In January 1569 the remnants of an English slaving voyage limped into Mount's Bay. Its commander was Sir John Hawkins, often characterised as 'England's First Slave Trader'. Some months prior to January 1569 Hawkins had fought a naval engagement with Spanish ships at San Juan de Ulúa, a fight that resulted in the loss of several of Hawkins’s vessels and valuable cargo, including a consignment of enslaved Africans. On his return home Hawkins, hoping for compensation, sued the Spanish crown for the goods, ships, and slaves he lost. One of the key witnesses brought before the High Court of the Admiralty to support Hawkins was William Fowler. Yet, who Fowler was, and his links with Hawkins and other backers of the voyage, has remained a mystery. This talk seeks to reconstruct English involvement in the Atlantic slave trade in the sixteenth century and establish the identity of William Fowler by analysing the interconnected 'maritime world' of Europe in this period.
Craig Lambert is Associate Professor in Maritime History at the University of Southampton. His three key research areas are late medieval naval operations and logistics, medieval and Tudor maritime communities, and late medieval and Tudor merchant shipping. Currently, he is engaged in two funded projects, the larger being a one million pound grant from the AHRC to investigate ‘English Merchant Shipping, Maritime Communities, and Trade from the Spanish Armada to the Seven Years War, c.1588–c.1765’.