SOCIO-ECONOMIC BACKGROUND (English merchants formed trading companies able…
In 1485 England was still dominated by agriculture and cattle rearing but the open-field system adopted in the previous age wasn't profitable anymore due to several problems.
So, in some places this method had been replaced by individual farming, featured by scattared strips and their enclousers.
In the 16th century the situation got worse.
The growing demand for wool and its rise in price led the landowners to consider sheep rearing much more profitable than corn growing.
The land was not a means of subsitence as it was in the Middle Ages but a source of profit to be protected by enclousers
The common land had been left to poor people for centuries in order to allow them to collect wood and graze animals but this situation changed in the 16th century, since the common land was enclosed.
As a consequence, many small freeholders had to sell their holdings and to work for greater landlords.
Even though this terrible situation, the sheep rearing had benefits on the woollen industry.
Cloth making developed. The rich merchants turned into capitalistic entrepreneurs while the commercial classes grew in wealth and power. All of these groups obtained greater partecipation in government affairs.
The craft guild started to decline because they could not longer compete with a market that privileged the profit and quantity over quality. They were replaced by new organization centred on the merchants.
Towns developed too. Among them, London became the intellectual and political heart of the country thanks to its growth in size and importance.
Also minor towns, where agriculture had almost been replaced by industry, developed. These towns depended on each other for food supplies and markets. So, they weren't self-sufficient as medieval towns and, for this reason, also trade barriers disappeared.
Towns were made even more prosperous thanks to new methods of work imported by foreign craftsmen.
The medieval feudalism declined due to this economic situation. Loyalty to an overlord was replaced by loyalty to King and country.
Thanks to the confiscation of enemies' properties, the King became so rich and powerful that he could bring the barons under the control of the Crown. The nobles reduced in number and lost much of their previous power.
The feudal system also declined because of gunpowder. The castle were no longer sufficient to defend people, who began to seek protection within the town walls
English merchants formed trading companies able to compete with foreign ones. Many product were imported in England.
For example, in 1565 the tobacco was introduced by sir John Hawkins. This was initially considered for its sanitary powers, even if it was much more used in paper-smoking.
Also vegetables, as potatoes or tomatoes, were introduced.
England, in particular Liverpool's seaport, was also involved in slave trade. Arab traders captured a acertain number of Africans and took them to European countries to be sold.
This trade was very profitable. Since it took place between England, Africa (were slaves were bought in exchange of agricultural products ) and the English North America colonies, it was called "triangular trade"
The slave trade represents the dark side of the glorious Elizabethan overseas activity.
While the majority of people living in the countryside was illiterate, it was possble to attend a public school and learn the so-called Three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) in towns.
The importance of studying greek and latin raised as the humanist culture developed
The traditional teaching included both liberal arts and scientific ones.
During the Reneissance, the woman was still subjected to men and had no freedom of action. The marriage was almost always a contract and a parents' choice
It was impossible to her to hold public office. Only a widow could enjoy a greater indpendence.
Despite of this, women's education spread, especially among higher classes.
The reign enjoyed more than forty years of peace and prosperity under the crown of Elizabeth
The merchants and the gentry had a big importance and a sense of patriotis was given England by the defeat of the Spanish Armanda
The reign was a melting pot where Anglicans coexisted with Catholics and Puritans
When her successor, James I Stuart ascended the throne, the situation changed. The sense of patriotic enthusiasm and the religious tolerance were replaced by disappointment.
In this period the medieval beliefs were erased one by one. In the fiel of Medicine and Astronomy new studies were revolutionizing the old theories.
The studies of KEPLER and GALILEO confirmed that Copernicus was right: "The Earth was not the centre of the Universe but it orbited around the Sun".
The wars of the Roses and the conflict with France caused unemployment and poverty.
Pauperism increased under the Tudors and became a problem. It was solved in 1601 with the "Poor Law", which provided different solutions for each of the 4 classes into which the pauper were classified: the children, the disabled, the unemployed and the idle rouges.
Pauperism was caused by: the enclousers, the decay of the guilds, the confiscation of the monastries and the rise in price of products.