The Elizabethan Age is the time when England was ruled by Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1603. It was a time of great prosperity and peace in England as Elizabeth dealt with the religious strife that had plagued the clergy first under Henry VIII and then under his daughter Bloody Mary. Failure to comply with the Anglican Church, including failing to attend Mass, was punishable by law. This affected puritans and Catholics alike, who were forced to emigrate to Europe.
It was a time of exploration and the beginning of the period that would lead to colonization and the British Empire. It was also the beginning of the modern market economy. Explorers and adventurers would sell shares in their ships - if they came back laden with treasure, the shareholders got a cut; if they sank, the shareholders lost it all.
As wella s bringing economic growth, it also brought inflation. This was compounded by the extension of enclosure - the appropriation of common land by individuals - which drove prices and wages up across the nation.
It was a time of cultural flourishing. Painters like Nicholas Hillyard, poets like Edmund Spenser, thinkers like Francis Bacon and dramatists like Shakespeare came to prominence. However, much of this artistic endeavour was viewed with suspicion. Although the English theatre flourished, no public theatres were allowed within the boundaries of London.
The greatest military threat to English rule, the Spanish Armada was soundly defeated in 1588. The greatest political threat, posed by Elizabeth's cousing Mary Queen of Scots, was neutralised after her execution. Mary's son, James, succeeded Elizabeth to the English throne.