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The Culture Of England

What is it that defines a culture of a historical period? It can be the accumulation of the arts or advances in technology, science, music, teacher, the economy, war, or religion. It can also just be a simple change of view or beliefs in a group of people. These changes were clearly seen in England during the 17th century. The King’s followers and Parliament began to dispute over the future government and religion of England. While these disputes were occurring, the common people, along with the upper class, argued over Catholicism, Puritanism, and the Anglican Church of England that, in turn, combine with the above, influenced society as well as marking it for this period.

What and where did this theological movement come from? Many historians, such as G. E. Aylmer, believe that it was the Puritans, who didn’t want to stem from the Anglican Church, who sparked the movement. They believed that “they were in favor of higher education and moral theological training, but not of free speculation and expression if these led in unacceptable directions” (Aylmer pg. 103.) During this time of social and political movement, it was the religious and strict puritans that developed and spread new philosophies. ” Most of the truly original ideas were produced by people in varying ways out of step with prevailing orthadoxies- Anglican, Puritan, royalist, and parliamentarian. New theories about the individual, the state, and society were in the fullest sense the product of their time, yet the produced as it were against the grain” (Aylmer pg. 103.)
Another movement that developed new ideas and speculation was the area of the sciences. “The public events of 1640-1660 were tangential to the progress in mathematics, physics, mechanics, astronomy, optics, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology, which taken together have without exaggeration been called the Scientific Revolution,” (Aylmer pg. 107.) It was not limited to a particular region or time and was founded upon the ideas of the past and present. In the words of Aylmer, “but in the applied sciences, and what we nowadays call technology, things look different. Here the needs of government, the influence of pressure groups or economic incentives, and the general temper of the time may well have acted as a stimulus or catalyst,” (pg. 107.) Science and technology sparked new navigational and mapping techniques, land drainage, and more efficient use of energy sources, such as water, mind, wood, charcoal, and coal.

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The relationship between the poet and the events of his time is not always a simple one. Since the censorship act was reimposed in 1649 binding the poets and authors into strict circumstances, we do not know what may have come out of this era. However, this is not to say great works of art didn’t arrive. John Milton, Andrew Marville, and Edmund Waller were some of the young authors on the parliamentarian side. They produced great works inspired by all the nature and beauty that was surrounding them. Writing techniques such as satires, political writings, allegory, sarcasm and irony were all utilized by various authors. “Some of the Puritan preachers claimed that they cultivated ?the plain style’, by contrast with the elaborate style of the Arminians and other enjoying Court favor who aimed only to reach select, upper-class, and educated audiences,” (Aylmer pg. 109) Thus, Puritans not only sparked some intellectual achievements but also took part in all aspects of the culture during this time.

The courts, however, were “Discontent with monopolies, controls, and other government interference in agriculture, industry, trade, and transport” (Aylmer pg. 114.) Social classes and standing began to play a roll in the dividing nation. The Crown and the bishops were biast towards the top, and support for the Puritan-Parliamentarian cause was strongest in the middle levels of society.

The effects of war can be plentiful. Not only does it induce the economy but also it creates new jobs and demand for supplies. On the other hand, if the war is fought in your nation, like in England during this time, it can hurt your environment more than it can help it. ” The causalities, damage, and other losses arising directly from the fighting, together with the generally disruptive effects of war on agriculture, industry, trade, transport, recreation, social intercourse, even marriage and family life- all seem obvious on the debit side.” (Aylmer pg. 115.) War is not a good economic choice before you even consider the loss of lives, buildings, farmland, and roads. Aylmer says in parallel, “there was no sudden shift in the economy, or radical alteration of the social structure; for all that, England after the 1640’s and 1650’s was a society more favorable to the development of business enterprise at home and mercantilist empire overseas than had been the case before 1640. And, in spite of short-term damage and dislocation, the atmosphere was more conducive to these trends than would have been the case if Charles I’s personal ruse had continued indefinitely, or if the royalists had won the Civil War.”
Thus, the culture of a time period is defined by how it differs from the previous era, which is why it is a separate period. The 16th century marked a time of all the aspects of the culture of England. The government was changing and so was the science of the region. England was giving rise to huge advancements in almost every field of intelligence and the arts were developing new forms. The world was a new place and was quite discernable from the century prior to it. This is how we view the culture of England in the 1600’s. We see it not for what it was, but for how it was different from the era previous to it. For a time to be different then the era’s surrounding it, it has to be different, and this can only arise through change. It can be seen that England changed in almost every facet of the world in the 17th century and this is how we distinguish it from the other eras in England’s past.


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