Studies in English Commerce and Exploration in the Reign of Elizabeth

By Albert Lindsay Rowland; George Born Manhart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE SEARCH BY FROBISHER

1. Frobisher and Lok

The first actual search for a northwest passage in Queen Elizabeth's time was dominated by the personality of Martin Frobisher. Altho he seems to have taken no part in the academic discussions of the question, he gave the most positive sort of proof of his belief in such a passage by attempting to find it.

Frobisher was born in 1539 in Altofts, parish of Normanton, Yorkshire, of "honest parentage--jentlemen of a good house and antiquity." Members of his immediate family had held important offices in neighboring Doncaster. In his youth he was sent to London for an education, to his mother's brother, Sir John York, who was master of the mint and much interested in trading voyages. He found young Martin "of great spirit and bould courage, and naturall hardnes of body," and sent him with some London ships to Guinea. Before Frobisher had reached the age of seventeen, he had been on two voyages to Guinea, and had for nine months been held as a captive there.1 He spent the next score of years in a variety of activities, chiefly on the sea. He worked sometimes under commission from Queen Elizabeth to search vessels for prohibited goods or to capture

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1
Stow, 809; Lok, in Collinson, 80; Miller, History and Antiquities of Doncaster, quoted in Collinson, xix-xx; Eliot, K. M., "First Voyages of Martin Frobisher," in Eng. Hist. Rev., xxxii ( 1917), 89-92.

-31-

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