the question is: to what extent was the Elizabethan era a Golden Age.
The Elizabethan Era took place in from 1558 to 1603 and considered too many to be the ‘Golden Age’ in English History. During this era, England experienced peace, prosperity and the beginning of a new society despite poverty faces by many.
I agree to a large extent that the Elizabethan Era was a Golden Age because of the increased leisure activities that were available. Activities including hunting, fishing, archery, inns and taverns and the use of tobacco expanding throughout the Elizabethan era, giving a range of opportunities for the poor to boost their skill range and standard of life. Theatre also was popular among the poor in the Elizabethan era as it was mostly cheap and an exciting trip for many people. The fourth sort could watch plays in the standing area for just a penny, increasing opportunities to broaden their minds and imagination. However, the extremely poor population couldn’t afford the theatre and weren’t included in the leisure activities that the Elizabethan era began to offer. Education was also beginning to increase, with most boys able to attend school and wealthier girls as well. Scholarships were offered to bright boys, including Christopher Marlowe, a playwright, born into a poor family and the son of a cobbler, who attended Cambridge University. Despite only 10% of women and 30% of men in England who could read and write, education became a well-known privilege during this era.
Another factor on why the Elizabethan Era was a Golden Age was due to its wealth and safety growth. The population increase during the Golden Age was a drastic one showing that the people were becoming wealthier and healthier. Elizabeth successfully fixed England’s finances and built up reserves of £300,000 securing wealth in England. The standard of living for the poorer society also rose over time reducing poverty in Elizabethan England. As a result, the Act for Relief was introduced in 1576 where towns had to find work for the poor, and refusing this work would lead to imprisonment, securing a well-run work industry. Elizabeth then went on to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588 lead by Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkings, where the decisive defeat made England a world-class power and introduced effective long-range weapons into naval warfare for the first time.
However, a significant reason why the Elizabethan Era may not be considered as a Golden Age was because of poverty. In the 1550s the Elizabethans’ witnessed the worst harvest of the century. Because of this, the prices of foods, such as bread, rice and wheat went up. This led to many people starving due to them not being able to afford the basic foods. In addition, inflation and unemployment grew, with the help of the closure of monasteries, like the collapse of the cloth trade in the 1550s, leaving people with no jobs. The vagabonds of Elizabethan England weren’t sympathized with, and left to die alone, so the Elizabethan Era wasn’t considered as a Golden Age to some people.