Elizabethan society


society over view

  • aristocratic 
  • gap between the poor and rich widened 
  • between 1547 and 1572 4 dukes were made however after 1572 Liz was relucatant to make any more 
  • the social structure remained the same 
  • poorer places in england were subject to ecnlosure and a decline in real wages 
  • peerage tried to gain status by building large housing projects 
  • nobility = more peaceable 
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social discontent and rebellion

  • reamined in realative order 
  • northern rebellion of 1569 had little to do with greivences from the poor 
  • even when there were bad harvests and plague in the 1590s social stability was up held 
  • there were some food riots in london, kent and norfolk 
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family life

  • main killer was the plague 
  • the average life span was 35 years 
  • infant mortality was high 
  • bad harvests were a threat to life alongside the influenza and the sweating sickness 
  • an average family had 4 to 5 members
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the wealthy

  • link between status and wealth 
  • .1.2% of the population owned 14% of the national income 
  • london was the wealthiest urban centre 
  • the richest parts of the country were the south east 
  • richest 23% had 55% of all the taxable wealth 
  • wealth depended on the amount of land you owned, government office or profits from commerece or industry 
  • lawyers and merchants had the biggest opportunites for increase their wealth through increasing profits and  buying land 
  • there was an increase in prosperity of these classes which can be highlighted through the rapid increase in the amounts of houses that were built 
  • great landlords owned 17% of cultivated land 
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the poor

  • half of the families in this period were considered the labouring poor 
  • they recieved only 20% of the national income
  • they were paid very little, rented their property and had very few savings 
  • during times of crisis such as famine and war poverty increased 
  • buying food and drink cost 80% of their expenditure 
  • the north west was the poorest part of the country 
  • there was a fear that poverty was on the increase which resulted in government legislation like the poor laws 
  • 10% of people in the country and 20% of people in towns were recorded as living in absolute poverty - having no wealth at all 
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life in the countryside

  • income was based on rents and the selling of agricultural produce
  • the woolen industry was also key in terms of employment 
  • industries such as coal and tin remained significantly underveloped 
  • due to inflation food prices increase, rents increased and so did wages,however in the country side wages did not increase in line with the rate of inflation 
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enclosure and its impact

  • enclosure = turning large farms used by the whole village into individual farms used by one person 
  • this lead to more productive ways of farming to be developed 
  • this meant that farming was more efficent and this increase the porduction and profits 
  • also lead to depopulation and umemployment 
  • by 1603 9% of land was enclosed 
  • lead to an increase in vagrents 
  • meant farmers breeding animals could stop them from escaping or walking on their crops 
  • also meant new farming techniques could be developed 
  • made it easier to plant and look after larger crops 
  • however, it caused unemployment as the new techniques needed less people 
  • the poor could no longer use the fields for their animals or to grow food 
  • rents were increase which some people could not afford and thus were forced off the land 
  • if people couldn't prove they owned the land then they would have it taken off them 
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economic legislation

  • 1563 - act for maintaing tillage meant that land that had been used for tillage for 4 year would remain under tillage. no land used for tillage could be converted into pasture. this was done to decrease depopulation in the countryside 
  • 1563 - statute of artificers which was used to regulate industry and agriculture. it fixed a maximun wage and this was to be held in line with prices with the JPs. while this recognised the right to work and encouraged those who were fit to work to join labouring or domestic services it indirectly contributed to poverty as the number of unemployed were increasing and fixing a maximun wage made it harder to find work 
  • 1563 - act for the maintencance of the navy stated that grain could only be exported if the price was 10 shillings a quarter. this was done after a series of good harvests which let the government concentrate on expanding food supply 
  • 1592 - 93 - statute regulation the export of corn put a price limit on corn at 20 shillings a quarter meaning that corn could onyl be exported if the price of corn fell below this. farmers could sell surplus grain in good times highlighting that corn was in sufficient supply 
  • 1592 -93 first act repealed afer good harvests 
  • 1598 - 2 statutes were passed, the statute against the conversions to pasture and the statute against the engrossing of farms. these done to prevent the conversion of tillage land 
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life in towns

  • towns grew due to their economic functions for instance, a town maybe key to the production of a specific product or because the encourage trade 
  • most towns were small 
  • the largest towns were given royal charter which meant that could administer criminal and civil justice on behalf of the crown at a local level 
  • 10% of people lived in towns 
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changes to london

  • population grew from 120,000 in 1550 to 200,000 in 1600
  • attracted many people 
  • growth in trade 
  • brought people like lawyers and gentry memebers as they were attracted by the universitites 
  • poor went there in hope of getting work, poor relief or charity 
  • there was a growth in culture like music and theatre 
  • there was england's largest cathedral, religious houses and over 100 parish churches 
  • parliament and court brought professionals and gentry memebers
  • key for english commerce and had the bigges port 
  • people could earn money in trade, cloch making, building and dress making 
  • there was a pressure on space 
  • this caused a pressure on public service such as water and cleaning, highlights how the town was quite dirty 
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why did poverty increase?

  • increase in population meant more food, houses and jobs were needed but there were not enough 
  • inflation caused a rise in prices and and people wages did not keep in line with this
  • rack renting meant people could not afford to live in their homes as the rents had been put up 
  • a move to sheep farming meant leass farming labourers were needed 
  • enclosure meant people lost their jobs and a right to common land 
  • england's main industry was the woolen cloth trade, but this collapsed leaving 1000s unemployed 
  • wars meant taxation which some could not afford to pat 
  • monopolies in the 1590s meant prices of commondities rose as one individual had the right to sell that product. this made them very unpopular 
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why were people worried about poverty?

  • people believed a rise in poverty would cause rebellion 
  • local landowners were there to control the poor and help them. they took this very seriously but could not afford to help all the poor as their numbers were increasing 
  • they thought vagabonds disturbed the social order as they did not know their place and did not obey authourity of the superior classes. these classes beleived that people should not move out of their social position as it was fixed and would thus protect their wealth and status 
  • idleness was seen as a sin so those who did not work were punished severly 
  • beggers turned to crime which JPs felt undermined their aurthority 
  • people thought the wondering vagabonds were the reason for the spreading of disease like the influenza 
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  • most believed that everyone should work and that poverty was a local problem not a national one 
  • ideas began to change when the number of poor started to increase 
  • the government were affraid that the poor would rebel 
  • the government awknowledged that some people, such as the old, orphaned or sick, could not work and needed help 
  • the issue of poverty was dicussed several times in parliament and the privy council 
  • Liz's poor laws did not solve the issue of poverty but they did help some 
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acts to help the poor

  • 1563 - statute of artificers stated that 7 year apprenticeships were made complusory. this highlights how the government were trying to pin a person down to a trade so they would not turn to vagrency 
  • 1572 - vagabonds act allowed severe punishments like whipping for vagrents. jps also had to keep a register of the poor in their parish and raise a poor rate so that the elderly and sick could be provided with shelter 
  • 1576 - act for the relief of the poor which meant that jps would direct unemployed men into work. if they refused they would be sent to a house of correction 
  • 1598 - act for the relief of the poor meant their were supervisors of poor relief. they would help children find apprenticeships, help men find work or materials and the building of hospitals for the elderly of sick. additionally, a complusory poor rate was to be collected to fund this gived by the inhabitants of the parish churches 
  • 1598 - act for the punishment of rogues. houses of correction were set up in which rogues and vagabonds were sent to be punished and then returned to their parishes. the act allowed the government to removed the people from society who were thought to cause social unrest 
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