Portrait Of Britain: 1600

John Miller describes the state of the British kingdoms as James Stewart waits to become monarch of the entire archipelago.

In many respects Britain in 1600 was much as it had been for centuries. Much of the country was covered with forest and heathland, moor and bog. Where the land had been cleared, much was unsuitable for arable farming and was grazed by cattle and sheep. Since 1500 the population had risen substantially. There were still outbreaks of plague, but they tended to be confined to towns and the biggest killer of the century was the influenza epidemic of 1556-58. As a consequence of population growth, much land which had fallen out of cultivation after the Black Death was reclaimed and more forest and scrub were cleared for grazing; in parts of  south-east England wood became scarce and there were complaints of shortages of timber for naval use.

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