Investigating the Elizabethans (Online)

Course summary

Investigating the Elizabethans (Online)


The Elizabethan world witnessed some of the most momentous and memorable events in English history. This course will focus on the experiences and reactions of individuals to these changes, events and issues, as well as exploring the ways in which people lived, worked and survived this era of rapid change.

Elizabethan England was an exciting and turbulent place in which to live. International exploration and the growth of a global economy combined with the emergence of new ideas about religion and the way that society worked to create a vibrant cultural life. The legacy of Elizabethan society persists today, in the works of William Shakespeare and a continuing fascination with the lives of Elizabeth I and her subjects. Elizabeth’s Protestant religious settlement established the basis of the Church of England that survives today but called into question her subjects’ beliefs and ways of making sense of the world around them. It also brought England into conflict with Catholic powers, with a constant threat of invasion and warfare. This course will look at a range of aspects of life in Elizabethan society, from everyday life in the counties to life in towns and the great city of London. Students will be invited to explore a range of contemporary source materials, from private correspondence and printed materials to portraits and woodcut images. We will also pay attention to what material culture can tell us, considering architecture and gardens as well as textiles and the surviving materials of domestic life.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

  1. Elizabethan Society
  2. Family, Community and Identity
  3. Religion
  4. The Economy
  5. Parish and County
  6. London and the Towns
  7. Education, Knowledge, Skills
  8. Buildings, Homes and Gardens
  9. Popular Culture
  10. Exploration and Discovery

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following text:

  • Doran, S. and Jones, N. (eds.), The Elizabethan World (2013) Routledge/Taylor & Francis, paperback version


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below:

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.


Home/EU Fee: £255.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Janet Dickinson


Dr Janet Dickinson specializes in the history of early modern England and Europe, with particular interests in cultural and political history. Her first book, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex was published in 2011. Current projects include work on the Elizabethan nobility and the last years of Elizabeth I’s life as well as court history in general. She has held lectureships at a number of English universities and currently works for New York University in London and the Open University as well as serving as Conferences and Events Secretary for The Society for Court Studies. She teaches a number of programmes for OUDCE and in both 2014 and 2016 was named ‘most acclaimed lecturer’ at Oxford University Students’ Union Annual Teaching Awards.

Course aims

To explore life in Elizabethan England, as experienced by people across the social scale. It will focus on the experiences and reactions of Elizabeth’s subjects to the rapid changes of the period and its key events and issues, as well as exploring the ways in which people lived, worked and survived. We will look at a range of aspects of life in Elizabethan England at all social levels, from the everyday lives of ordinary people to the beliefs and experiences of those who sought to lead and to govern society. Students will have the opportunity to explore a range of contemporary source materials, from letters and books to images and portraiture. We will also pay attention to the material culture of Elizabethan England, looking at architecture and gardens as well as textiles and the surviving materials of domestic life.


Course objectives: This course will enable participants to

  • explore how people lived in and made sense of the Elizabethan world

  • understand how people came to terms with the rapid changes and events that took place in this period

  • critically engage with recent scholarship on the subjects covered and to carry out their own assessment of a range of primary source materials

Teaching methods

Guided reading of texts and internet resources.
Research topics with student feedback.
Different discussion formats eg very structured or informal.
Set questions on primary materials as part of ongoing assessment

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • the ability to analyse and evaluate a range of different primary source materials and to use this to build their own analyses of the subjects covered during the course

  • the ability to critically appraise and engage with the relevant scholarly literature

  • to communicate their own assessments of the subjects covered via engagement with other students in the course discussion forums and at greater length in the two written assignments

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • the ways in which individuals and groups across society patterned and conceptualised their lives and the world around them

  • the impact of religious, economic and social change on peoples’ lives

  • how historians use primary sources to build their interpretations of the past

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.