This book assesses the English national war effort during the Anglo-Spanish war (1585–1603), examining wartime government in a wide-ranging set of contexts. It looks first at political problems: the structure of the wartime state, popular attitudes to the war and the government’s efforts to influence them, resistance to demands, and the problems of governing a country divided in religion and a regime deeply fearful of the future. It then assesses the machinery in practice, looking at the work of the central regime under the Queen herself alongside the local government machinery of lord lieutenancies which carried the demands of the centre into the counties, towns and parishes of England. These mechanisms of rule were crucial to the success of the war effort, by providing troops to fight overseas, running the militia which defended against the Spanish Armada (1588) and other invasion attempts and paying for them both through local taxes. The book draws evidence and case studies from across the country and from politics and government at all levels, from the court and Privy Council to the counties and parishes, but it seeks to examine England as a single polity. In this way it ranges much more widely than the war alone and provides a new assessment of the effectiveness of the Elizabethan state as a whole. It challenges many existing assumptions about the weakness of the state in the face of military change, finding a political system in much better health than has previously been thought.

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War and the Elizabethan state
in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties
The machinery of the Elizabethan war effort in the counties

This chapter considers the ways in which the Elizabethan regime adapted its governing methods to the demands of war, in particular looking at the lord lieutenancies. The earlier history of this institution are sketched, and the revival of the lieutenancies in 1585-88 are discussed. This is considered in the context of continuing religious division in England, in which the Protestant Elizabethan regime remained fearful of English Catholics and conscious of its potential weakness in the event of a disputed succession. The problem of religious division is also applied to the wider picture of local government, suggesting that the council pursued a consistent policy of concentrating county government in the hands of small groups of highly trusted Protestant allies, a policy typified by the lieutenancy but also affecting the justices of the peace.

in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties

This chapter examines the government’s efforts to maintain public consent and support for the war. Historians have tended to assume that public opinion about the war was overwhelmingly negative; this chapter disputes such a view, and describes a range of more supportive, resolute attitudes. The efforts of the government, both central and local, to encourage support for the war through propaganda, persuasion and the careful provision of legitimation for demands are described. This chapter also considers the extent of resistance to government demands, arguing that historians have overstated this problem. Although there was clearly reluctance to comply with troublesome and expensive demands, in most cases there was a recognition among local elites and the wider political community that the demands were necessary, and there was remarkably little open complaint or protest. Where complaints did arise, they tended to be because of anomalous demands or those perceived as unjust, and resistance tended not to become general or widespread. Finally, this chapter analyses the internal organisation of the lord lieutenancies, describing the mechanism for implementing demands in the localities.

in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties
The militia and invasion threats

This chapter addresses one of the lord lieutenancies’ most important roles, the organisation and running of the county militias intended to defend against invasion attempts. The chapter firstly looks at the militia chronologically. It considers early Elizabethan attempts to reform the militia, notably the creation of the ‘Trained Bands’ in the years leading up to the crisis of the Spanish Armada (1588). It then looks at the crisis itself, during which the militia did not have to fight, but demonstrated good levels of organisation and readiness, and finally looks at how readiness was maintained during the remaining 15 years of war, when there were several further invasion scares. The second part of the chapter assesses the militia thematically: its organisation, training and equipment. Overall, the chapter concludes that the militia, although inconsistent and often badly run, made real improvements over the period in terms of weaponry, organisation and training. Whilst the military prowess of the militia remained untested, the chapter shows that the ability of the privy council to generate activity and the willingness of the lieutenancies and the wider population to carry it out was greater than usually thought.

in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties
Troop levies from the counties

This chapter looks at another key function of the Elizabethan lord lieutenancies: raising soldiers to serve in the wars overseas. It first addresses the overall extent of the burden, showing, through an examination of every troop levy of the period, that the counties provided around 94,000 soldiers across the period, somewhat fewer than had been thought. It then examines the process of finding recruits (and who those recruits were), supplying equipment and transferring the soldiers to military control. Finally, it assesses the overall quality of the outcome, showing that, although results were inevitably very mixed, the outcome in terms of the quality of the recruits and the equipment was far from as universally bad as it usually regarded, and that many local officials worked very hard to ensure as high a standard as possible.

in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties
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Lieutenancy finance

This chapter considers the how the lord lieutenancies covered the costs of the tasks they were entrusted with carrying out. It begins by looking at the overall burden of wartime taxation on the counties, primarily in the form of the lay subsidy, and considering the decline in the yield of the subsidy during the war years. More detailed case studies are then made of the yield of both national and local taxation in Cheshire, Kent and Norfolk, showing that local taxes added significantly to the burden of national taxes. It them discusses local financial management, looking at the procedures put in place in the counties to raise taxes, handle money and account for spending, arguing that the lieutenancies’ financial practices, although rudimentary and informal, tended to work reasonably effectively.

in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties
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in War and politics in the Elizabethan counties