[An era of Revolutions]

The historian of the future will, perhaps, affirm that the nineteenth century, with the last years of the eighteenth, has been a period more fraught with momentous events in the development of the nations than any equal period since the Christian era commenced. Yet striking as are the developments witnessed by the last four generations, the years when England was ruled by Princes of the House of Tudor have a history hardly if at all less momentous. For though what we call the Tudor period, from 1485 to 1603, is determined by a merely dynastic title affecting England alone, the reign of that dynasty happens to coincide in point of time with the greatest territorial revolution on record, a religious revolution unparalleled since the rise of Mohammed, and an intellectual activity to match which we must go back to the great days of Hellas, or forward to the nineteenth century: revolutions all of them not specifically English, but affecting immediately every nation in Europe; while one of them extended itself to every continent on the globe. Moreover, the accompanying social revolution, though comparatively superficial, was only a little less marked than the others. Nor was there any country in Europe more influenced by the general Revolution in any one of its aspects than England.

Nihil per saltum is no doubt as true of historical movements as of physical evolution. Before Columbus sighted Hispaniola, Portuguese sailors had told tales of some vast island seen by them far in the west. Botticelli had passed out of Filippo Lippi's school, and Leonardo was thirty, before Raphael was born; the printing press had reached England, and Greek had been re-discovered, in the last years of the previous "period"; the Byzantine Empire had fallen; the power of the old Baronage in England and France had been broken before Richard fell on Bosworth field. There were Lollards at home and Hussites abroad before Luther came into the world. The changes did not begin in 1485, or in any particular year. In Italy the intellectual movement had already long been active, and had indeed produced its best work; outside of Italy, its appearances had been quite sporadic. At that date, the Ocean movement was in its initial stages. There had been foreshadowings of the Reformation; and, to speak metaphorically, the castles which had maintained the power of the nobility, overshadowing the gentry and the burghers, were already in ruins. But the fame of every one of the great English names which are landmarks in every one of these great movements belongs essentially to the years after 1485. And every one of those movements had definitely and decisively set its mark on the world before Elizabeth was laid in her grave.

[The Intellectual Movement]

The intellectual movement to which we apply the name Renaissance in its narrower sense [Footnote: In the more inclusive sense the Renaissance of course began in the time of Cimabue and Dante, but it was not till the latter half of the fifteenth century that it became a pervading force outside of Italy.] has many aspects. Whatever views we may happen to hold as to schools of painting and architecture, it is indisputable that a revolution was wrought by the work of Raphael and Leonardo, Michael Angelo and Titian, and the crowd of lesser great men who learned from them. The limitations imposed on Art by ecclesiastical conventions were deprived of their old rigour, and it was no longer sought to confine the painter to producing altar pieces and glorified or magnified missal-margins. The immediate tangible and visible results were however hardly to be found outside of Italy and the Low Countries; and if English domestic architecture took on a new face, it was the outcome rather of the social than the artistic change: since men wanted comfortable houses instead of fortresses to dwell in. The Renaissance in its creative artistic phase touched England directly hardly at all.

On its literary side, the movement was not creative but scholarly and critical, though a great creative movement was its outcome. In the earlier period the name of Ariosto is an exception; but otherwise the greatest of the men of Letters are perhaps, in their several ways, Erasmus and Macchiavelli abroad and Thomas More in England. Scholars and students were doing an admirable work of which the world was much in need; displacing the schoolmen, overturning mediaeval authorities and conventions, reviving the knowledge of the mighty Greek Literature which for centuries had been buried in oblivion, introducing fresh standards of culture, spreading education, creating an entirely new intellectual atmosphere. An enormous impulse was given to the new influences by the very active encouragement which the princes of Europe, lay and ecclesiastical, extended to them, the nobility following in the wake of the princes. The best literary brains of the day however were largely absorbed by the religious movement. The great imaginative writers, unless we except Rabelais, appear in the latter half of the sixteenth century - Tasso and Camoens and Cervantes, [Footnote: Don Quixote did not appear till 1605; but Cervantes was then nearly sixty.] Spenser and Marlowe and Shakespeare, as well as Montaigne. But even in the first half of the century, Copernicus enunciated the new theory that the Sun, not the Earth, is the centre of the astronomical system; and before the end of our period, the new methods had established themselves in the field of science, to be first formulated early in the new century by one who had already mastered and applied them, Francis Bacon. Essentially, the modern Scientific Method was the product of the Tudor Age.

[The Reformation and the Counter-Reformation]

For many centuries, Christendom had in effect been undivided. There had indeed been a time when it was uncertain whether the Arian heresy might not prevail over orthodoxy, but that was a thousand years ago. The Byzantine Church later had separated from the Roman on a subtle point of Theology; but in spite of various dissensions, and efforts on the part of kings and of Churches which may be called national to assert a degree of independence, all Western Europe had acknowledged the supremacy of the papacy; and though reformers had arisen, the movements they initiated had either been absorbed by orthodoxy or crushed almost out of sight. The Tudor period witnessed that vast schism which divided Europe into the two religious camps, labelled - with the usual inaccuracy of party labels - Catholic and Protestant: the latter, as time went on, failing into infinite divisions, still however remaining agreed in their resistance to the common foe. Roughly - very roughly - in place of the united Christendom of the Middle Ages, the end of the period found the Northern, Scandinavian, and Teutonic races ranged on one side, the Southern Latin races on the other; and in both camps a very much more intelligent conception of religion, a much more lively appreciation of its relation to morals. The intellectual revolution had engendered a keen and independent spirit of inquiry, a disregard of traditional authority, an iconoclastic zeal, a passion for ascertaining Truth, which, applied to religion, crashed against received systems and dogmas with a tremendous shock rending Christendom in twain. But the Reformers were not all on one side; and those who held by the old faiths and acknowledged still the old mysteries included many of the most essentially religious spirits of the time. If the Protestants won a new freedom, the Catholics acquired a new fervour and on the whole a new spirituality. For both Catholic and Protestant, religion meant something which had been lacking to latter-day mediaevalism: something for which it was worth while to fight and to die, and - a much harder matter than dying - to sever the bonds of friendship and kinship. That these things should have needed to be done was an evil; that men should have become ready to do them was altogether good. The Reformation brought not peace but a sword; Religion was but one of the motives which made men partisans of either side; yet that it became a motive at all meant that they had realised it as an essential necessity in their lives.

[The New World]

It is hardly necessary to dwell at length on the magnitude of the maritime expansion; the Map [Footnote: See Map 1]is more eloquent than words. In 1485 the coasts that were known to Europeans were those of Europe, the Levant, and North Africa. Only such rare adventurers as Marco Polo had penetrated Asia outside the ancient limits of the Roman Empire. In 1603, the globe had been twice circumnavigated by Englishmen. Portuguese fleets dominated the Indian waters; there were Portuguese stations both on the West Coast of India and in the Bay of Bengal; Portuguese and Spaniards were established in the Spice Islands whence there was an annual trade round the Cape with the Spanish Peninsula: the English East India Company was already incorporated, and its first fleet, commanded by Captain Lancaster, had opened up the same waters for English trade. Mexico and Peru and the West Indies were Spanish posses-*

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[Nobility, clergy and gentry]

In the business of managing the Estates, the problem was further simplified to the Tudors because circumstances enabled them arbitrarily to replenish their treasuries largely from sources which did not wound the susceptibilities of the Commons. Henry VII. could victimise the nobles by fines or benevolences, and Henry VIII. could rob the Church, without arousing the animosity of the classes which were untouched; while neither the nobility nor the clergy were strong enough for active resentment. In each case the King made his profit out of privileged classes which got no sympathy from the rest - who did not grudge the King money so long at least as they were not asked to provide it themselves, and in fact felt that the process diminished the necessity for making demands on their own pockets.

The disappearance of the old almost princely power of the greater barons, completed by the repressive policy of Henry VII., with the redistribution of the vast monastic estates effected by his son, were the leading factors which changed the social and political centre of gravity. The old nobility were almost wiped out by the civil wars; generation after generation, their representatives had either fallen on the battlefield, or lost their heads on the scaffold and their lands by attainder. The new nobility were the creations of the Tudor Kings, lacking the prestige of renowned ancestry and the means of converting retainers into small armies. With the exception of the Howards, scarce one of the prominent statesmen of the period belonged to any of the old powerful families. For more than forty years the chief ministers were ecclesiastics; after Wolsey's fall, the Cromwells, Seymours, Dudleys, and Pagets, the Cecils and Walsinghams, and Bacons, the Russels, Sidneys, Raleighs, and Careys, were of stocks that had hardly been heard of in Plantagenet times, outside their own localities. It was the Tudor policy to foster and encourage this class of their subjects, who from the Tudor times onward provided the country with most of her statesmen and her captains, and in the aggregate mainly swayed her fortunes. At the same time the political influence of the Church was reduced to comparative insignificance by the treatment of the whole hierarchy almost as if it were a branch, and a rather subordinate branch, of the civil administration; by the appropriation of its wealth to secular purposes, to the enrichment of individuals and of the royal treasury; and by the suppression of the monastic orders. The effect of this last measure, limiting the clerical ranks to the successors of the secular clergy, was to restrict them much more generally to their pastoral functions; and at any rate after the death of Gardiner and Pole, no ecclesiastic appears as indubitably first minister of the Crown, and few as politicians of the front rank. England had no Richelieu, and no Mazarin. Lastly while the diminution in the importance of the ecclesiastical courts increased the influence of the lay lawyers, the great development in the prosperity of the mercantile classes, due in part at least to the deliberate policy of the Tudor monarchs, led in turn to their wealthy burgesses acquiring a new weight in the national counsels which, however, did not take full effect till a later day.

[International relations]

Finally we have to observe that in this period the whole system of international relations underwent a complete transformation. At its commencement, there was no Spanish kingdom; there was no Dutch Republic; the unification even of France was not completed; England had a chronically hostile nation on her northern borders; the Moors still held Granada; the Turk had only very recently established himself in Europe, and his advance constituted a threat to all Christendom, which still very definitely recognised one ecclesiastical head in the Pope, and - very much less definitely - one lay head in the Emperor. Elizabeth's death united England and Scotland at least for international purposes; France and Spain had each become a homogeneous state; Holland was on the verge of entering the lists as a first-class power. The theoretical status of the Emperor in Europe had vanished, but on the other hand, the co-ordination of the Empire itself as a Teutonic power had considerably advanced. The Turk was held in check, and the Moor was crushed: but one half of Christendom was disposed to regard the other half as little if at all superior to the Turk in point of Theology. The nations of Western Europe had approximately settled into the boundaries with which we are familiar; the position of the great Powers had been, at least comparatively speaking, formulated; and the idea had come into being which was to dominate international relations for centuries to come - the political conception of the Balance of Power.