(c. 1552-1618) an English explorer, politician and soldier. He began his career fighting the Spanish and the Irish, and was made a knight in 1584 by Queen Elizabeth I. With her support he made several journeys to North America (1584-9) and South America (1595), bringing back tobacco and the potato, but failed to establish a permanent base there. After the death of Elizabeth he was put in prison for treason (= the crime of betraying one's country) for 13 years, during which he wrote his History of the World (1614). In 1616 he was released by King James I to look for gold in South America. He was not successful in this, and when he returned he was punished by having his head cut off. One of the most popular stories about Raleigh describes how he spread his coat over a piece of wet ground so that Queen Elizabeth could walk over it.