Hawkins or Hawkyns, Sir John, 1532–95, English admiral. In 1562–63 and in 1564–65 he led extremely profitable expeditions that captured slaves on the W African coast, shipped them across the Atlantic, and sold them, despite Spanish prohibition, in Spanish ports in the West Indies. Hawkins set out on a similar expedition in 1567, but he fell afoul of a Spanish squadron in San Juan de Ulúa, the port of Veracruz, and barely escaped with three of his boats, one of which was commanded by his kinsman Francis Drake. Probably acting as an agent for Lord Burghley, Hawkins pretended to betray Queen Elizabeth I in offering (1571) his services to the Spanish, in order to obtain the release of prisoners and to discover plans for the proposed Spanish invasion of England. In 1571 he entered Parliament and subsequently became treasurer and comptroller of the navy. In this capacity he made a number of important improvements in ship construction and rigging. His enemies charged him with using his office to his personal financial advantage, but he was exonerated after an inquiry by a royal commission. In the great defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), Hawkins commanded the Victory and was knighted for his services. In 1595 he set out on a new expedition to the West Indies under Drake but died and was buried at sea off Puerto Rico.
See biography by J. A. Williamson (2d. ed. 1969); K. R. Andrews, ed., The Last Voyage of Drake and Hawkins (1972).