William Dampier, (1651-1715), was an English adventurer and pirate who preyed on ships on the Spanish Main. Poor and ill-educated and determined to make his fortune, he nonetheless had a passion for exploration and scientific research. Dampier was the first to map the winds and currents of the world's oceans; led the first recorded party of Englishmen to set foot on Australia - 80 years before Cook; wrote about Galapagos wildlife 150 years before Darwin, who drew on Dampier's notes in his own work; was the first travel writer: A NEW VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD was instant bestseller when it was published in 1697 - said to have influenced the novels of Swift and Defoe. A man full of contradictions: he who achieved so much 'blew it' later in life, declining into scandal, failure and even farce. A unique man ahead of his time, he lived a large part of his life among pirates yet managed to preserve what Coleridge called his exquisite refinement of mind. A classic example of the best narrative history
Diana Preston is an Oxford-trained historian, writer, and broadcaster who lives in London. She is the author of The Road to Culloden Moor; A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole; The Boxer Rebellion and Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the Lusitania. Michael Preston, Diana Preston's husband, read English at Oxford University and is now an historian and traveller.
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