Watch a short video of the medal.
Drake's Circumnavigation Medal
Size: 67mm diameter
Made in: Britain
Made by: Michael Mercator
Created around the time that Shakespeare began his theatrical career in London, this object reveals how his generation was the first to conceive of a world whose limits were known.
This medal depicts Sir Francis Drake's voyage around the world - the first Englishman and only the second man in history to have done so. Suddenly, the world looked like a very different place if you were English.
The 1580s and 1590s saw English figures joining the great adventure of exploration, exploitation, trading and looting that marked the European age of discovery – bringing with it exotic goods and even more exotic tales that would fire the public imagination.
This object is from the British Museum
'We the globe can compass soon/Swifter than the wandering moon.'
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 4 Scene 1
'She is spherical, like a globe. I could find out countries in her.'
The Comedy of Errors, Act 3 Scene 2
- The first English terrestrial globes were produced in 1592 and became widely known
- There is only one mention of medals in the whole works of Shakespeare - Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Act 1 Scene 2
- In the 1570s, there was a government inspired project to create maps of all the different counties of England
- Maps were instruments of power rather than practical things for finding your way around
- In 1570, the first book of maps was published, titled The Theatre of the Lands of the World
More from Radio 4: Sir Walter Raleigh and Virginia
Raleigh tries to persuade Elizabeth I that the North American settlements were a success. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson.
More from Radio 4: Elizabeth, Trade and Sir Francis Drake
Juliet Stevenson narrates the history of the growth of Elizabethan trade.
More from Radio 4: Empire and Commonwealth
Will looks beyond Britain to see the monarchy as a global force. The monarch was a symbol of imperial expansion, in the form of the British Empire, for 300 years.
More from Radio 4: The English Armada
We remember the defeat of the Spanish Armada as a triumph for the English underdog. But we forget that England sent a fleet of similar strengh back to Spain the very next year.
More from Radio 4: The Spanish Armada
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada, the fleet which attempted to invade Elizabethan England in 1588.
More from Radio 4: Faith and Freedom in New England
Series charting the history of America, written and presented by David Reynolds. The Puritan founders of New England sowed the seeds of modern democracy.
More from Radio 4: Southern Planters and Black Slaves
Series charting the history of America, written and presented by David Reynolds. The English settled in Virginia and Maryland. Tobacco became important and slaves were introduced.