Well, if you’re going to take a break you might as well make it worthwhile. On 17 June 1579, Francis Drake paused in his circumnavigation of the globe to plant a flag on the western coast of North America (probably somewhere in modern-day Northern California) and name it New Albion. New Albion joined Drake’s claims at the tip of South America and Martin Frobisher’s claims in Greenland and Baffin Island as one of the earliest territorial claims in the New World.

Spain had laid claim to the entire Pacific coast as far back as the late 15th century, and the area had been explored by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, but since England hated Spain at the time, Drake went ahead and claimed the territory for Queen Elizabeth. Upon his return to England in 1581, Drake was knighted for his deeds against the Spanish during his voyage, but in order to keep the Spanish from flying off the handle, his logs, charts, and writings were confiscated and his claim on New Albion made a state secret. It was only after the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 that a full account was published, though even then many details were obscured. Drake’s own account of the voyage, including details of New Albion, was published in 1628. Despite the fact that the English claimed the area, they didn’t establish any colonies on the west coast until the late 18th century.

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