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The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII (1457 – 1509). The term can be used more broadly to include Elizabeth I's reign (1558 – 1603), although this is often treated separately as the Elizabethan era. The Tudor rulers disliked the term "Tudor" (because the first Tudor was low-born), and it was not much used before the late 18th century.
In terms of the entire century, Guy (1988) argues that "England was economically healthier, more expansive, and more optimistic under the Tudors" than at any time in a thousand years.
The term Tudor was hardly used in the 16th century and many phrases of periodization used by modern historians, such as Tudor England and Tudor monarchy which seek to emphasize a distinct period, are misleading compared to what people actually experienced at the time.
Following the Black Death and the agricultural depression of the late 15th century, population growth began to increase. The export of woollen products resulted in economic upturn with products exported to mainland Europe. Henry VII negotiated the favourable Intercursus Magnus treaty in 1496.
The high wages and abundance of available land seen in the late 15th century and early 16th century were replaced with low wages and a land shortage. Various inflationary pressures, perhaps due to an influx of New World gold and a rising population, set the stage for social upheaval with the gap between the rich and poor widening. This was a period of significant change for the majority of the rural population, with manorial lords beginning the process of enclosure.
Historian Geoffrey Elton revolutionized the study of Tudor government by his 1953 book The Tudor Revolution in Government. He argued that Thomas Cromwell, who was Henry VIII's chief minister from 1532 to 1540, was the author of modern, bureaucratic government which replaced medieval, government-as-household-management. Cromwell introduced reforms into the administration that delineated the King's household from the state and created a modern administration. He injected Tudor power into the darker corners of the realm and radically altered the role of Parliament. This transition happened in the 1530s, Elton argued, and must be regarded as part of a planned revolution. Elton's point was that before Cromwell the realm could be viewed as the King's private estate writ large and that most administration was done by the King's household servants rather than separate state offices. By master-minding these reforms, wrote Elton, Cromwell laid the foundations of England's future stability and success. However, his thesis has been challenged by more recent historians and can no longer be regarded as an orthodoxy.
The Tudor Government raised a huge amount of revenue from the dissolution of the monasteries. The clerical income from First Fruits and Tenths, which previously went to the Pope, now went to the King. The Tudor Government gained further revenue from the clerical lands in two ways: by receiving rents from confiscated lands and by selling the lands. Altogether, between 1536 and Henry’s death, the Government collected ￡1.3 million; this huge influx of money caused Cromwell to change the Crown’s financial system so as to manage the money. Cromwell created a new department of state and a new official to collect the proceeds of the dissolution and the First Fruits and Tenths: the Court of Augmentations and Treasurer of First Fruits and Tenths.
Partly because of the new revenue raised from the dissolution of monasteries, Cromwell created revenue courts to allot the royal income properly to various departments. These were the six courts or departments of state, each fully organised with its own specialised officials, equipped with seals and habitat, and responsible for a particular kind of revenue. Although this new financial system did not work with admirable precision, it was improved in a sense that it didn’t involve the excessive formality of the old Exchequer or the excessive informality of the chamber system. Its drawback was the multiplication of departments whose sole unifying agent was Cromwell; his fall raised difficulties necessitating further reforms which, however, followed his principle of relying on bureaucratic institutions.
The growing number of departments meant that the number of officials involved increased, which made the management of revenue troublesome and expensive. There were further financial and administrative difficulties of the years 1540–58, aggravated by war, debasement, corruption and inefficiency, which were mainly caused by Somerset. After Cromwell’s fall, Winchester, the Lord Treasurer, produced further reforms to simplify the arrangements; reforms which united most of the crown’s financed under the exchequer. The courts of general surveyors and augmentations were fused into a new Court of Augmentations, and this, was later absorbed into the exchequer along with the First Fruits and Tenths.
Impact of War
Henry’s war and Somerset’s war with France and Scotland cost England huge sums of money. Since 1540, there was the Privy Coffers, which was responsible for ‘secret affairs’, in particular for the financing of war. The royal Mint was used to generate revenue by debasing the coinage; the government’s profit in 1547–51 was ￡537,000. Most of the money that was raised from the dissolution was squandered on the Boulogne campaign of 1544. However, under the rule of Northumberland, the wars were brought to an end and the Mint no longer generated revenue after debasement was brought to an end in 1551.
In 1487 Henry VII's enemies from the House of York had crowned a pretender and landed a small army off the coast of Lancashire with the intention of stealing the crown. Henry VII defeated them at East Stoke. This was perhaps the last battle in the Wars of the Roses.
This was perhaps the most significant series of events which took place during the Tudor period. It began as a result of Henry VIII's grievance at Pope Clement VII regarding his refusal to grant a divorce. It ended with the Church of England breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and perhaps contributed to the Civil War.
Beginning in 1549, this was to be the largest popular uprising during the Tudor period. It was at first intended as a demonstration against enclosures of common land. The instigator, Robert Kett, was hanged for treason. 
About one-third of the population lived in poverty, with the wealthy expected to give alms to assist the impotent poor. Tudor law was harsh on the able-bodied poor i.e., those unable to find work. Those who left their parishes in order to locate work were termed vagabonds and could be subjected to punishments, including whipping, burning, execution and putting at the stocks.
Average life span was 35 years. High rates of child mortality saw only 33–50% of the population reaching the age of 16
There were no sewers or drains, and rubbish was simply abandoned in the street. Animals such as rats thrived in these conditions. In larger towns and cities, such as London, common diseases arising from lack of sanitation included smallpox, measles, malaria, typhus, diphtheria, Scarlet fever, and chickenpox.
Outbreaks of the Black Death pandemic occurred in 1498, 1535, 1543, 1563, 1589 and 1603. The reason for the speedy spread of the disease was the increase of rats infected by fleas carrying the disease.
The majority of the population lived in small villages. Their homes were, as in earlier centuries, thatched huts with one or two rooms, although later on during this period, roofs were also tiled. Furniture was basic, with stools being commonplace rather than chairs. The walls of Tudor houses were often made from timber and wattle and daub, or brick, stone and tiles in the wealthier part of the population's case. The daub was usually then painted with limewash, making it white, and the wood was painted with black tar to prevent rotting, but not in Tudor times; the Victorians did this afterwards. The bricks were handmade and thinner than modern bricks. The wooden beams were cut by hand, which makes telling the difference between Tudor houses and Tudor-style houses easy, as the original beams are not straight. The upper floors of Tudor houses were often larger than the ground floors, which would create an overhang (or jetty). This would create more floor-surface above while also keeping maximum street width. During the Tudor period, the use of glass when building houses was first used, and became widespread. It was very expensive and difficult to make, so the panes were made small and held together with a lead lattice, in casement windows. People who couldn't afford glass often used polished horn, cloth or even paper. Tudor chimneys were tall, thin, and often decorated with symmetrical patterns of molded or cut brick. Early Tudor houses, and the homes of poorer people, did not have chimneys. The smoke in these cases would be let out through a simple hole in the roof.
Mansions had many chimneys for the many fireplaces required to keep the vast rooms warm. These fires were also the only way of cooking food. Wealthy Tudor homes needed many rooms, where a large number of guests and servants could be accommodated, fed and entertained. Wealth was demonstrated by the extensive use of glass. Windows became the main feature of Tudor mansions, and were often a fashion statement. Mansions were often designed to a symmetrical plan – "E" and "H" shapes were popular.
Not many children went to school in Tudor times. Those that did go were mainly the sons of wealthy or working families who could afford to pay the attendance fee. Boys were allowed to go to school and began at the age of 4, they then moved to grammar school when they were just 7 years old. Girls were either kept at home by their parents to help with housework or sent out to work to bring money in for the family. They were not allowed to go to school. Boys were educated for work and the girls for marriage and running a household so when they got married they could look after the house for their husbands. The wealthiest families hired a teacher (also known as a tutor) to teach the boys at home. Many Tudor towns and villages had a parish school where the local vicar taught boys to read and write, because girls did not go to school they were not able to read or write. At school, pupils often had to speak in Latin. They were also taught Greek, religion and mathematics. The boys practiced writing in ink by copying the alphabet and the Lord's Prayer. There were few books, so pupils read from hornbooks instead. These wooden boards had the alphabet, prayers or other writings pinned to them and were covered with a thin layer of transparent cow's horn. There were two types of school in Tudor times:
It was usual for children to attend six days a week. The school day started at 7:00 am in winter and 6:00 am in summer and finished about 5:00 pm. Petty schools had shorter hours, mostly to allow poorer boys the opportunity to work as well. Schools were harsh and teachers were very strict, often beating their pupils with birches or other canes if they misbehaved. Teachers used to give 50 strokes of the birch. Pupils were sometimes too scared to go to school because of the beatings. Wealthier boys could often afford a special friend called a 'whipping boy'. When the rich child was naughty, it was the whipping boy who received the punishment. During the reign of Henry VIII, many schools attached to monasteries suffered, often being shut. This happened when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church after it refused to agree to him divorcing his first wife. Henry VIII needed well-educated men to work for him. Because of this, when the monasteries closed, Henry had to refound many monastic schools using his own money. This is why there are so many 'King's' schools all over Britain. During the reign of Edward VI many free grammar schools were set up to take in non-fee paying students. There were only two universities in Tudor England – Oxford and Cambridge. Some boys went to university at the age of about fourteen.
Watching plays became very popular during the Tudor period. This popularity was helped by the rise of great playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe as well as the building of the Globe theatre in London. By 1595, 15,000 people a week were watching plays in London. It was during Elizabeth's reign that the first real theatres were built in England. Before theatres were built, actors travelled from town to town and performed in the streets or outside inns. The rich enjoyed fencing and jousting contests. Most rich people also watched bear-baiting. Poor people, who could not afford these certain luxuries, played a kind of football where the posts were about a mile apart, during which they would jump on each other, often breaking their necks and backs. The football was made out of a pigs bladder blown up. They also enjoyed hunting. Rich Tudors enjoyed hawking.
The House of Tudor produced six monarchs who ruled during this period.
|Preceded by||Plantagenet era|
|Followed by||Stuart period
|World War I||(1914–1918)|
|World War II||(1939–1945)|
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