Daily Life in Elizabethan England

By Jeffrey L. Singman | Go to book overview
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The Elizabethan World

SOCIETY

The population of England was probably over 3 million when Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, and it grew to over 4 million by the time of her death in 1603. These figures represent roughly a tenth of the population of England today. This rapid growth meant that a large part of the population at any time were young people: it has been estimated that roughly a third were under the age of 15, a half under age 25. Population density was highest in the south and east, with the mountainous areas of the north and west more sparsely settled. The overwhelming majority lived in rural areas, although London was growing rapidly.

The Population

Not all of this population were ethnically or culturally English. Wales and western Cornwall were subject to the English crown, and were often counted as a part of England, yet they still spoke Welsh and Cornish-- languages similar to each other but quite unintelligible to an Englishman. Ireland was also officially under English rule, although effective English control was limited to the eastern part of the country. The population of Ireland included Englishmen and English-speaking Irishmen in the east, with the remainder of the country inhabited by Gaelic-speaking Irishmen. Scotland was still an independent kingdom, although England and Scotland came to be under a single ruler when the Scottish king, James VI, inherited the English throne in 1603. Southern Scotland spoke its own dialect of English, whereas the northern and western parts of the country still spoke Scottish Gaelic, a close relative of Irish Gaelic.

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