Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/58

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CHAPTER II

COUNTRY LIFE AND CHARACTER

THOUGH the population of England during the reign of Elizabeth was not increasing rapidly, it was undergoing a change of distribution. The number of inhabitants which, though not definitely known, was probably not far from 5,000,000, was slowly and steadily increasing; more rapid, however, was the change in ratio of country to city residents. The notable decrease in the population of many of the larger towns was at the time the occasion of much alarm. The uneasiness caused by this recognised but misconstrued condition of affairs, it is now easy to see, was unjustifiable. The change was due not to the decrease of the total number of inhabitants but to an exodus from town to country. It was a shift rather than a change of population. Nor is the cause far to seek. Roads, bad as they were, were gradually being improved, thus rendering intercommunication easier in some places, possible in others where before at certain seasons of the year it had been altogether impossible. Even more accountable for this change was the general safety of conditions due to the firm hand and settled policy of the

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