Economic Growth, Literature and King James | Francis Bacon | King Charles is Beheaded | Diggers and Levellers | Cromwell and War | Puritan Revolution Fades | the Monarchy Returns | Another War with the Dutch | Discontent with Charles II | William and Mary, a Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights
Good strategy: when invading, have overwhelming support where you are going. William III of Orange invades England, 1688.
In the 1500s, England and the Netherlands had been progressing economically while Germany had been losing economically due to the shift of trade across land to that carried by ships across seas. In England, serfdom was all but over. And England was benefitting from a free market in land and labor. Many of England's peasants had become successful farmers, joining with the nobility in advancing methods of growing crops.
Developing agriculture was key to economic progress, and agriculture in England was now aimed at trade rather than subsistence farming. In England, more money could be made raising sheep than growing grain, and more land was being fenced in and converted to sheep pasture to meet the growing demand for wool.
England was exporting tin, lead and leather. Eighty percent of its exports was in undyed and unfinished woolen cloth, and in the wool industry, English merchants formed a free association called Merchants of the Staple. They shared a warehouse across the English Channel, in Calais, from which each merchant sold his goods abroad. Some of these merchants joined another association, called the Merchant Adventurers, which operated a warehouse in Antwerp, and in 1564 the Merchant Adventurers received a Royal Charter conferring on them a legal monopoly of cloth exports to the Netherlands and to Germany.
King James of Biblical version fame
With an improved economy came cultural change. This was the Elizabethan age, Queen Elizabeth living to March 1603. There was more interest in education. A literacy revolution had been underway that included women and the lower classes. Protestants were placing importance on reading the Bible and other religious texts as a moral duty. Aside from Scripture, John Calvin's works were the most widely disseminated literature in England, and the works of one of Calvin's disciples, the Frenchman Theodore Beza, were also popular.
Edward de Vere, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson and were also writing. De Vere (1550-1604) was a precocious and privileged child. At eight he entered Queens' College, Cambridge. He was soon learning dance and studying French, Latin, cosmography, writing, drawing, and common prayers. Close to royalty, at twelve he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth. Rather than an outsider with complaints, De Vere became a courtier and a champion jouster. He traveled widely, socializing with royalty in Italy and France. He was among the first to compose love poetry at the Elizabethan court. He was praised as a playwright, but he fell out of favour with the Queen in the early 1580s and was exiled from court after impregnating one of her maids of honour, Anne Vavasour, and this was followed by street brawls between de Vere's retainers and Vavasour's uncles. As a writer, de Vere's wouldn't connect as would Marlowe or Shakespeare. None of his plays would survive.
A more lasting fame would go to the less privileged Christopher Marlowe (1564-93), the son of a shoemaker. He was bright enough to win a scholarship at The King's School in Canterbury, and he received a BA degree at age 20. He was at least a bit on the wild side as a student, and he was to die at 29, after having written plays performed on stage in London. His first play was about the conqueror Tamerlane and has been described as a milestone in Elizabethan public drama. Wikipedia describes it as having "vivid language, memorable action, and intellectual complexity" and as one of the "first popular success of London's public stage." According to Wikipedia,
The play exemplified, and in some cases created, many of the typical features of high Elizabethan drama: grandiloquent and often beautiful imagery, hyperbolic expression, and strong characters consumed by overwhelming passions.
Another writer, Ben Jonson ( 1572-63), was the son of a clergyman who died when he was two months old, and his stepfather was a master bricklayer. Jonson was recognized as bright and won support for an education that included the classics. He wrote poetry and stage comedy and is described by Wikipedia as a "well-read, and cultured man of the English Renaissance." Jonson was a critic of Shakespeare with whom he is reputed to have shared a tavern table and discussions. He is reported to have commented on Shakespeare having "little Latin and less Greek," which has been taken as Shakespeare not having been among the educated elite of English writers. If this were so, Shakespeare is an indication that creativity and good writing were not dependent on imitating the ancients.
After Marlowe's death, Shakespeare became those most celebrated of playwrights. Shakespeare was a poet, a working actor and a collaborating writer of thirty-eight plays beginning in 1589 at the age of 25. He was involved in building the Globe theater on the west bank of the Thames River, in 1599.
The Globe Theatre and its plays were a new form of entertainment for Londoners, and it attracted what for that time were big crowds: perhaps 3000 people. Many Londoners were Puritans, and Puritans saw the Globe as a distraction from the spirituality required proper living. And no doubt they dislike the bawdiness in some of the plays or the people that the theater attracted. Crowds at the Globe are said to have attracted thieves, gamblers, pick-pockets, beggars, prostitutes and various other rogues. And London's respectable citizens are said to have been concerned about the crowd spreading disease.
Shakespeare was interested in the many-sidedness of human character. He has been described as less than fond of Puritanism and social climbing, and his comedy The Twelfth Night, written in 1601 or 1602, he is said to ridicule the character Malvolio, who embodies both.
In 1603, James VI, King of Scotland, the son of the beheaded Queen Mary of Scotland, succeeded his cousin, Elizabeth. James became James I of England. With this, England and Scotland were united into what became known as Great Britain, while the English and Scots remained less than united in spirit.
James was a Calvinist, a devout Presbyterian, who had contempt for both Puritans and Catholics. Puritans were demanding that James "purify" the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, and James threatened to run them out of the country. Some Catholics tried to assassinate James, in what was called the Gun Powder Treason, with James believing that Jesuits had joined the plot.
James believed in making the Bible available to common people, and so he commissioned a translation of the Bible into English, to be called the Authorized King James Bible – in place of three other popular versions of the Bible: the Geneva Bible, the Great Bible (an English language translation authorized by Henry VIII) and the Bishop's Bible. Beginning in 1607, forty-seven translators worked daily, and they put together their work for publication in 1611, with the Catholic Church believing the work to be less than a triumph.
For sake of clarity, the King James translation included italicized words not found in the Hebrew or Greek texts.
As a Presbyterian, James was opposed to bishops, while bishops remained in the Anglican Church – the Church of England. As King of England, James was head of the Church of England, and, in 1612, with the support of the Anglican clergy he borrowed from the French monarchy and justified his rule on the grounds of Divine Right. He held that the king was from God and law was from the king. He was opposed to any diminution of this God-given power in the form of any power belonging to parliament, and this upset those English aristocrats and bourgeoisie who believed that tradition had given them some powers through parliament.
James tried to bridge the gap between Protestants and Catholics by marrying his son to a Spanish princess, which angered his Puritan subjects. James, also King of Ireland, tried to "tame" people there by sending them English and Scot Protestants, adding to what would be 200,000 settlers in northern Ireland, mostly Lowland Scots – to be known as Ulster Scots or, in the future in America, as Scots-Irish.
James founded the first successful British colonies on the American mainland -- in Virginia, Massachusetts and Nova Scotia. He was hoping to bring the Christian religion "to such people as yet live in darkness" and to produce in America "settled and quiet government."
James survived more assassination attempts. He was handicapped physically and in speech. His drooling and otherwise unattractive appearance caused discomfort among some who tried to remove what they saw as a blight on the glory of English monarchy.
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