, we read about the Elizabethan Era, and one of its most important sailors, Sir Francis Drake. He was a privateer, which we learnt means that he was like a pirate but was loyal to one country – Britain. Do you remember the story of how he played bowls as the Spanish Armada came over the horizon? He famously said: 'Plenty of time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards Sir Francis Drake too.' He was right!

Drake was born in Devon where his father was a farmer. He first went to sea when he was only 12 or 13 years old. He was an apprentice – someone who works to learn a skill – to a trader who owned a small ship. Drake learnt to sail well and to navigate ships, which is using a compass and other tools to steer them in the right direction.

Drake went on voyages to distant places, and even sailed to the New World in the Americas when he was in his mid-twenties. Because the seas were dangerous, with privateers from different countries trying to kill each other, Drake had many fights, especially with the Spanish, who became his enemies. Drake also sailed to the West Indies to attack Spanish ports there, and he returned home with Spanish treasure for himself and his Queen. One part of Drake's story makes him a villain by today's standards. He was one of the first Englishmen to trade in slaves, taking people from West Africa and selling them to work for nothing in the Caribbean.

Drake had proved his success as a sailor and privateer when, in 1577, Queen Elizabeth I secretly sent him on an expedition to fight against the Spanish, who had settlements on the west coast of the Americas. Now let's learn about Drake's famous expedition and trace his voyage on a bigger map.



This activity is adapted from pages 90 - 91 of What Your Year 4 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

This activity has connections: click below to see the related activities (repeated owls show multiple related activities in that subject).

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