Elizabeth occupies au esteemed position among English Sovereigns and her reign is considered as the golden age in the annals of England.
Through her foreign and religious policies she maintained peace and order at home and kept England out of a foreign War for some years. All these helped in making her age golden. During her reign England attained celebrity in different spheres of activities.
The reign of Elizabeth saw the beginning of maritime enterprises and development of English seamanship. During the reigns of her predecessors some sailors tried to discover a North-East route to Indian and China. But they failed in their attempts. It was during the reign of Elizabeth that English sailors began to exhibit a new during. Her Minister Cecil could see that England’s fortune lay on the sea.
So he encouraged English sea-men who desired to secure a place for themselves in the new world in America which was claimed by Spain. Drake became a pioneer and plundered first the Spanish port in America. Then he plundered a few Spanish towns in the pacific coast. He was followed by Hawkins who established Negro
slaye-trade n America. Sir Walter Raleigh was another adventurer who made attempts to set up an English colony in North America.
Further, the success of the English in the battle against Spanish Armadh encouraged the English to go more and more to unknown distant lands. During Elizabeth’s reign many trading companies were established and granted monopoly of modern trade. They were the Muscovy Company, the Levant Company and the East India Company. Among them the East India Company prospered fast heralding a new era in England. Thus the Elizabethan Age saw a tremendous development in English seamanship and trade.
Agriculture and Industry:
Under the proper supervision of Elizabeth agriculture improved remarkable. Many new types of crops and vegetables were grown. During this time Potato cultivation was first brought to the world. By passing acts in Parliament pasture lands were converted in to agricultural ones, industry prospered and production increased. New forms of clothes, sugar, and paper were brought into use.
Many new industries sprang up. During this time «great social evil unemployment raised its head. It led to vagabondage and indiscipline. Elizabeth dealt with these evils successfully through her competent Minister William Cecil. He prepared the Elizabethan, Social Code in 1560. According to this code the conditions of employment in all industries were controlled.
In order to give security of employment all contracts of employment were made at least for a year. Justices of peace were appointed for the enforcement of this code. They fixed the wages for all occupations. In 1601 the great Poor law was passed for relief of the poor. As a result of these changes, England became a land of prosperity unprecedented in her history.
In the realm of literature, the England of Elizabeth stands on a pinnacle by itself. Her reign saw a dazzling out- burst of great literature. It saw a sort renaissance in literature. Many foreign books were translated. Among them Italian literature commanded the greatest popularity.
Books on a variety of subjects were written. Interest in history was carried to a high path by John speed’s History of Great Britain and Fox’s Book of Martyrs. Bacon’s Henery VII is taken as a great literary work of its kind during this period. History was written in verse as well as in prose, because the popularity of verse was greater than prose. Norden’s speculum Britannicre, Nowell’s Maps of the English countries, Saxton’s Atlas of England were some of the powerful works which awakened interest in geography. Lyly’s Euphues set a new example in prose writing. Ben Johnson’s Every Man in His Humour and Chapman’s Noble Homer were rich works.
Hooker was another note worthy prose writer of England, The rise of great poets opened a closed chapter after two centuries. Among the Elizabethan Poets Spencer and Sir Philip Sydney were most popular. In 1579 Spencer published his first Poem Shepherd’s Calendar Faerie Queen is another important work of his. So England became a ‘nest of singing birds’.
There remains drama, the crowning achievement of England in the field of literature. Christopher Marlow produced his first play and his great tragedy Faustus was unique work. Shakespeare’s genius has been displayed in his dramas such as Love’s Lost, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Hamlet Othello etc. Julius Ceasar was the greatest of all historical plays.
The greatness of Shakespeare rests upon his extraordinary gifts. His power of characterisation, objective- ness and inventiveness are responsible for universal appeal of his drama. Thus the reign of Elizabeth looms large on the literary horizon of England.
The Elizabethan Age will be remembered for the rise of the English theatre from the small beginning to its greatest height. Play acting became one of the great amusements of the common men. The plays were acted on a platform under the open sky. Shakespeare was a great genius and a master of even trick of stage craft.
In the realm of music, England could boast of galaxy of talents. They were William Byrd, Thomas Tallis and Orlando Gibbons.
In the Elizabethan Age fine art adorned the art galleries of England. There were a plenty of painters of pictures-like the Earl of Leicester and Lord Lumby. Cornelius Johnson was also a born painter. The glory of Elizabethan England also lies in the construction of magnificent dwelling houses.
Though the knowledge of scientific progress of the period was confined to a very small group of enthusiasts, still England made great headway in different branches of science. Thomas Hariot’s works in algebra, John Dee’s Mathematics, William Turnar’s contribution to botany and John Napier’s work in logarithms have added several crowing chapters to the study of science.
England made tremendous progress in astrology. Many affirmed that heavenly bodies exercised a profound influence on human affairs like eclipses were harbingers of disaster; comets were associated with deaths of illustrious persons. The people made progress in medicine. In 1565 the Queen granted the college of physicians, the right to carry out human dissections on its premises. John Gale, William Glowers were most important surgeons of the time.
In the sphere of education the age was quite active. No fewer than five schools were founded during her reign. They were Reception, Merchant Taylor, Rugby, Uppingham and Harrow. Many universes were expanding. Cambridge Trinity College, Sir Walter Mildmay, Oxford, Jesus College were some of the expending institutions of the time.
Thus, the Elizabethan age was a living age in various forms. It was to England what the Gupta Age was to India, the Periclean Age to Greece and the Augustan Age to Rome.