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New book on on a 'forgotten Englishman' Thomas Stephens reveals much about the Tudor age



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Historian and writer Nicholas Fogg celebrated the launch of his ninth book, a biography of 16th century figure Thomas Stephens, appropriately at Tudor World last Saturday.

Born in Stratford 80 years ago, Nicholas is a fount of all knowledge in the history of the town and Shakespeare, but for this new book, Thomas Stephens and the Mission to the East, he has turned his attentions to a “forgotten Englishman”. Born in Wiltshire in 1549, Stephens was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s who promoted the Catholic faith.

Author Nick Fogg was joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Stratford Cllr Kevin Taylor and his wife Pauline at the book signing. Photo: Mark Williamson T44/2/22/3028. (54747623)
Author Nick Fogg was joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Stratford Cllr Kevin Taylor and his wife Pauline at the book signing. Photo: Mark Williamson T44/2/22/3028. (54747623)

He went on a mission to Rome before departing for India in 1579 aboard a Portuguese carrack – and became the first Englishman to sail round the Cape of Good Hope, and then spent the next 40 years in Goa, dying there in 1619.

Nicholas firmly believes that Shakespeare would have known about Stephens (“Elizabethan society was very small”) and that you can see references to his travels in the playwright’s works.

The book encompasses tales of martyrdoms, shipwrecks, colonialism, kidnapping to tell the story of a fascinating life.

Anyone with a passing interest in the Tudor era and Shakespeare will find it a rewarding read, says Nicholas.

“We often have a restricted view of the Tudor world at a time when they were looking at the globe,” he said. “Shakespeare does the same – The Tempest is a play about a voyage to Bermuda. He would have been aware of the expanding horizons of the world, we often neglect that vision, and this book, I hope in some small way, redresses that balance.”

Thomas Stephens and the Mission to the East is available here.



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