Walter Raleigh

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Raleigh, Walter


(also W. Ralegh). Born circa 1552 in Hayes Barton, Devon; died Oct. 29, 1618, in London. English political figure, poet, and historian.

In his youth Raleigh fought on the side of the Huguenots in France. In 1577 he took part in the struggle of the Netherlands against Spanish domination. He studied at Oxford University. In 1580 he was one of the leaders of an English punitive expedition against Ireland.

During the 1580’s, Raleigh was a favorite of Elizabeth I and supported her domestic and foreign policy. Between 1583 and 1585 he initiated the establishment of an English colony, Virginia, in North America. In 1585 he assumed the posts of lord lieutenant of Cornwall, warden of the stannaries, and vice admiral of Devon and Cornwall. In 1588 he took part in the defeat of the Spanish “Invincible” Armada. In 1595 he made a voyage to the Orinoco River region in South America, which he described in The Discovery of the Large, Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guiana (1596; Russian translation, 1963).

Accused of complicity in a plot to prevent the accession of James I to the English throne, Raleigh was condemned to death and then, without mitigation of the sentence, imprisoned in the Tower in 1604. While in the Tower he conducted chemical experiments and wrote a treatise on shipbuilding and The History of the World, which he carried up to the year 130 B.C.

In 1616, Raleigh proposed a plan to James I for working gold mines in Guiana. He was released from the Tower and appointed head of a squadron. The expedition, in the course of which there was armed conflict with the Spanish, ended in failure. After returning to England, Raleigh was executed in accordance with the sentence of 1603.

Raleigh was an ideologist of the bourgeoisie and the new nobility of the era of primitive accumulation of capital. He advocated the cooperation of the monarch with Parliament, believing that such cooperation would ensure the interests of entrepreneurial circles. He was one of the first to advocate colonial expansion. Among his contemporaries, Raleigh had the reputation of being a materialist and an atheist, since he sharply criticized the dogmas and organizational principles of the Christian church. A typical figure of the English Renaissance, Raleigh is also known for his poetry and political treatises.


The Works, vols. 1–8. Oxford, 1829.


Hume, M. Sir Walter Raleigh. London, 1897.
Williams, N. L. Sir Walter Raleigh. Philadelphia, 1963.
Bradbrook, M. C. The School of Night. New York, 1965.


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