Carole Levin, Author . Palgrave $39.95 (146p) ISBN 978-0-333-65865-9

Queen Elizabeth I is among the most written about women in history. Her long reign (1558–1603) was marked by enormous economic growth, the beginnings of a global empire and unprecedented cultural achievement. The "age of Elizabeth" was also the age of William Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh and Philip Sidney. Levin, professor of history at the University of Nebraska, has penned a brief, well-written overview of Elizabeth's political, religious and cultural significance. Levin is especially skilled at examining the links between religion and foreign policy. From her father, Henry VIII, Elizabeth inherited an Anglican religious establishment that was governed by the monarch. Elizabeth's genius was in creating an intricate balance between those who advocated a return to Catholicism and those Protestant radicals who favored a more Calvinist establishment (i.e., Puritans). Elizabeth's "latitudinarian" religious policy pleased neither Catholics nor Puritans, but it allowed her to keep the peace. Elizabeth's foreign policy was also dominated by religion. England's archenemies were Catholic Spain and France. Her allies were the Protestant Dutch, who were at war with the occupying Spanish. Unmarried, Elizabeth brilliantly used marriage negotiations to maintain the European balance of power. Spain constantly plotted Elizabeth's assassination, hoping to replace her with her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth had Mary executed in 1587. In 1588, the Spanish Armada was roundly defeated as it tried to attack England: it was the watershed moment in Elizabeth's reign. Levin's concise account seems aimed at the general reader, but it's overpriced for that market. Serious historians will want to consult more comprehensive scholarship, such as John Neale's magnificent Queen Elizabeth I. (Feb. 4)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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