In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Elizabeth I, the Great, Queen of England

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Edited Collections
  • Biographies
  • Society
  • Legacy

Renaissance and Reformation Elizabeth I, the Great, Queen of England
Sarah Covington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0028


The historiographic house of Gloriana is an enormous edifice of many rooms and wings—even if its foundations have been relaid, and more “rooms” have been added on through the years. At the center, of course, stands the biography itself, of a continually fascinating and debated woman and queen; but extending outward, Elizabeth cannot be closed off from her policies, her gender, her religion and religious policies, or the significant institutions, councilors, and courtiers who surrounded her. Any bibliography must therefore take these ancillary aspects into account, in order to capture the many dimensions of a figure who defined her times and continues to provoke intense debate. The study of Elizabeth has also constituted one of the most interdisciplinary fields in recent years, with literary scholars, historians, and art historians adding their own perspectives in the exploration of texts, icons, and portraiture relating to her. In addition, religion during Elizabeth’s reign has been approached by different disciplines, most notably through the resurgence of interest in Catholicism and Catholic culture. Political culture, including parliament, the privy council, and the court, have continually been given reassessments, while the role of gender, once thought so important to Elizabeth’s persona and maintenance of power, has been questioned recently. Meanwhile, in her long period of rule, not one but two reigns have been identified, with the latter occurring from the 1590s to her death in 1603. Favorable or adverse, the verdicts on her, and her queenship, therefore continue, as even contemporaries such as Cecil could foresee. “I fear,” he wrote toward the end of her reign, that “her Highness shall be strangely and very variously chronicled.”

General Overviews

Excellent overviews of the Tudor period, and Elizabeth’s reign especially, continue to be published at a fairly regular interval, with Guy 1988 offering the most definitive political history, and Brigden 2000 redressing traditional Anglocentric approaches to include extensive material on Ireland. Bindoff 1982 and Rowse 2003 provide general and traditional narrative accounts, while Rex 2002 offers a more recent treatment in his concise survey. Palliser 1992 provides a larger contextual exploration, including Tudor economic policies, and Tittler and Jones 2004 the best recent coverage of key themes of the age.

  • Bindoff, Stanley Thomas. Tudor England. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1982.

    The classic but dated textbook of the Tudors, providing a well-written narrative account, with the last half devoted to Elizabeth, whose fame, Bindoff wrote, was due to “three things: her longevity, her long-preserved virginity, and her political genius.”

  • Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485–1603. New York: Viking, 2000.

    A well-presented narrative of the Tudor century, incorporating new approaches and particularly strong in its presentation of Ireland and the Atlantic world.

  • Guy, John. Tudor England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

    Perhaps the best analytical narrative and overview of Tudor England, incorporating original research and conclusions, particularly concerning Elizabeth’s financial policies. Above all a political history, the work concludes that the Tudor reigns, including Elizabeth’s, were mostly successful and certainly transformative of the English polity by the end of the century.

  • Palliser, D. M. The Age of Elizabeth: England under the Later Tudors, 1547–1603. 2d ed. London: Longman, 1992.

    A comprehensive account of Elizabeth’s reign intended for the general reader and Tudor scholar alike, with special emphasis on economic life and policy as well as demographic changes, trade, transport, and communications.

  • Rex, Richard. The Tudors. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2002.

    A short and readable survey of the Tudors utilizing the most recent scholarship. Elizabeth is presented as something of a cipher, careful to maintain her public image, often a reactor to events rather than an agent or decisive ruler; England itself, however, is markedly changed by the end of her reign, its monarchy strengthened despite (and even because of) the succession question, its Protestantism firmly embedded within its sense of nationhood.

  • Rowse, Alfred Leslie. The England of Elizabeth: The Structure of Society. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.

    An underappreciated text. Although not without its problems and datedness, it nevertheless offers a full narrative of Elizabeth’s reign. Useful for undergraduates.

  • Tittler, Robert, and Norman Jones, eds. A Companion to Tudor Britain. Blackwell Companions to British History. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

    Twenty-eight essays by leading scholars expert in their chosen areas. Covers all of the British Isles and utilizes the most recent historiographical approaches.

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