Amundsen, Karin Alana (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Master of Arts, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Paper 1154, May (2009)
This thesis examines the intersection of imperialism, humanism and gender to argue that the Elizabethan period enabled imperial humanists to develop an identity for England as an empire of liberation rather than conquest. A subset of the imperial faction at Court, imperial humanists sought to reconcile activist and pragmatist agendas by marrying civic humanism with chivalry. Imperial humanists deployed this humanist chivalry—with an emphasis on temperance, wisdom, and justice—to elaborate a national mythos of pious restraint that denied avarice and oppression were inherent to extending English dominion overseas and envisioned empire as a virtuous pursuit for gentlemen. With increasing unemployment, land scarcity, and social unrest, imperial humanists feared the beginnings of a cultural devolution into barbarism that would make their island nation subject to domination by Spain. The solution imperial humanists advocated was a curriculum of humanist education among the gentry, a commitment to state service through the vita activa, a civilizing mission, and new overseas outlets for commodities, excess population, and military outposts.