Essay on Life in the Turbulent 1600s
Number of words: 1044
Life in Stuart Britain
From London’s Great Fire to the Gunpowder plot, this is British’s most tumultuous era. In 1649, King Charles I was beheaded, between 1642 and 1651 there were civil wars, and 1605 was marred by the Gunpowder Plot in Stuart Britain, all happening in a span of over a century. Additionally, in 1688, the ‘Glorious Revolution’ took place and which included the invasion by foreign powers, and 1666, London’s Great took center stage (Stater 384). In this paper, I will delve deeper in the Stuart Britain period and dissect how life was for the different groups of people, particularly the rich and the poor.
An observation made more often than about historians is that they tend to focus more on the societal group, that is, the poor and the rich. More than anyone else, this select group of individuals is littered with a lot of information. The literacy levels, that is, being able to read and write, were higher among the wealthy in the Stuart Britain era. This translated into them being able to share their information which could then be passed on to future generations (Darcy 142). It goes without saying that illiteracy levels were high among the ordinary people on the other hand and that means that over a period of time their stories got lost since most of them were orally shared.
Nonetheless, since I lived in the period of Stuart Britain and in this paper I will document the life of Stuart Britain’s people who lived, worked and later died in that era. At this juncture, I wish to shed light on the meaning of Stuart Britain before I go any further. From 1603 to 1714, Queen Elizabeth’s English throne was succeeded by Scotland’s King James VI in a particular era in the history of Britain and this is what is popularly known as the Stuart Britain era.
Poverty as a way of life
In Stuart Britain period, poverty was the order of the day and it afflicted a majority of the population with a significant number living in abject destitution. I was no different from the majority of the population in Stuart Britain. I wallowed in destitution before I landed my apprenticeship with a famous scientist, Lovelace Fleming. The scientist was a crop specialist who sought to ease food insecurity in the Stuart Britain era (Belle 310). My work was to document all what the scientist was doing and carry on his legacy once he had transitioned into the after-life. We were supposed to travel from the agricultural village where I was raised and which carried a majority of the population into the cities which held the fewest people.
Hunger and poverty increased owing to the living standards being negatively impacted by a population surge in the 16th century. Institutionalization of Poor Laws was seen as necessary as a result of the problems occasioned by poverty between the 15th century and the 18th century. The society’s poor would be able to be relieved as a result of these laws which came into force under the leadership of Elizabeth I. Most of the labour force according to historians used to work under a master. Wages, board and room were cited by the working population as the advantages that came with having a master.
In these early days, a major problem was experienced in the form of vagrancy. Begging, handouts from fellow townspeople, neighbours, and family members were the only hope for the poor before the institution of modern welfare state. The New World’s burgeoning colonies were preferred to the British Isles by the poor.
Finding the next meal each day was the principal objective of a majority of the population as a result of the paucity of food resources. The harvest was heavily depended upon by the people due to the limited nature of foodstuffs. Even grimmer is that starvation and malnourishment was being experienced owing to stocks of food and livestock belonging to ordinary people being plundered by hungry soldiers during the Civil War (Strafford et al 23). Sugar-heavy desserts, rich diets, and meat were typically indulged by the by the wealthy who were unsurprisingly unhealthy in some respects compared to the pottages and legume-based dishes mostly eaten by the working class which were relatively healthy. Different kinds of ailments originated from the indulgence of the rich, principally hemorrhoids.
Cities and towns recorded the lowest number of occupants while the agricultural villages had their population bursting through the seams in Stuart Britain. The scientist and I were making the trip across from the agricultural village into the cities which had started to experience food shortage as a result of immigration of people from the agricultural villages. This sudden surge in population reduced the amount of food reserves in the cities. The scientist was the one to demonstrate new ways of agriculture that would maximize on the little agricultural space left in the cities which were filled with various infrastructures. London was the most congested of the cities and was insalubrious and typically crowded. As a matter of fact, in 1665, the spread of the Great Plague was from London’s slums of St Giles.
Belle, Marie-Alice. “The Many Lives of Raleigh’s Ghost: Reframing Atheism and the Afterlife in Early Stuart Britain.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée 46.2 (2019): 295-317.
Darcy, Eamon. “The experience of revolution in Stuart Britain and Ireland: essays for John Morrill. Edited by Michael Braddick and David Smith. Pp xxxv, 312. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2011.£ 60.” Irish Historical Studies 38.149 (2012): 141-142.
Stater, Victor. “Robin Gwynn. The Huguenots in Later Stuart Britain. Vol. 1: Crisis, Renewal, and the Minister’s Dilemma. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2015. Pp. xviii+ 481. $139.95 (cloth).” Journal of British Studies 56.2 (2017): 383-384.
Strafford, Buckingham, Sunderland Pym, and Laud Danby. “Stuart Age, 1603–1714 (1976) and CP Hill, Who’s Who in Stuart Britain, 2nd edn (1988) provide a series of short biographies of leading figures based on modern research. Biographical studies of members of parliament at two key points in the century are given in MF Keeler, The Long Parliament, 1640–41 (New York, 1954); Donald Brunton and DH Pennington, Members of the Long.” (2020): 15-24.