Elizabethan society in the Age of Exploration, 1558–88

What is this topic about?

The third key topic deals with Elizabethan society in the Age of Exploration, 1558–88. You should be aware that this topic deals with domestic life in this period and provides context for the rebellions and international crises covered in key topics one and two. You are not required to study social developments beyond 1588. You should be aware of the nature of education in the home, schools and universities and the social groups involved. You should study the cultural activities, sports and pastimes that were popular in these years and their key features. For example, while theatres attracted large audiences drawn from all social classes, there was more social differentiation in sporting activities, as sports requiring equipment, such as tennis, remained a preserve of the rich, while the favoured pastime for young apprentices and villagers was football. 

You should be aware that by 1558, the gap in provision for the poor and unemployed which had been left by the Dissolution of the Monasteries had become a crisis. You should understand the factors which caused the growth of poverty and unemployment and the different steps taken to tackle the problem, including the distinction between the ‘deserving poor’ and the ‘undeserving poor’. 

Finally, You will study the technical developments which stimulated voyages of exploration and discovery, allowing for longer voyages in search of trade routes and land and the extent of their success. The early attempts to establish an empire, via colonies on the North American seaboard, will be covered, along with a case study of Raleigh’s doomed colony of Virginia, which draws an interesting parallel between England’s naval success abroad and her struggle to extend control over new land. 

Prior Learning

This topic stands alone from the other topics, however, having a good background knowledge in the dissolution of the Monasteries will stand you in good stead.

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