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Edexcel GCSE History: Early Elizabethan England 1558–88 Glossary

The key vocabulary you need to learn for your Edexcel GCSE History: Early Elizabethan England 1558–88 History paper. Find all the terms and definitions you need to understand, from ‘abdicate’ to ‘yeomanry’.

A – B (Abdicate to Book of Common Prayer)
A monarch abdicates when they give up the throne of a country.

The term accession refers to when a monarch acquires their throne.

The term Act refers to an Act of Parliament, which is a document that creates a new law, or a legal change, or ruling on an existing law.

An almshouse was a house, established through charity, that offered accommodation to the poor.

To be anointed is to show that someone is chosen by God, by the ceremonial anointing (rubbing with oil or holy water) of the person who, for example, is taking on the holy role of king.

To appease people is to keep them happy or satisfied by conceding to some of their demands or doing something that they desire.

An apprentice is a person who learns a trade from a skilled employer; apprentices often worked for free, or for very low wages, for a fixed period of time.

An astrolabe was a type of early scientific instrument used to calculate the position of the sun and stars, helping to determine a ship’s location or to work out the time.

A fire on high ground that was used as a warning; it allowed messages to be sent much more quickly than could be achieved by horse and rider.

The term betrothed means to be engaged to be married.

Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer was made the official prayer book of England by the Act of Uniformity in 1559; the book was printed in English and had to be used in all church services.

C - D (Cardinal to deserving poor)
A cardinal is a senior rank in the Catholic Church, just below the Pope in importance.

The term Catholic describes a Christian who belongs to the Catholic Church, which is led by the Pope in Rome.

cipher key
A cipher key is an instruction or key for understanding a secret code.

The term circumnavigation refers to the action of sailing all the way around the world.

The term clergy refers to the group of people, such as priests, bishops, and archbishops, who follow holy orders to carry out their religious duties.

A colonist is a person from elsewhere who settles or lives in a colony, which is a country or area that has been brought under the full or partial control of another country.

The term commerce refers to the overall system of trade.

A conference is a formal meeting.

The term Counter-Reformation refers to attempts to re-establish the Catholic faith after the Protestant Reformation.

dame school
A dame school was a small private primary school for lower-class children that might have been set up by an older woman in her own home. In dame schools, there was a focus on learning Bible teachings, as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

deserving poor
The deserving poor was a term used in the past to describe people who were poor through no fault of their own; this included the elderly, injured, or disabled.

E – G (Enclosure to guild)
The term enclosure refers to a change in farming in which land was separated off for keeping sheep at the expense of making land available for everyone.

The term esquire is a title given to a member of the gentry, added at the end of their name.

The term excommunicated refers to when a person has been officially excluded from being part of the Church.

feast day
A feast day is an annual day of holy celebration in which people might dance, sing, and have a day off work.

A fireship was a burning ship that the commander sent into an enemy fleet to cause chaos and disruption.

A fleet is a group of ships sailing together and engaged in the same activity; a fleet of ships is under the control of the same commander.

A forgery is something that has been forged (made to look genuine but is not), such as a fake letter or banknote, or illegal copies of a document.

The gentry are the middle group in Elizabethan society, below the nobility and above the peasants; members of the gentry were wealthy and often held positions of power, such as Justice of the Peace.

grammar school
From the age of seven, boys went to grammar school, where entry was based on wealth, not ability. The curriculum focused on Latin, English, and Religion. Younger boys were taught by older pupils until ‘masters’ took over when boys reached the age of ten.

The term groundling refers to a lower-class person who paid a penny to stand in the theatre pit, which was directly in front of the stage, to watch performances.

A guild was an association of merchants or craftsmen, such as carpenters, shoe-makers, and cabinet-makers; each guild focused on a different craft or trade.

H – L (Hawking to Lord Lieutenant)
The term hawking refers to hunting with a trained hawk.

house of correction
A house of correction was a prison where persistent beggars would be sent, especially if they refused work when it was offered to them by a local authority.

The term indigenous describes the original or native people of a land.

The term inflation refers to when prices of goods rise more quickly than wages.

Inns of Court
After attending university, some young men went on to study at the ‘Inns of Court’. This was an option for those hoping to become lawyers, or for those who wanted to experience fashionable London life.

A Jesuit is a member of the Jesuit order of Catholic priests created in France in 1540; the Jesuits aimed to return Europe to Catholicism after the Reformation.

Justice of the Peace
A Justice of the Peace (JP) was the person responsible for ensuring law and order was kept in a county.

The term legitimacy refers to how far a king or queen is able to prove that they have the right to rule.

Lord Lieutenant
A Lord Lieutenant was a wealthy nobleman appointed by the queen that acted as a link between a county and the monarch and Privy Council; Lord Lieutenants were responsible for raising taxes, settling disputes and providing soldiers when required by the monarch.

M – N (Magnetic compass to nobility)
magnetic compass
Since it always pointed north, the magnetic compass helped navigation.

mapping technique
In the fourteenth century, improvements to how people drew maps (mapping techniques) spread from Italy, across Europe and into England. Flemish map-maker Gerardus Mercator created a map in 1569 that helped explorers use latitude and longitude more accurately.

A martyr is someone who suffers or is killed because of their religious beliefs.

At grammar schools, a master taught the older pupils after they reached the age of ten.

A missionary is a religious person who travels to other countries to spread their faith.

Navigation is the process of working out how to direct a ship or other method of transport from one place to another.

New World
New World was the name given by Europeans to describe North America.

The nobility was the group of society that came highest after the monarch; they owned most of the land and were given special rights and privileges.

P (Papal bull to plunder)
papal bull
A papal bull is an official message from the Pope.

Parliament is the country’s law-making body.

A patent is an official licence giving rights or permission to someone to do something.

The term patronage refers to the power to appoint someone to an important role or to give them a monopoly (total control) over something. Elizabeth used patronage to ensure loyalty from nobles.

A pauper was a person without a job who was forced to rely on charity.

A peasant was a member of the lowest social group in Elizabethan society, and the poorest; most peasants were farm labourers.

petty school
A lower-class young boy might attend a petty school for a few years before starting work. At petty schools, there was a focus on learning Bible teachings, as well as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The term piracy refers to the attacking of ships at sea to steal their cargo; unlike privateers, pirates did not have royal permission to do this.

To plunder is to steal goods by force, theft, or fraud from someone or someplace, typically during wartime or civil disorder.

P (Pope to puritan)
The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church.

printing press
A printing press is a machine used for printing text or pictures onto paper, enabling the production of books far quicker and cheaper than by hand.

private tutor
A girl might be taught at home by a private tutor, who was hired by parents to teach. Girls learned Latin and French, as well as dancing and music.

The term privateering refers to being given permission by a monarch to attack foreign ships to steal their cargo and share the stolen goods with the crown.

Privy Council
The Privy Council was formed by the most powerful men in the country, appointed by Elizabeth to advise her on important matters. Members of the Privy Council were chosen from the nobility, gentry, and the Church, and included the most powerful landowners. Along with Elizabeth, they could be described as ‘the government’.

Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was the sixteenth-century religious movement that saw the Church in Europe break into Catholicism and Protestantism; the English Reformation refers to Henry VIII’s break from the Catholic Church.

The term Protestantism refers to the belief in the faith, practice, and order provided by Protestant Churches, which split from the Catholic Church in Europe in the sixteenth century. Protestants, or people who believe in Protestantism, were named after Martin Luther and others who ‘protested’ against the problems they identified within the Catholic Church.

A Puritan was a member of a radical group of Protestants who thought that the Protestant Reformation was not happening quickly enough. Puritans were extreme Protestants who believed that religious worship should be a solemn activity. They wanted to ‘purify’ the Church of any remaining Catholic influences to ensure people lived a simpler and more holy life.

R - T (Rack renting to troupe)
rack renting
The term rack renting refers to the process of enforcing quick and unreasonable rises in rent.

The term Renaissance refers to the ‘rebirth’, or revival, of European art, literature, and culture during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when artists and writers rediscovered ideas from the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations.

A sacrament is a Christian religious ceremony or ritual believed to have been ordered by Christ – according to the Catholic Church, there are seven sacraments; the Protestant Church only believes in two sacraments: baptism and communion.

Secretary of State
The Secretary of State was the most senior member of the Privy Council, which he led.

The term settlement refers to a place where people have settled to live and sometimes work.

A sonnet, or ‘little song’, is a poem formed of 14 lines with a fixed rhyming style; sonnets were popular during the Tudor period.

A spymaster is a person who controls a network of spies; this term is often used to describe Francis Walsingham, who controlled the huge network of Elizabeth’s spies across England.

The term treason refers to the crime of betraying your country, perhaps by trying to kill or overthrow the king or queen.

A troupe was a group of entertainers that travelled to different venues to perform; with financial support, some troupes became acting companies.

U - Y (Undeserving poor to yeomanry)
undeserving poor
The term undeserving poor was used in the past to describe people who were believed to have been poor because of their own laziness; the undeserving poor were also called the ‘idle poor’.

A university is a high-level educational institution in which students study for degrees and academic research is done. In Elizabethan England, Oxford and Cambridge universities already existed; boys but not girls could study at university from the age of 14.

A vagabond was a homeless unemployed person who roamed from place to place; being a vagabond was a crime in Elizabethan times. The term vagabond was used to refer to an untrustworthy beggar accused of using tricks and scams to gain money.

The term yeomanry refers to a group of middle-class peasants, or yeomen, who held a small portion of land. The term was also used to describe a specific rank of servants in the royal household.