The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603

The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603

The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603

The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603

Excerpt

The purpose of this book is to consider, so far as the space allows, all aspects of the reign of Elizabeth, giving more emphasis than usual to social and cultural as distinct from political affairs. Obviously the arrangement of the matter cannot be decided simply on the chronological principle; for no historian, however skilled in the art of narrative, could hope to carry forward the whole burden of fact from year to year without involving himself and his readers in confusion. Moreover, a strict adherence to chronology would make it impossible to treat any one subject consecutively and intelligibly. On the other hand, the substitution of a topical for a chronological treatment, although it might simplify the issues at stake, would have the effect of sacrificing unity, and would leave the book in the form of a series of essays, more or less disjointed, which is equally to be deprecated. As a working compromise between these two opposite methods, we have adopted the plan of arranging the chapters in rough chronological sequence, and at the same time keeping each chapter focused on the particular topic with which it deals.

While this is, broadly, the plan of the volume, it has to be modified in one respect, in order to accommodate the discussion of certain matters which have a central importance for the period, but cannot be treated adequately in the general body of the narrative. In books of this kind, non-political questions are frequently relegated to the end, or at least the latter part, as if they were in the nature of addenda. The reader will find that we have incorporated them in the central portion of the volume, side by side with discussions of the catholic and puritan problems, and of the constitution. In short, the scheme as a whole works out thus. First come four chapters dealing with the Religious Settlement, England and France, Mary Stuart and the Succession, and the critical years 1568-75, which follow each other in approximately chronological order. Then this method is frankly abandoned in favour of specialized studies of the catholic and puritan challenges to the establishment, of the working of the constitution, and of the economic, social, literary, artistic, scientific, and cultural features of the age. In chapter ix, which deals with England's relations with the Netherlands, the method employed in the first four chapters . . .

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