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Walter Ralegh: Architect of Empire

Alan Gallay

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Weidenfeld & Nicolson
01 February 2020
Biography: historical, political & military; History; British & Irish history
Sir Walter Ralegh was the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, who showered him estates, jewels, monopolies, and political appointments earning him the reputation of the most hated man in England. A man of many talents, he helped convince Elizabeth she should be empress of a great empire, on the condition that he be the one to shape her realm from the first. In WALTER RALEGH, eminent historian Alan Gallay tells the fascinating story of how Ralegh helped create the largest empire the world has ever seen.

A courtier, buccaneer, soldier, explorer, and statesman -- as well as a poet, historian, naval strategist, and scientist -- Ralegh is best known in the US for trying, and failing, to found Roanoke, the first English colony in America. But that event does not even begin to suggest the world-historical import of his adventures. Inspired by the mystical religious philosophy of hermeticism, Ralegh (popularly, and mistakenly, spelt Raleigh ) believed that England could build an empire without the conquest of native peoples, an empire in which English settlers and American Indians would live together, or, alternatively, where natives became allies and England would not interfere with their way of life. Playing a lead role in England's simultaneous attempt to colonise North America, South America, and Ireland, Ralegh shaped the English Empire at its birth, motivated by the wild idealism that the answer to English fears of national decline resided in the Americas, where natives blessed by God would reveal the mysteries of the universe.

In the end, colonialism left a legacy of brutal exploitation far different from Ralegh's idealisations. Examining Ralegh's life, Gallay reveals that Elizabethans had complex and often contrary views on colonisation, seeing it as a means of achieving transcendence or, just as often, of achieving wealth and glory through war and subjugation. From Ralegh's introduction of the potato to Ireland to his creation of the most famous medicine of seventeenth-century England, from his failed colonial experiment on Roanoke island to his search for El Dorado, Gallay chronicles Ralegh's legendary life and offers a new origin story for the English Empire.
By:   Alan Gallay
Imprint:   Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 238mm,  Width: 158mm,  Spine: 46mm
Weight:   820g
ISBN:   9781541645790
ISBN 10:   1541645790
Pages:   576
Publication Date:   01 February 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Alan Gallay is the Lyndon B. Johnson chair of United States history at Texas Christian University and the author of several books including The Indian Slave Trade, which won the Bancroft Prize. Gallay lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Reviews for Walter Ralegh: Architect of Empire

Never again will readers see Sir Walter Ralegh as the man who gallantly laid down his cape in the mud so a queen could pass. Alan Gallay has breathed vision and depth into a man who was, indeed, one of the greatest courtiers, politicians, explorers, poets, alchemists, and hermeticists of his day. This book is not just the story of an exceptional historical figure, but a carefully crafted study of sixteenth-century colonialism and how Ralegh and others understood the wisdom of the unseen and knowable universe, in all its breadth. From designing plantations in Ireland to establishing peaceful settlements in Virginia to lionizing his diplomatic encounters with the indigenous peoples of Guiana, Ralegh naively believed in a tri-continental English empire that could undermine Spanish power. In poetry, treatises, and his expansive history of the world, written during his last years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, Ralegh imagined a utopian alchemy of peoples and cultures, with a transcendent God at the helm. Walter Ralegh is a beautifully crafted and captivating work that takes the reader on a wonderful journey. --Nancy E. van Deusen, author of Global Indios: The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain Alan Gallay offers us a myth-busting view of Walter Ralegh, and he does not disappoint. He delves deeply into Ralegh's world to show how this complex, multi-talented, and surprisingly enlightened man paved the way for the creation of the British empire and the era of European colonization. Meticulously researched, Walter Ralegh is an impressive achievement that highlights its subject's importance to history. --Roger Crowley, author of The Accursed Tower: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades In this lively and accessible biography of the pirate, scientist, poet, and courtier Walter Ralegh, Alan Gallay challenges us to rethink what we know about Elizabethan colonialism. Gallay whisks his readers to London and to Ireland, to Roanoke and to Guiana, in a whirl of activity that shows us the global reach as well as the limits of Ralegh's ambitions and ingenuity. --Rebecca Anne Goetz, author of The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race A good choice for those already familiar with the broad strokes of Elizabethan England, and for readers seeking to expand their knowledge of Ralegh's life and works. --Library Journal It is hard to know which is better: Sir Walter Ralegh as fascinating subject of global biography or Alan Gallay as gifted biographer. Together, they make for a big, important, and gloriously good book about the nature of power in the early modern world. --Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History [Gallay] manages to convey the enormous sense of how the gallant courtier, alchemist, humanist, and author helped create the cult of the goddess queen-who summarily ejected him out of her orbit. An enriching, sympathetic consideration of an extraordinary character in the fraught time of Tudor England. --Kirkus Reviews If Americans know of Sir Walter Ralegh today, it is as the founder of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, which disappeared without a trace a few years after it was established on the North Carolina coast. Some, perhaps, associate him with his quixotic quest for the golden city of El Dorado in the South American jungle. But such wispy associations fail to do justice to the colonial visionary, swashbuckling pirate, poet, courtier and alleged traitor whom Alan Gallay has vividly conjured in Walter Ralegh: Architect of Empire, a richly researched and engagingly written biography. --Wall Street Journal Gallay has crafted a richly detailed portrait of a courtier, poet, author and alchemist who, he argues, should inspire readers to approach history from a different angle. Rather than teleology, or reading history backward from what occurred at its end, we'd do well to start from the beginning and learn how people like Ralegh's activities and ideas paved the way forward. --BookPage Raleigh's insistence on intellectual liberation, even within the walls of the world's most famous prison, is what lingers after reading Gallay's masterfully researched biography. He was, we learn, a free spirit in the truest sense and not such a loser after all. --Washington Examiner


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