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AS History Essay on Patronage and corruption in Elizabethan government

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Introduction

AS History - Essay on Patronage and corruption in Elizabethan government Question: Use Sources B, C and your own knowledge. Do you agree with the view that the Elizabethan system of government was both corrupt and inefficient? (40 marks) The English government in the 16th century lead and promoted by Queen Elizabeth operated with a system of political patronage and grants of monopoly. These methods were used to organize the governing class as the Queen lacked a civil service, local officials and an army which would allow her to enforce her will; thus Elizabeth had to reward the governing class for her to secure the throne. However, it can be argued that the system was both corrupted and inefficient; many believe Elizabeth's regime was marked with cheating, bribery and unjust practices and that it did not operate effectively. On the other hand, it was argued that the system was indeed one of high quality by standards of the historical age; especially when compared to other Western European countries at the time. We also shouldn't judge the operation of Elizabethan's government by our modern standards. Source B is a letter dated back in 1595 from the Dean of Durham to Lord Burghley thanking him for his promotion to bishopric. ...read more.

Middle

The fact that there were "black markets" where "political influence was brought and sold" shows corruptions was present. This is because the inefficient system allowed power to be distributed to the hands of the rich and therefore was not equal. I can further back this point by bringing in my knowledge on the power of politicians at the time. Politicians then had the right to prosecute those who had infringed some act of parliament and they could keep a portion of the fine. Politicians might prosecute simply for the money and that the justice system could be brought off by the wealthy; showing elements of "legalized robbery" as historian Randell suggests. Furthermore, the courts language was in Norman Court French making law inaccessible and obscure to the general public proving that the justice system was inefficient and unfair that the majority couldn't read the law. This lead to corruption as only the rich and the elite could understand it. Lastly, the writer of Source C states the "poverty of the Crown" lead to "unwise concessions" such as "grants of monopoly". Elizabeth was inefficient as she only looked at short term benefits whilst ignoring the long term consequences. ...read more.

Conclusion

Firstly, we must understand that 16th century Britain has a very different political structure as to the one we currently have. There were no democratic features such as elections, political parties or the media. This meant that the nature of politics was inevitable to that of favorism - you had to get on someone's good side if you wanted to excel and advance. Indeed, this would now be what we call corruption, however, back in the time it accepted as standard practices and was part of the social norm. Secondly, the prerogative powers of the Queen provided the system with both fairness and efficiency. Indeed, we will call Elizabeth's position as a dictator nowadays but back in the time, a solid leader who held the powers to make the final calls to the most important issues was very much needed. Thirdly, the successes of the period cannot be ignored. Elizabeth's regime did have its glorious days such as defeating the Spanish Armada. But most importantly it was the long term stability which citizens enjoyed under Elizabeth's government. In contrast to other Western European countries at the time, Britain had excellent social, political and religious stability which is a testimony of the success of a fair, just and efficient system of government. ...read more.

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