Elizabeth & Society

  • Created by: cieran32
  • Created on: 09-11-18 14:17

Problems in the Regions During Elizabeth I's Reign

Two rebellions which exposed regional problems were the Northern Rebellion in 1569 and the Oxfordshire Uprising in 1596.

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causes of the oxfordshire uprising

The uprising in Oxfordshire was largely motivated by socioeconomic grievances. These included:

  • Enclosure.
  • Poor harvests.
  • Disease.
  • Falling wages.
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Course of Oxfordshire Uprising

  • A planned uprising against enclosures aimed to seize the home of the county’s Lord Lieutenant. They would seize weapons and march on London.
  • When the day dawned, only the four leaders turned up
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outcome of Oxfordshire Uprising

  • There was a strong reaction by the government. The four men were tortured before being executed for treason.
  • The Oxfordshire Uprising is an indication of the seriousness of the circumstances being faced by so many of the population in the mid-1590s.
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Causes of Northern Rebellion

  • The Northern Rebellion had political causes. But there were also socioeconomic elements which led ordinary commoners to join the rebellion.
  • Feudal loyalties led commoners to follow the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland. This means that the relationship between landlord and tenant was a reason to join a rebellion
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Continuity and Change Under Elizabeth I

Over the course of Elizabeth I's reign, English society changed considerably. To deal with this instability, Elizabeth sought to stress the country's stability.

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Decline in living standards

  • Over the course of Elizabeth I's reign, the English population increased from three million to four million.
  • Those at the bottom of society faced a decline in living standards.
    • More people meant there was greater demand for food, causing food prices to rise.
    • More people led to increased competition for land, causing rent to increase.
    • More people also meant more people could work, causing wages to fall.
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Social continuity

  • Despite the changes that England experienced, the social structure remained intact.
  • This is demonstrated in Thomas Smith's 'De Republica Anglorum' published in 1583. In this book, Smith outlined the four orders of society. These were:
    • Gentlemen.
    • Citizens or burgesses (officials in towns).
    • Yeomen.
    • Labourers.
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Elizabeth's response

  • In response to this significant change, Elizabeth I sought to stress the stability and harmony of England.
  • This contributed to her choice of motto, 'semper eadem' (ever the same), and her use of the 'mask of youth' in portraits (a standard facial profile used in every portrait of Elizabeth to give the illusion that she was not ageing).
    • The 'mask of youth' is seen in paintings such as the Darnley Portrait, 1575-1576.
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Rise in living standards

  • Under Elizabeth, there were more opportunities for people to make money through trade.
    • This created a growing ‘gentry’.
  • The ‘gentry’ were a group of wealthy landowners beneath the noble classes. They often became MPs or Justices of the Peace (JPs)
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Poverty During Elizabeth I's Reign

Overall, poverty got worse from the 1590s onwards. This was because of more failed harvests, and resulting shortages and higher prices. As the government feared rebellion, they intervened to help paupers.

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Rise in Poverty

Because of the growing pressures on society, poverty grew during Elizabeth I's reign. Key contributing factors included:

  • Demographic change.
  • Bad harvests between 1594 and 1598.
  • A flu outbreak in 1556 killed 200,000 people, including a lot of farmers
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  • Charity had traditionally been the main source of support for the poor.
    • People began to understand that paupers were not to blame for their own poverty.
    • Charities and almshouses to assist the poor became more common.
  • But during this period, charity donations by the rich became insufficient (not enough) for dealing with the problem
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Government Efforts

  • Governments steps to reduce poverty included:
    • The Poor Law in 1572, which let local officials raise money from local people to help the poor.
    • The ‘Act for setting the poor on work’ in 1576, which made local authorities responsible for poverty in their local area.
  • Research was done to see which cities had best dealt with the problem of poverty. The Privy Council used this research to shape national laws.
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The poor Law 1601

  • In 1601, the Poor Law was the first law taxing the wealthy to pay for the care of the poor who could not work. This included:
    • The helpless poor (sick and old).
    • The able-bodied poor, who needed to work to get food.
    • The idle poor, who were sent to the House of Correction.
  • The law had an effect in some areas, but was not enforced in other areas. Some historians argue that local authorities tried to force paupers away so they did not have to deal with them.
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