Saturday, June 11, 2011

England's Early Empire




England, 1500-1600s

England, as is common knowledge, is an island shared with Wales and Scotland. In the 16th and 17th centuries, England was considered to be a very violent and ill-educated backwater by the rest of Europe. England had tried to colonize Ireland in the 12th century, but their effort had petered out.

Due to natural reproduction among the lower social classes, population increased and with it came the beginnings of urban migration due to the poor economically integrating with the rest of Europe; there was little to sell and mass poverty was growing increasingly worse and inflation was rising.

Also during this time, political factions were held down by a strong king, Henry VIII, with a civil war, the War of the Roses, not long past. Henry VIII wanted total sovereignty in legal and spiritual matters. This came to a head when he wanted a divorce so he could get a new wife and (hopefully) a male heir. He broke from the Catolic Church and declared himself the head of the Church of England. Because of this, there was religious turmoil; England became enemies with Spain and France; and the dynasty was not secured. A male heir, Prince Edward, was late in coming and he was sickly. There were plenty of threats to domestic security and England was in need of money.

Beginnings of "Reclamation"
~~1539--King Henry VIII asserts his rights to ownership of all Church property (knocks down monasteries and takes stuff)
~~1540--King Henry VIII declares himself King of Ireland on the basis of old claims (invitation, right of conquest)
~~Violet religious reforms--attacks on Catholicism and "folk religions" (beliefs in the supernatural, animism, druidism--the "old ways" that predated Christianity in Ireland)
~~Henry VIII dies and great turmoil ensues in England
~~A series of Henry's children (Edward, Mary, Elizabeth) take the thrown and all have to deal with civil unrest
~~Irish projects go on the back burner for about 25 years.

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