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Jacobean refers to the reign of James I of England who ruled from the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 to his own death in 1625. Whilst some of the culture of his reign was a follow through of the previous reign – Shakespeare for example - some of the great names in English literature and music flourished at this time. John Donne (1572-1631), Ben Jonson (1572-1367) wrote their greatest works during the period; the lutenist and composer John Dowland (1563-1626) was the pre-eminent composer of his kind in Europe.

Jacobean architecture features a freer form than that of the previous reign, and is remembered mainly as the domain of one man – Inigo Jones (1573-1652) who introduced Italian ideas into the country, especially those of Andrea Palladio. These would affect the designs of the great buildings of England well into the 18th century. Furniture design featured more elaboration, an increase in upholstery on chairs, frequently with imported materials (together with a widening of these articles to accommodate the enormously hooped "farthingales" - hooped petticoats - of the era.)

The most profound legacy of the Jacobean period must be the King James Bible (1604–11). No single work has had more effect on the development of the English language, and none that has managed to imbue the word of God with such beauty.


“Oxford Companion to British History”