Elizabethan History Lecture — Solihull Sixth Form College

Elizabethan History Lecture

History learners at Solihull Sixth Form College expanded their learning last week with the help of a visiting speaker from the University of Birmingham.

Professor Richard Cust delivered a lecture on the latter years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1588 – 1603) to students from both Year 12 and Year 13 of the A level History course. The presentation explored the question of whether the final years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign were a crisis for the country or not. Students were introduced to three main areas of history, including domestic politics, international relations and the social and economic hardship of the time.

The domestic politics of the 1590s centred around the conflict between Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, and the way the Queen managed these two courtiers. The subsequent Essex Rebellion and its failure led to the execution of the Earl of Essex. Meanwhile, international politics of the time saw the Queen adopt a cautious approach to conflict, despite significant political pressure from Court. Nonetheless, the end of her reign saw many conflicts, with a war fought against the Spanish, as well as support for Dutch and French Protestant rebellions and efforts to quell a Catholic uprising in Ireland. These conflicts were ruinously expensive and this, coupled with several years of poor harvest, led to great economics and social hardship and a spike in the death rate.

All these things combined led many historians to suggest that the country was in crisis at the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. The matter of her succession, as her death drew closer without a clear heir, was also a source of concern, but despite these pressures the Queen maintained a civil reign and Professor Cust concluded that despite a recipe for crisis, the Queen navigated her reign well.

History teacher Dr Mary Partridge commented:

“This is the second year running that Professor Cust has given up his time to visit us the College and give our historians the benefit of his expertise. His lecture provided a fascinating insight into the latter part of the Elizabethan reign and challenged learners to question some of the accepted wisdom about these years of Elizabeth I’s reign. This insight will serve them well in their A level studies.”

9 May 2024