Lancaster, Sir James
LANCASTER, SIR JAMES (fl. 1591-1618), English navigator and statesman, one of the foremost pioneers of the Indian trade and empire. In early life he fought and traded in Portugal. On the loth of April 1591 he started from Plymouth, with Raymond and Foxcroft, on his first great voyage to the East Indies; this fleet of three ships is the earliest of English oversea Indian expeditions. Reaching Table Bay (ist of August 1591), and losing one ship off Cape Corrientes on the 12th of September, the squadron rested and refitted at Zanzibar (February 1592), rounded Cape Comorin in May following, and was off the Malay Peninsula in June. Crossing later to Ceylon, the crews insisted on returning home; the voyage back was disastrous; only twenty-five officers and men reappeared in England in 1594. Lancaster himself reached Rye on the 24th of May 1594; in the same year he led a military expedition against Pernambuco, without much success; but his Indian voyage, like Ralph Fitch's overland explorations and trading, was an important factor in the foundation of the East India Company. In 1600 he was given command of the company's first fleet (which sailed from Torbay towards the end of April 1601); he was also accredited as Queen Elizabeth's special envoy to various Eastern potentates. Going by the Cape of Good Hope (ist of November 1601) Lancaster visited the Nicobars (from the 9th of April 1602), Achin and other parts of Sumatra (from the 5th of June 1602), and Bantam in Java; an alliance was concluded with Achin, a factory established at Bantam and a commercial mission despatched to the Moluccas. The return voyage (20th of February to nth of September 1603) was speedy and prosperous, and Lancaster (whose success both in trade and in diplomacy had been brilliant) was rewarded with knighthood (October 1603). He continued to be one of the chief directors of the East India Company till his death in May 1618; most of the voyages of the early Stuart time both to India and in search of the North-West passage were undertaken under his advice and direction; Lancaster Sound, on the north-west ol Baffin's Bay (in 742o'N.), was named by William Baffin after Sir James (July 1616).
See Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 102-110 vol. iii. pp. 708-715 (1599); Purchas, Pilgrims, vol. i. pt. ii, pp. 147-164; also The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster . . . to the last Indies . . . , ed. Sir Clements Markham, Hakluyt Soc. (1877), Calendars of State Papers, East Indies. The original journals of ^ancaster's voyage of 1601-1603 have disappeared, and here we lave only Purchas to go on.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)