Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




When Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558, she was confronted with a changing economic situation. English industry, which had for centuries been localized in the towns under guild control, was maturing and becoming national in scope. In accordance with the prevailing economic precepts of the age, Elizabeth desired to bring industry under a system of national regulation. Such a system of regulation was, however, even for the strongest and most ingenious of the Tudor autocrats, a difficult and elusive goal. Plagued throughout her long reign by a shortage of funds, Elizabeth simply could not afford to involved the state in public enterprise on its own account. Another method of gaining a grip on industry had to be devised. For a sovereign who possessed ample power but inadequate financial resources, the most logical course of action was the establishment of a system of patents. By granting patents of monopoly the Queen could assure those with the capital to start a new industry exclusive privileges on a national scale, thus allowing her simultaneously to stimulate industrial development and retain control over it. After a slow start Elizabeth made with grants with such steadily increasing vigor that by the closing years of the reign her system of patents had become very widespread indeed. More important, any of Elizabeth's patent grants constituted a serious annoyance to the public at large. While many patents of monopoly were feasible or even commendable in theory, very few proved to be so in practice.