I. Theory of Absolutism



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CHAPTER 15 NOTES—Response to Crisis: State Building and the Search for Order in the 17th Century

I. Theory of Absolutism


  1. Meant that the sovereign power or ultimate authority in the state rested in the hands of a king who claimed to rule by divine right

  2. Jean Bodin (late 16th century political theorist)

    1. Believed that sovereign power consisted of the authority to make laws, tax, administer justice, control the state’s administrative system, and determine foreign policy

    2. These powers made a ruler sovereign

  3. Bishop Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704)

    1. French Theologian & court preacher

    2. Expressed his ideas in a book entitled Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture

      1. Was the fundamental statement of 17th Century divine right monarchy

      2. Argued that government was divinely ordained so that humans could live in an organized society

      3. God established kings and through them reigned over all peoples of the world

      4. Since kings received their power from God, their authority was absolute

      5. They were responsible to no one except God


II. Absolutism In Western Europe

  1. France and Absolute Monarchy

    1. France had come to play a dominant role in European affairs

    2. French culture, language, and manners influenced all levels of European society

    3. French diplomacy and political affairs shaped the political affairs of western & central Europe

    4. Foundations of French Absolutism

      1. The two poles of the 17th Century state building were absolute (ex: France) and limited (ex: England) monarchy

      2. One result of the 17th Century crises in Europe was a trend towards absolutism, as exemplified by Louis XIV of France

      3. Prior to the reign of Louis XIV, France witnessed a chaotic and turbulent political period

      4. As Louis XIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu was most successful in strengthening the central role of the monarchy in domestic and foreign policy

1. Chief threat to royal power during the time of Richelieu came from Huguenots

2. Transformed Huguenots into more reliable subjects by eliminating political & military rights

3. To reform and strengthen the central administration Richelieu sent out royal officers called intendants to the provinces to execute the orders of government (very successful)

4. Foreign policy also successful—Thirty Years’ War

5. The Reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715)

    1. The effective regent of France during the childhood of Louis XIV was Cardinal Mazarin

  1. crushed a series of noble-led uprisings called Frondes which were attempts to usurp the power of the monarchy

  2. after successfully putting uprisings down, people of France looked to the monarchy for stability

    1. At 23, Louis XIV began to run France on his own after Mazarin’s death

    2. Nobles of the robe were the service nobility consisting of lawyers, magistrates, state administrators

    3. Louis XIV’s first step in transforming the French state into an absolute monarchy was restructuring and centralizing governmental administration

    4. The “Sun King” was most successful in controlling the internal administration of his kingdom by employing royal patronage to “bribe” clients into executing his policies

    5. Appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert to be his controller of general finances

  1. Colbert’s policies were based on economic theory of mercantilism that stressed government regulation of economic affairs to benefit the state

  2. economic policies succeeded in helping to develop new luxury industries in France

    1. issued Edict of Fontainbleu which revoked the earlier Edict of Nantes, curtailing the rights of French Protestants and causing many of them to flee the country

    2. the Palace of Versailles was built by Louis, sparing no expense, was the envy of all European monarchs

    3. Activities at the court of Versailles included:

  1. gaming and gambling with enormous sums of money by resident nobles

  2. noble courtiers participating in humiliating ceremonies stage managed by Louis XIV

  3. an overwhelming concern with court etiquette and noble honors by rank

    1. Had nobility live at Versailles; the practical political purpose of this court was to exclude the high nobility and royal princes from real power

    2. The French royal court of Versailles was also an exquisitely decorated center of cultural activity, display, and entertainment, including plays, concerts, ballets, and readings advancing the skills and renown of French artists

    3. Fought wars in an attempt to insure the dominance of France and his Bourbon dynasty in European affairs; Louis’s involvement in the War of Spanish Succession ended with the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 that greatly benefited England an emerging French rival

    4. Wars and building of Versailles emptied France’s treasury

  1. The Decline of Spain

1. Philip III (1598-1621)

      1. greatest problem facing his monarchy was bankruptcy

      2. appointed greedy Duke of Lerma as first minister

      3. Duke of Lerma was primarily concerned with appointing his relatives to lucrative government offices rather than the interests of Spain

    1. Philip IV (1621-1665)

      1. along with his capable chief minister the Count of Olivares, the king made a series of reforms that met with little success because:

        1. nobility was too powerful in Spain to keep in line

        2. pursuit of unfulfilled imperial glory

        3. a series of internal revolts

      2. during the 1620s, 1630s, and 1640s, Spain’s involvement in the 30 Years’ War led to a series of frightfully expensive military campaigns that intensified the economic misery for Spain’s overtaxed populace

      3. defeats in Europe and internal revolts ended illusions of Spain as a superpower

    2. Charles II (1665-1700)

      1. thought of as a moribund half-wit by his peers

      2. died without an heir

      3. death brought about War of Spanish Succession

III.Absolutism in Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe


      1. The German States

  1. After 1648 (Peace of Westphalia), the Holy Roman Empire was not really an empire at all but rather a loose association of over 300 tiny German states

  2. The Rise of Brandenburg-Prussia

    1. consisted of three disconnected masses in western, central, and eastern Germany

    2. each had its own privileges, customs, and loyalties; only their ruler connected them

    3. Hohenzollern Dynasty in charge of area

    4. The first important Hohenzollern ruler and the one who laid the foundation for the Prussian state was Frederick William the Great Elector (1640-1688)

        1. built a competent standing army of over 40,000 troops which ate up over 50% of the state’s total revenues

        2. established General War Commissariat as the bureaucratic machine of his state, which was for sustaining the needs of the army as well as his power base.

        3. Commissariat soon evolved into an agency for civil government as well by collecting an excise tax in the towns and overseeing the foundation of new industrial and commercial enterprises.

        4. Nobles gave complete support of Frederick William’s policies in return for unlimited power over their peasants, exemption from taxation, high rank within the military

        5. followed trendy mercantilist policies using: high tariffs, subsidies, and monopolies for manufacturing

e. Frederick William III (1688-1713)

1. less rigid and militaristic than father

2. spent his time and money on building palaces and establishing universities

    1. The Emergence of Austria

      1. the Austrian Empire of the 17th Century had lost its German empire, but had gained one in eastern Europe

      2. the Austrian Empire consisted of: Lower and Upper Austria, Carinthia, Carnolia, Styria, Tyrol, parts of Hungary, and Bohemia (added during 30 YW)

      3. Leopold I (1658-1705)

        1. encouraged the eastward movement of the Austrian Empire

        2. sorely challenged by the revival of Turkish power in the 17th Century

        3. turned back Turks at the gates of Vienna with lots of assistance which prevented the city from being overran in 1683

        4. in 1699 (Treaty of Karlowitz), Austria took control of Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia, and Slovenia

      4. Austrian monarchy never became a highly centralized, absolutist state, primarily because it included so many different national groups

B. Italy: From Spanish to Austrian Rule


        1. By 1530, Emperor Charles V managed to defeat the French armies in Italy and become the arbiter of Italy

        2. Charles gave the Duchy of Milan to his son Philip II in 1540 and transferred all imperial rights over Italy to the Spanish monarchy

        3. During the reign of Philip II, Spanish presence was felt all over Italy

        4. At the beginning of the 18th Century, Italy suffered from the struggles between Spain and France

        5. War of Spanish Succession gave AUSTRIA control over the Italian states of Milan, Mantua, Sardinia, and Naples as Austria supplanted Spain as the dominant power in Italy

C. From Muscovy to Russia


  1. Since its beginnings in the Middle Ages, Russia had existed only on the fringes of European society

  2. A new Russian state had emerged in the 15th Century under the leadership of the principality of Muscovy and its grand dukes

  3. Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584)

          1. first ruler of Russia to take the title of czar (tsar)

          2. expanded the territories of Russia eastward (blocked from western expansion by powerful Swedish and Polish states)

          3. crushed the power of the Russian nobility (Boyars)

          4. his death brought about “The Time of Troubles” which was a period of anarchy in Russia brought about by the re-emergence of the Boyars

4. “Time of Troubles” ended when the Zemsky Sobor (national assembly) chose Michael Romanov (1613-1645) as the new czar

5. Michael Romanov’s reign began the Romanov Dynasty in Russia which lasted from 1613-1917

6. Peter the Great (1689-1725)

      1. most significant Romanov ruler of the 18th Century

      2. gained a first hand view of the west when he made a trip there in 1697-1698

      3. determined to westernize and modernize his “backwards” empire

      4. reorganized the army and created a navy

      5. reorganized the central government along western lines

      6. NEVER summoned the Zemsky Sobor into session

      7. created a senate to supervise the administrative machinery of the state while he was away on military campaigns

      8. divided Russia into eight and later 50 provinces

      9. hoped to foster a sense of civic duty, but his own forceful personality created an atmosphere of fear that prevented it

      10. demanded that all members of the landholding class serve in either military or civil offices

      11. adopted western mercantilistic policies to stimulate economic growth (80% revenues went to army and navy)

      12. attempted to reign in Russian Orthodox Church by doing away with the Patriarch and replacing him with a Holy Synod

      13. began to introduce western customs, practices, and manners into Russia

        1. ordered the publication of the 1st book of western-style etiquette

        2. men had to shave beards

        3. citizens weren’t allowed to wear long-skirted coats

        4. shaving of the beard was considered blasphemy by many of his more devout Russian Orthodox subjects

      14. Women benefited greatly from Peter’s cultural reforms

        1. demanded that women remove traditional veils that covered their faces

        2. decreed that social gatherings be held three times a week in the large houses of St. Petersburg where men and women could mingle

        3. insisted women could marry of their own free will

      15. his primary foreign policy goal for Russia was to “Open a Window to the West” which meant an ice-free port easily accessible to Europe

      16. Obtained “window to the west” by defeating the Swedes in the Great Northern War which gave Peter access to the Baltic Sea through his acquisition of Estonia, Livonia, Karelia

      17. Began construction of his western-style capital along the Baltic among marshes (St. Petersburg); completed during his lifetime

      18. His program of Europeanization can best be characterized as being predominantly technical and aimed at modernizing the military
        1. The Growth of the Monarchy in Scandinavia


    1. Baltic Sea region became a vital region due to trade between eastern and western Europe

    2. Under Christian IV (1588-1648), Denmark seemed a likely candidate for expansion.

    3. 30 Years’ War fiasco ended that hope

    4. Sweden experienced a severe political crisis after the death of Gustavus Adolphus

    5. Sweden’s Charles X (1654-1660) reestablished domestic order, but it was Charles XI (1660-1697) who built the monarchy back into an absolute model

    6. Charles XII (1697-1718) allowed Sweden to slide to become a 2nd rate power after suffering a defeat at the hands of the Russians in the Great Northern War
        1. The Ottoman Empire


    7. After their conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Turks tried to complete their conquest of the Balkans.

    8. The reign of Suleiman I the Magnificent (1520-1566) brought the Turks back into Europe’s attention by capturing Hungary by 1526

    9. Although Europeans frequently spoke of new Christian crusades against the Turks, the Ottoman Empire was being treated like another European power by European rulers seeking alliances and trade concessions in the 17th Century

    10. Considered a ‘sleeping giant’, the Ottoman’s well-organized military added to its strength
        1. Limits of Absolutism


    11. centralization was important element in the growth of the 17th Century state

    12. governments also intervened in economic affairs to strengthen their war-making capacities

    13. government for most people still meant local institutions that affected their lives: local courts, local tax collectors, and local organizers of armed forces

IV.Limited Monarchy and Republics


      1. The Weakness of the Polish Monarchy

        1. Poland played a major role in Eastern Europe in the 15th Century and had ruled over Lithuania and much of Ukraine by the end of the 16th Century

        2. It was the elective nature of the Polish monarchy that reduced its importance

        3. The political institution known as the Sejm made 17th Century Poland an impotent, decentralized state

        4. The nobility of Poland made sure that local interests superceded national interests

B. The “Golden Age” of the Dutch Republic

            1. This Golden Age in the 17th Century witnessed:

      1. William became the first in a line of hereditary monarchs

      2. The economic prosperity of the United Provinces ruined by a series of wars late in the century

      3. The weakening of the States General

            1. The Dutch stadholder was a provincial official responsible for maintaining order

            2. Despite Amsterdam’s enormous financial success in the 17th century it had huge social differences and was a very class-conscious society

C. England and the Emergence of Constitutional Monarchy

        1. Revolution and Civil War

    1. With the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the Tudor dynasty became extinct

    2. The Stuart line of the rulers took to the throne with the accession to the throne of Elizabeth’s cousin, James VI of Scotland

    3. James VI of Scotland became James I (1603-1625) of England

  1. he espoused the divine right to rule (alienated Parliament)

  2. he also alienated some members of Parliament with his religious policies

2. Charles I (1625-1649)

    1. Son of James I

    2. Parliament passed a Petition of Right (1628) that stated that the king was supposed to accept the prohibition of:

  1. taxes without Parliament’s consent

  2. Arbitrary imprisonment

  3. Quartering soldiers in private houses

  4. declaration of martial law in peacetime

    1. Although he originally accepted the Petition, he eventually reneged on the agreement due to limitations on royal power

    2. In 1629, Charles decided that since he could not work with Parliament, he would not summon it to meet

    3. From 1629-1640, Charles had to figure out ways to generate revenues without Parliament (ex: Ship Money)

    4. Charles’ religious problems

  1. Married Catholic sister of Louis XIII (Henrietta Maria)

  2. Along with William Laud (AB of C) attempted to introduce more ritual into Anglican services (Made Puritans suspicious)

  3. attempted to impose Anglican Book of Common Prayer upon the Scottish Presbyterian Church (caused Scots to rise in rebellion)

    1. Charles was forced to summon Parliament in 1640 because the government was financially strapped and unable to raise troops to defend against the Scots

    2. In its first session from November 1640 to September 1641, the Long Parliament ( 1640-1660) took a series of steps that placed severe limitations upon royal authority

  1. Abolished arbitrary courts

  2. Abolished taxes king had collected without Parliament’s consent

  3. Passed Triennial Act which stated Parliament must meet at least once every three years with or without King’s consent

    1. By the end of 1641, one group within Parliament was prepared to go no further, but a group of more radical parliamentarians led by John Pym pushed for more change

    2. King tried to take advantage of the split, and had some of the more radical parliamentarians arrested (brought about all out rebellion)

  1. English Civil War (1642)

a. Phase One

    1. Parliamentarians were successful in this phase of the English Civil War because of the effectiveness of the Oliver Cromwell led New Model Army

    2. New Model Army was composed primarily of the more extreme Puritans known as independents

    3. Cromwell army was well disciplined and trained in the new continental military tactics

    4. Phase ended with the capture of Charles I in 1646

b. Phase Two

  1. Charles fled to Scotland in search of help

  2. Charles was captured by Cromwell’s forces in 1648

  3. Presbyterians (sympathetic to Charles) were kicked out of Parliament. (Remainder known as the Rump Parliament)

  4. Charles I was convicted by Cromwell’s agents of treason and beheaded in 1649.

4. English Commonwealth (1649-1653)

    1. Rump Parliament abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords and declared England a republic

    2. As commander-in-chief of military, Cromwell had to put down numerous rebellions

    3. Eventually Parliament was disbanded by unhappy Cromwell

5. Lord Protectorate(1653-1658)

a. Instrument of Government (England’s 1st and last Constitution)

  1. Lord Protector held executive power (Cromwell)

  2. legislative power held by Parliament

      1. didn’t work well

      2. Cromwell disbanded Parliament again & divided England into military districts (Major Generals ran districts)

      3. Cromwell died in 1658, and the military government floundered for 18 months before restoring the Stuarts back to power with the restoration of Charles II

6. Restoration & Glorious Revolution

a. Charles II (1660-1685)

  1. Son of Charles I who continued the divisive ways of his father to a lesser degree

  2. power of the monarchy was greatly curtailed

  3. passed laws that made Catholics and Puritans conform to newly reinvigorated Anglican Church

  4. Test Act (1673) stated that only Anglicans could hold military and civil offices

  5. Exclusion Bill was debated but not passed that would have barred a Catholic from being King of England

b. James II (1685-1688)

  1. devout Catholic King of England who appointed Catholics to high ranking government positions

  2. issued Declaration of Indulgence which suspended the law barring Catholics and dissenters from office

  3. forced him from power in favor of Protestant daughter Mary & her husband William of Orange when James II’s 2nd wife gave birth to a Catholic son

  4. caused Glorious Revolution (almost bloodless) which brought William and Mary to power

c. William and Mary

  1. given the throne in return for accepting the English Bill of Rights (1689)

  2. English Bill of Rights (foundation for constitutional monarchy in England)

    1. Parliament had the right to make laws and levy taxes

    2. Standing armies could only be raised with Parliament’s approval

    3. Elections and debate had to be free for Parliament

    4. Gave citizens the right to petition, keep arms, have a trial by jury, and free from excessive bail

  3. Parliament now was the true power of the government in England

7. Response to Revolution

a. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

  1. Wrote Leviathon (1651)

  2. believe in state’s absolute authority over its subjects

  3. believed that mankind was animalistic and needed a strong gov’t to maintain social order.

b. John Locke (1632-1704)

1.Wrote Two Treaties of Government

2. Emphasized the natural contract between the people and government. ---------------------------1&2

V. Economic trends: Mercantilism & European Colonies in the 17th Century

A. 17th Century European population fluctuated narrowly constrained by famines and disease

B. Mercantilism which dominated 17th Century European society focused on the role of the state in conductivity economic affairs such as colonization

C. Overseas Trade & Colonies

  1. Spain & Portugal still dominated

  2. English & Dutch made in roads.

VI. The World of 17th century culture


A. French Classicism & Dutch Realism

  1. French classicism superceded Baroque Art (EX: Nicholas Poussin)

  2. Best Example of Dutch Realism was Rembrandt van Rijn who was noted for being the great Protestant painter of the 17th century (EX: Syndics of the Cloth Guild)

B. Triumph of French Neoclassicism


---followed rules of Aristotelain dramatic composition, observing the 3 unities of time, place, and action





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