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Imperial ambition

The state of the nation


When Elizabeth ascended the throne, England was a small European nation on the periphery of world power, which was centred on the continent. England's only overseas territory, Calais, had been lost by Mary in 1558 and the New World had been divided up for colonization between Spain and Portugal, by the Pope in 1493. By the end of Elizabeth's reign, England had become a force to contend with and the seeds of Empire had been sown.

In 1570, Robert Dudley and Christopher Hatton, two of Elizabeth's favourites, commissioned John Dee to produce a report on the state of the nation's political, economic and social affairs. Dee was one of the leading intellectuals of the day and the result was his Brytannicæ Republicæ Synopsis (Summary of the Commonwealth of Britain). This was a flow-chart in which Dee presented the problems facing the nation, his suggested solutions and the potential outcomes of various actions. The synopsis was used to lobby Elizabeth for more expansionist policies.

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Page index

  1. The state of the nation
  2. Imperial vision
  3. The spread of the vision
  4. John Dee
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