Guest Author - Deborah Watson-Novacek
It is generally agreed that the Renaissance, a cultural movement that profoundly affected the intellectual life in Europe, originated in Florence, Italy in the early 14th century. By the 15th century, the Renaissance movement had spread to the rest of Italy and then on to the remainder of Europe.
In England, the Elizabethan Era is considered to been the beginning of the English Renaissance. The reign of Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) was marked by an almost universal peace within the country, along with a renaissance in the areas of art, poetry, music, literature, science and technology.
Advances in the Arts
Well-known writers of the period include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Thomas More, Francis Bacon, Sir Philip Sidney, and John Milton.
From the beginning of her reign, Elizabeth was always a major patron of the stage, and drama flourished under her support. It was during this period that the English public at large began attending plays. Previously this past-time had been reserved for royals only. The largest and most well-known of all playhouses of the time was the Globe Theater. The Globe was established in 1599 and became the home to many of the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe.
Advances in Music
Elizabeth herself was considered a gifted musician, playing such instruments as the lute and the virginal (a small piano-like instrument). During her reign more than 70 musicians and composers were hired for her court, and it became the norm for people of all classes to be able to sing or perform.
Advances in Medical Science
Advances in medical science included the in-depth study of human anatomy and developments in dissection and surgical operations. The telescope was invented in England by Leonard Digges (1520-1559). John Dee (1527-1608) was a leading mathematician, astronomer, and teacher of navigation. William Gilbert (1544-1603) studied the science of electricity (in fact, he coined the word) and magnetism. Robert Fludd (1574-1647) and William Harvey (1578-1657) worked to explain the circulation of blood.
Advances in Technology
Technology made huge strides forward in Elizabethan England. The spring-suspension coach was invented and brought to England in 1564 by Guilliam Boonen of the Netherlands, replacing transportation methods such as litters and carts. Some other well-known inventions of the period include:
1568: Bottled beer is invented in London
1569: Gerard Mercator invents Mercator map projection
1589: William Lee invents the knitting machine
1591: Sir John Harington invents the flush toilet
1593: Francis Bacon invents the frozen chicken
Advances in Banking and Finance
Last, but certainly not least, it was during this time that the first stock exchange, The Royal Exchange, was created by Sir Thomas Gresham. This was the first exchange in England and one of the first of such institutions in all of Europe.
Advances in World Exploration
Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to sail around the world. He spent some three years traveling almost 36,000 miles around the globe. During this same time period Martin Frobisher made an exploration of the Arctic, and the English made their first attempt at a settlement in the New World (Roanoke Island, Virginia).
These many achievements served as the basis for future exploration, expansion and the continued rise of the British Nation.