The visits of four Royal Navy vessels to New Zealand between 1820-43 to obtain kauri spars need to be put into a wider world context, writes maritime historian Don Armitage.

In fact, I'll have to go back to the last half of the 1500s when Francis Drake was pirating Spanish ships. He was so successful that when he returned with the looted treasure, Queen Elizabeth I's half share more than paid off the entire national debt, and, as a result, England entered a period of expansion and relative prosperity.

During the mid-1600s England produced a remarkable man who would

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