Living In Early Elizabethan England


Society In General

Upper Class: 

  • Queen
  • Nobles- Men from the greatest and wealthiest families
  • Gentry- Men and Women with titles e.g. knights

Middle Class:

  • Yeoman Farmers- A landholder who employed tenant farmers
  • Tenant Farmers- A person who farms rented land

Lower Class:

  • Landless Poor
  • Vagrants- A person who wanders from place to place in order to look for work.
1 of 13


Order Of Society Within Towns:

  • Merchants- Traders who were very rich
  • Professionals- Lawyers, Doctors and Clergymen
  • Business Owners- Often skilled craftsmen like glovers, carpenters and tailors
  • Skilled Craftsmen- Skilled employees including apprentices
  • Unskilled Workers- People who had no regular work and could not provide for themselves or their families
  • Unemployed- See above
2 of 13


Noble Boys:

  • Private Tutor
  • Time living with another noble household
  • University 
  • Inns of Court (to practice law)

Noble Girls:

  • Private Tutor
  • Time living with another noble household


3 of 13

Education Continued

'Middling' Boys:

  • Petty Schools- They were set up in a teacher’s home and boys began their education here. They would learn reading, writing, and basic arithmetic.
  • Grammar Schools- They were for bright boys who were sons of gentry or professionals. The fee depended on how wealthy the family was. There was a great emphasis placed on memorizing huge quantities of texts. Public speaking and debating were also important.
  • Apprenticeships- To run a farm or a business
  • Occasionally University

'Middling' Girls:

  • Dame Schools- Girls began their education here and they were run by a local educated woman. It was focused on the home and as wives and mothers.
  • Educated at home by mothers
4 of 13

Education Continued

 Poor Children:

  • No formal education- They learned what they needed by working on the land or in the home
  • Literacy of men had increased (20% to 30%)
  • Girls were expected to marry (10% of women could read which didn't change)
5 of 13


Nobles and Gentry:

  • Hunting*
  • Hawking*- Hunting with a trained hawk
  • Fishing*
  • Fencing- Sword fighting 
  • Real Tennis 
  • Wrestling in private

Working People:

  • Wrestling in public
  • Football- more violent than the modern game

* Women may have done this too

6 of 13

Spectator Sports

  • Baiting- Bear chained up with dogs set on it
    • All Classes
  • CockFighting- Cockerels fight each other 
    • All Classes
  • Sporting Competitions- All Classes with variation depending on the sport e.g. tennis was watched by the gentry and wrestling by working people
7 of 13


  • Literature- e.g. reading histories, poetry or plays and writing poetry
    • Nobles, Gentry, Middling
  • Theatre- E.g. Mystery plays (Religious plays), Secular Plays (Non-Religious plays)
    • All Classes
    • New theatres built like The Red Lion and The Rose
    • All actors were men
    • Rich sat, poorer people paid a penny to stand
  • Music- e.g. playing instruments like lutes (like a guitar), Spinets and harpsichords (like pianos) for the gentry and bagpipes and fiddles for working people. Listening to performances
    • All Classes
  • Dancing
    • Done in separate classes 
8 of 13

Did the treatment of the poor change?

Poverty Increased

  • Population grew by 35% (towns and cities grew particularly quickly)
    • Rising Prices (inflation)- Bad harvests led to food stortages
    • Wages stayed the same (more labour)
    • Higher Rents (more demand for land) 
  • Poor Harvests
  • Unemployment
    • Cloth trade decreased in some years
    • Sheep farming grew- Fewer people were needed than growing crops
    • Enclosures- Small farms were taken over by big farmers and their tenants were evicted
9 of 13

Did the treatment of the poor change? Continued

Goverment Action

  • Sympathy for people unable to work (impotent/deserving poor) so poor relief paid for by poor rate (local rate).
  • Harsh treatment of those able to work but didn't (able-bodied/idle)
  • Laws show a slight change as people recognised that that unemployment was a problem
    • Statute of Artificers (1563)- Made sure Poor Relief was collected
    • Vagabonds Act (1572)- Punished Vagabonds but said how much poor relief should be
    • Poor Relief Act (1576)- JPs (Justices of the Peace*) to find work for able-bodied poor but set up House of Correction for those who refused to work

* Voluntary position who were responsible for ensuring law and order were kept in the counties

10 of 13

What was the church like?


  • People were very religious
  • Religious festivals were celebrated throughout the year
  • The Parish Church was the centre of village life

The Reformation

  • Protestantism begun to grow in Europe with the reformation in 1532
  • The English Reformation began with Henry VIII 
  • Edward (Protestant) and Mary (Catholic) made big changes to the Church during their short reigns
  • Religion was dividing many countries in Europe
11 of 13

What was the Church like? Continued

Catholic and Protestant

Pope/ No Pope

Bishops/ Bishops not necessary

Latin/ English 

Priest is intermediary/ Direct relationship with God

Miracle/ No Miracle

Vestments/ No Vestments

Decorated/ Plain

Statues/ No statues

12 of 13

What was Europe like in 1558?


  • Seperate Kingdom
  • Ruled by Mary Of Guise (Mary Queen Of Scots' mother) who was Catholic 
  • Close links with France (Mary Queen Of Scots was married to the French king
  • Protestantism was growing


  • Rich, Powerful country with a large Empire with colonies in Europe and the New World (the Americas)
  • Catholic
  • Ruled by Phillip II (who had been married to Mary I of England 

Spanish Netherlands

  • Part of Spain's empire
  • Very close to England 
  • Opposition to Spanish rule was growing
  • Protestantism growing there too


  • Quite Powerful
  • Catholic
  • Allies with Scotland
  • Ruled by Francis II who was married to Mary Queen Of Scots
13 of 13


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Elizabethan England resources »