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Elizabethan England in “Early Modern Europe” by Wiesner-Hanks Essay

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Updated: May 20th, 2021

Wiesner-Hanks offers a useful overview of the challenges faced by Britain after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. The key concept that was at play in post-Elizabethan England was the struggle for power between the Parliament and the royalty.

During Queen Elizabeth I reign, the Parliament faced a dramatic increase in power and responsibility; however, as James inherited the throne, he wanted to limit the influence of the Parliament, thus establishing his power on the English throne (Wiesner-Hanks 338). However, due to the debts caused by the war with Spain and the need for additional financial resources, James was forced to gradually expand the powers of the House of Commons (Wiesner-Hanks 339).

The Parliament’s victory did not last long, as it was dissolved by James’s son Charles in 1629. Similar financial issues forced Charles to call Parliament in 1640, which allowed it to establish its power bypassing the law obliging the kind to call Parliament at least once in three years (Wiesner-Hanks 339). The tensions kept rising until Oliver Cromwell used his army to overthrow the king and abolish the House of Lords completely, thus becoming the most powerful man in the country. His position and a strong army allowed him to rule as a military dictator and enforce measures supported by Puritans (Wiesner-Hanks 342).

After Cromwell’s death, Charles’ son was able to return to England as Charles II; he returned the House of Lords and provided the Parliament with a stable position of power. However, as the Catholic James II ascended the throne after Charles, the Protestants worked to appoint James’s Protestant daughter Mary to the throne, which allowed them to perform a coup that would be called the “Glorious Revolution” (Wiesner-Hanks 343). The revolution enforced the House of Commons as the most powerful part of the Parliament, thus returning the power to the gentry (Wiesner-Hanks 343).

Overall, the writings of Wiesner-Hanks provide a rather short review of the complex political schemes that affected England in the post-Elizabethan period. The reading stresses the importance of religion and social movements, such as egalitarianism, that pervaded the country at the time. This contributes to the previous explorations of Early Modern Europe, allowing us to compare the developmental patterns in England to that of other countries.

Works Cited

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E. Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789. 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Elizabethan England in "Early Modern Europe" by Wiesner-Hanks." May 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/elizabethan-england-in-early-modern-europe-by-wiesner-hanks/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Elizabethan England in "Early Modern Europe" by Wiesner-Hanks'. 20 May.

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