Study Notes

Causes of Poverty in Elizabethan England

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 10 Jun 2017

There are four main reasons for the increase in poverty during the Elizabethan era. Whilst enclosure has its own study note, the other three are detailed here.

Population Growth

The reign of Elizabeth saw the population of England grow by around 35%. This growth was particularly noticeable in the cities and towns which grew rapidly. However, this rising population caused problems for the people living in the towns and cities. Firstly, is the price of food. As more people required food in towns, the price of the food rose quickly which meant that some people lost out and could not afford the food. Another issue was that of housing. As populations grew, there simply wasn’t enough houses to house everyone and as a result rents also increased.


Rising Prices

Linked to population growth is rising prices. An increase in the demand for food meant that prices rose quickly. People could often not afford these increase as although wages for people were rising, they were not rising by more than than food was, meaning that wage increases would not keep up with the price of food. In some cases where many people were looking for work it lead to a fall in wages due to so many people wanting to be in work.


Sheep Farming

Sheep Farming was a lucrative business to be in as the price of wool was increasing. However, sheep farming needed large amounts of land and this causes problems. The increase in land required means that this land cannot be used for food crops, second that some food must be used to feed the sheep and cannot be used to feed people. Lastly, sheep farming is not as labour intensive as crop farming so some people became unemployed.

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