The reign of Elizabeth is for many of us one of the most appealing periods in the history of English-speaking peoples. Our images of the Elizabethan age, whether derived from the stage, screen, or books, have an enduring romantic appeal: the daring impudence of the sea-dogs, the dashing valor of Sir Philip Sidney at Zutphen or the Earl of Essex at the gates of Cadiz, the elegant clash of steel as the masters of the rapier display their skill. In addition to its imaginative appeal, the period is one of considerable historical importance. In political terms, Elizabeth's reign saw the definitive emergence of England as a significant naval power, as well as the growth of England's commercial and colonial activities: the British Empire, which so shaped the world in which we live, had its roots in the reign of Elizabeth. In the cultural sphere, England's achievements were no less significant, most notably in the person of William Shakespeare.
Elizabethan daily life has received a good deal of attention during the past two hundred years. Yet although many books have been written on the subject, this volume is very different in one fundamental respect, which has influenced its shape in many ways.
This is the first book on Elizabethan England to arise out of the living history movement. In its broadest sense, living history might be described as the material re-creation of elements of the past. In this sense it includes a wide variety of activities. People who play historical music (especially on reproduction instruments) or who engage in historical crafts are practicing a form of living history.
In its fullest sense, living history involves the attempt to re-create an entire historical setting. Perhaps the best example is the historical site of