The State of the Economy in Stuart England
One of the key factors that contributed greatly to the civil war in England was the state of the economy in the years leading up to the war. The steady rise in prices of most commodities and the blossoming population were the main influencing forces in the economic climate of the country at that time.
Many of the estimates on the population figures of England in the 16th century are somewhat inaccurate at best, because the practice of keeping records then was not as extensive or as efficient as it is today. More population records were kept from the beginning of the 17th century, although these too are far from complete.
In any case, population records in England and Wales in 1348 placed the number of people in these areas at 3.7 million. When the population was again assessed in 1525 the number was estimated at 2.3 million. A steady increase then occurred with 3.75 million registered for 1603, 4 million in 1640 and 5.2 million in 1695.
In a period of 100 years from 1540 to 1640, the districts of Worcester, Ipswich, Norwich and Winchester experienced a doubling of its general population.
A study of the village of Colyton in Devon yielded some interesting results. It was found that from 1500 to 1680 the population in the village experienced a steady increase, with a decline in only two periods, during the 1550s and the 1590s. It was further discovered that from 1560 to 1629 more than 55% of the village's married couples had six children or more.
Much speculation has been given on the increase of the population in Colyton and the increase has been attributed to a combination of a few different factors. First of all, the Colyton area was relatively free from any major disease epidemics unlike the other regions of England. Peace also reigned in the area during this time, so consequently there were no recorded casualties from war. Food was not a problem in this region because during the reign of Elizabeth, harvests were quite abundant. Very few people were able to migrate to other regions because the majority of ships were used for war. Finally, housing standards had improved considerably at this point contributing to the general well being of the people.
Not all areas of the country were as fortunate as Colyton however; in much of the rest of England and in Wales food was not nearly as abundant. There had been a general increase in the price of commodities since 1510 and while there was an influx of Spanish gold in the form of bouillons in 1570, this benefited only the country's treasury and the wealth did not trickle down into the masses.
By the time the Civil War started, even bread was very hard to come by for the average person in England.
This time also proved very hard for people who rented land as the rising inflation resulted in landowners raising the rent on their properties correspondingly to compensate.
A conflict was in the making as families' who had owned their lands for many generations struggled to maintain their ownership while the masses struggled to survive.
Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: RPN
Updated On: 26/02/2007