Absolutism in Western Europe: c. 1589-1715

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Absolutism in Western Europe: c. 1589-1715

I. ___________________:

A. Derived from the traditional assumption of power (e.g.

heirs to the throne) and the belief in “divine right of


  • ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

B. Characteristics of western European absolutism

1. _________________________________________________

2. Absolute monarchs were not subordinate to national


3. The nobility was effectively brought under control

a. ________________________________________________


b. The nobility could still at times prevent absolute

monarchs from completely having their way

4. _________________ in the 17th century were often

composed of career officials appointed by and solely

accountable to the king

  • Often were rising members of the bourgeoisie or

the new nobility (“nobility of the robe” who

purchased their titles from the monarchy)



6. Maintained large standing armies

  • ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7. Employed a secret police to weaken political


8. Foreshadowed totalitarianism in 20th century but

lacked financial, technological and military resources

of 20th century dictators (like Stalin & Hitler).

  1. ___________________________________________________


  • This is in stark contrast to totalitarian

programs such as collectivization in Russia and

the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany.

b. Those who did not overtly oppose the state were

usually left alone by the government

C. Philosophy of absolutism

1. _________________ (1530-96)



b. Wrote during the chaos of the French Civil Wars of

the late 16th century

c. Believed that only absolutism could provide order

and force people to obey the government

2. ______________ (1588-1679): Leviathan (1651)

a. Pessimistic view of human beings in a state of


  • “Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short


  • ___________________

  • ___________________________________

b. His ideas became most closely identified with

Voltaire in the 18th century: “Enlightened


c. Hobbes ideas were not very popular in the 17th


  • Hobbes did not favor “________________” of kings, as

was favored by ___________________ in France and ___________________ and Charles I in England

  • Those with constitutional ideas saw Hobbes’

ideas as too authoritarian

3. Bishop Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704)

a. _____________________________________________________


b. Believed “_______________” meant that the king was

placed on throne by God, and therefore owed his

authority to no man or group

II. The development of French Absolutism (c. 1589-1648)

A. France in the 17th century

1. In the feudal tradition, French society was divided

into three Estates made up of various classes.

a. __________________: clergy; 1% of population

b. ____________________: nobility; 3-4% of population

c. __________________: bourgeoisie (middle class),

artisans, urban workers, and peasants.

2. _____________________________________________________


3. France was primarily agrarian: 90% of population

lived in the countryside.

4. Population of 17 million made France the largest

country in Europe (20% of Europe’s population).

  • _____________________________________________


B. ___________________________________ (r.1589-1610)

1. Laid the foundation for France becoming the

strongest European power in the 17th century.

a. _________________________________________________


b. First king to actively encourage French colonization

in the New World: stimulated the Atlantic trade

2. First king of the _________________

a. Came to power in 1589 as part of a political


b. Converted from Calvinism to Catholicism in order

to gain recognition from Paris of his reign.

c. Issued _____________________ in 1598 providing a degree

of religious toleration to the Huguenots (__________________)

3. Weakening of the nobility

a. The old “nobility of the sword” not allowed to

influence the royal council

b. _____________________________________________


4. ______________________________(1560-1641): Finance minister

a. His reforms enhanced the power of the monarchy

b. ______________________: increased role of the state in the

economy in order to achieve a favorable balance

of trade with other countries

  • ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  • Encouraged manufacturing of silk and


  • Only the government could operate the mines

c. Reduced royal debt

  • _____________________________________________

  • · In contrast, Spain was drowning in debt

d. Reformed the tax system to make it more

equitable and efficient.

e. Oversaw improved transportation

  • ___________________________________

  • __________________________________

  • Began canal to link the Mediterranean Sea to

the Atlantic Ocean

5. Henry was assassinated in 1610 by a ____________________

who sought revenge for Henry’s granting religious

protections for the Huguenots.

a. Led to a severe crisis in power

b. _____________________________________


C. __________________________ (1610-43)

1. As a youth, his regency was beset by corruption &


a. Feudal nobles and princes increased their power

b. Certain nobles convinced him to assume power

and ___________________________

2. ______________________________ (1585-1642)

a. Laid foundation for absolutism in France

  • Like Henry IV, he was a politique (________________


b. Intendant System

  • _______________________________________

  • Replaced local officials with civil servants—

intendants—who reported directly to the king

  • · Intendants were largely middle-class or minor

nobles (“nobility of the robe”)

  • Each of the country’s 32 districts had an

intendant responsible for justice, police and


  • Gov’t became more efficient and centrally


c. ________________________________________________


d. ______________________________________________

e. Tax policies were not as successfully as Sully’s

  • Resorted to old system of selling offices

  • Tax farmers ruthlessly exploited the peasantry

f. Richelieu subdued the Huguenots

  • ________________________ (1629): Huguenots lost their fortified cities & Protestant armies

  • _______________________________________

  • Huguenots still allowed to practice Calvinism

3. Thirty Years’ War

a. Richelieu and Louis XIII sought to weaken the

Hapsburg Empire (a traditional French policy

dating back to Francis I in the early 16th century)

  • _______________________________________


  • Declared war against Spain in 1635

b. France supported Gustavus Adolphus with money

during the “Swedish Phase” of the war

  1. _____________________________________________


IV. _______________________________________________________

A. Quintessential absolute ruler in European history

1.Personified the idea that sovereignty of the state

resides in the ruler

a. “L’ état, c’est moi” (“___________________”)

b. He became known as the “________________” since he was at the center of French power (just as the sun

is the center of our solar system).

2. Strong believer in “divine right” of kings

(advocated by Bishop Bossuet)

3. He had the longest reign in European history (72


  • _______________________________________

____________________________________ was his


4. France became the undisputed major power in

Europe during his reign

a. French population was the largest in Europe (17

million); accounted for 20% of Europe’s


  • __________________________________________________________________________________

b. French culture dominated Europe

  • The French language became the international

language in Europe for over two centuries and

the language of the well-educated (as Latin

had been during the Middle Ages)

  • __________________________________________________________________________________


B. The Fronde (mid-late 1640s)

1. Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) controlled France

while Louis XIV was a child

2. ___________________________________________


3. Competition among various noble factions enabled

Mazarin to defeat the nobles.

4. ______________________________________________


C. Government organization

1. ______________________his chief ministers from the middle class in order to keep the aristocracy out of


2. Continued the intendant system begun by _______________

3. Checked the power of French institutions that might

resist his control

a. _____________________________________


b. Officials who criticized the government could be


c. Louis never called the __________________________

4. Control over the peasantry (which accounted for

about 95% of the population)

a. ______________________ kept as little as 20% of their cash crops after paying their landlord, government

taxes and tithes to the Church

b. ____________: forced labor that required peasants to

work for a month out of the year on roads and

other public projects

c. Idle peasants could be conscripted into the army

or forced into workhouses

d. _____________________________________


D. Versailles Palace

1. Under Louis XIV, the Palace at Versailles became the

grandest and most impressive palace in all of Europe

  1. __________________________________________


b. The palace had originally been a hunting lodge for

his father, Louis XIII.

c. The Baroque architecture was largely work of

Marquis Louvois; the gardens were designed by

d. _________________________________________________


e. The royal court grew from about 600 people

(when the king had lived in Paris) to about 10,000

people at Versailles

f. The cost of maintaining Versailles cost about _______


2. Versailles Palace became in effect a pleasure prison

for the French nobility

a. ________________________________________________

b. Fearful of noble intrigue, Louis required nobles to

live at the palace for several months each year in

order to keep an eye on them

c. ________________________________________


  • Elaborate theatrical performances included the

works of Racine and Moliere

E. Religious Policies

1. Louis considered himself the head of the Gallican

Church (French Catholic Church)

  • While he was very religious, ________________

__________________________ political power in the French Church

2. Edict of Fountainbleau (1685)—revoked Edict of


a. _________________________________________________

b. About 200,000 Huguenots fled France for England,

Holland and the English colonies in North America

3. Louis supported the Jesuits in cracking down on

Jansenists (Catholics who held some Calvinist ideas)

F. Mercantilism

1. ________________________________________________


  • _____________: a nation’s policy of accumulating as much precious metal (gold and silver) as possible while preventing its outward flow to other


2. French mercantilism reached its height under Louis’

finance minister, __________________________ (1661-


3. Colbert’s goal was economic self-sufficiency for


a. _________________________________________________


b. Granted gov’t-supported monopolies in certain


c. ___________________________

d. Reduced local tolls (internal tariffs) that inhibited


e. Organized French trading companies for

international trade (East India Co., West India co.

4. By 1683, ________________ was Europe’s leading industrial


a. Excelled in such industries as textiles, mirrors,

lace-making and foundries for steel manufacturing

and firearms.

  1. __________________________________________


5. Weaknesses of mercantilism and the French economy

a. _________________________________________________


b. Louis opted for creating a massive army instead of

a formidable navy

  • Result: France later lost naval wars with


c. War in later years of Louis’ reign nullified Colbert’s


  • _______________________________________________________

V. Wars of Louis XIV

A. Overview

1. Wars were initially successful but eventually became

economically ruinous to France

2. _________________________________________________


3. Perhaps the first time in modern European history

that one country was able to dominate politics

4. A ______________________________ system emerged

a. No one country would be allowed to dominate the

continent since a coalition of other countries would

rally against a threatening power.

b. ________________________________________


B. War of Devolution (First Dutch War), 1667-68

1. ________________________________________


2. Louis received 12 fortified towns on the border of the

Spanish Netherlands but gave up the Franche-Comté


C. Second Dutch War (1672-78)

1. Louis invaded the southern Netherlands as revenge

for Dutch opposition in the previous war.

2. Peace of Nijmegan (1678-79)

a._______________________________________________________________________________________________b. France took Franche-Comté from Spain, gained

some Flemish towns and took Alsace

D. War of the League of Augsburg (1688-97)

1. ____________________________________________________


  • Demonstrated emergence of balance of power

2. ____________________ Orange (now king of England) brought

England in against France.

  • Began a period of Anglo-French military rivalry

that lasted until Napoleon’s defeat in 1815.

o (Study Device: This could be viewed as a

second Hundred Years’ War”: 1689-1815)

3. War ended with the status quo prior to the war

  • ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

E. War of Spanish Succession (1701-13)

1. Cause: The will of Charles II (Hapsburg king) gave all

Spanish territories to the grandson of Louis XIV


2. Grand Alliance emerged in opposition to France:

England, Dutch Republic, HRE, Brandenburg,

Portugal, Savoy

3. Battle of Blenheim (1704)

a. __________________________________________


b. England’s army, led by the Duke of Marlborough

(__________________________—ancestor of the 20th century

leader Winston Churchill) and military forces of

Savoy (representing the HRE) were victorious

4. ______________________ (1713)

a. Most important treaty between the Treaty of

Westphalia (1648) and the Treaty of Paris (1763)

  • ___________________________________________________________

  • Ended the expansionism of Louis XIV

b. Spanish possessions were partitioned

  • Britain was the biggest winner

o Gained the asiento (slave trade) from Spain

and the right to send one English ship to

trade in Spain’s New World empire

o Gained the Spanish territories of Gibraltar

and Minorca.

  • Belgium (Spanish Netherlands) given to Austria

  • _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

d. Kings were recognized as such in Sardinia (Savoy)

and Prussia (Brandenburg)

F. Costs of Louis XIV’s wars:

1. ________________________________

2. 20% of the French subjects died

3. ______________________________________________________


  • French gov’t was bankrupt

4. Financial and social tensions would sow the seeds of

the French Revolution later in the century.

VI. The Spanish Empire in the 17th Century

A. “_________________________ of Spain” in the 16th century

1. The reign of Ferdinand and Isabella began the process

of centralizing power (“New Monarchs”).

2. _______________________________________________


3. Spain’s power reached its zenith under Philip II


a. Madrid (in Castile) became the capital of Spain

b. Built the Escorial Palace to demonstrate his


c. A command economy developed in Madrid

d. _____________________________________


4. The Spanish Inquisition continued to persecute those

seen as heretics (____________________________________)

B. Decline of the Spanish economy in the 17th century

1. The ________________________________________ of the

middle class Moors and Jews

  • Population of Spain shrank from 7.5 million in

1550 to 5.5 million in 1660.

2. Spanish trade with its colonies fell _______ between

1610 and 1660

  • Largely due to ________________________ competition.

3. The Spanish treasury was bankrupt and had to

repudiate its debts at various times between 1594

and 1680.

4. ______________________________________________________

a. Many peasants were driven from the countryside

and swelled the ranks of the poor in cities.

b. Food production decreased as a result

5. ______________ from the “price revolution” hurt domestic

industries that were _____________________________________.

6. A poor work ethic stunted economic growth

a. Upper classes eschewed work and continued a life

of luxury.

b. ___________________________________________


c. Capitalism was not really prevalent (as it was in

the Netherlands and England)

C. Political and military decline

1.___________________, England’s defeat of the Spanish

Armada in 1588 is seen by some historians as the

beginning of the decline of the Spanish empire.

  • However, Spain had the most formidable military

until the ____________________________.

2._______________________ by three successive kings in the 17th

century damaged Spain’s political power

  • Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II (one of worst

rulers in Hapsburg history)

3. Spain’s defeat in Thirty Years’ War was politically and

________________________ disastrous

a. Spain officially lost the Netherlands

b. 1640, Portugal reestablished its independence.

4. _______________________ (1659): marked end of

Spain as a Great Power

a. War between Spain and France continued for 11

years after the end of the Thirty Years’ War

b. Spain lost parts of the Spanish Netherlands and

territory in northern Spain to France

5. By 1700, the Spanish navy had only 8 ships and most

of its army consisted of foreigners.

6. _________________________________________________


VII. The Baroque

A. Reflected the age of absolutism

1. Began in Catholic Reformation countries to teach in a

concrete and emotional way and demonstrate the

glory and power of the Catholic Church


b. Prominent in France, Flanders, Austria, southern

Germany and Poland

2. _________________________________________


a. Sought to overwhelm the viewer: Emphasized

grandeur, emotion, movement, spaciousness and

unity surrounding a certain theme

b. Versailles Palace typifies baroque architecture:

huge frescoes unified around the emotional impact

of a single theme.

B. Architecture and sculpture

1. Baroque architecture reflected the image and power

of absolute monarchs and the Catholic Church

2. _____________________________ (1598-1650) personified

baroque architecture and sculpture

a. Colonnade for the piazza in front of St. Peter’s

Basilica in Rome was his greatest architectural


b.______________________________________canopy over the high

altar of St. Peter’s Cathedral

c. His altarpiece sculpture, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa,

evokes tremendous emotion

d. ____________________________________________


e. Constructed several fountains throughout Rome

3. ____________________ built during the reign of Louis XIV

is the quintessential baroque structure

4. Hapsburg emperor Leopold I built Schönbrunn in

Austria in response to the Versailles Palace

5. ______________________ Russia built the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg largely on the influence of Versailles

6. ________________ in Prussia began building his palace in

Berlin in 1701

C. Baroque painting

1. Characteristics

a. ________________________________________________

b. Stressed broad areas of light and shadow rather

than on linear arrangements of the High


  • Tenebrism (“dark manner”): extreme contrast

between dark to light

  1. ________________________________________


d. Not concerned with clarity of detail as with overall

dynamic effect.

e. Designed to give a spontaneous personal experience.

2. Carvaggio (1571-1610), Italian painter (Rome)

a. Perhaps 1st important painter of the Baroque era

b. ____________________________________________

c. ____________________________________________.

d. Criticized by some for using ordinary people as

models for his depictions of Biblical scenes

3. _______________________________(1577-1640), Flemish painter

a. Worked much for the Hapsburg court in Brussels

(the capital of the Spanish Netherlands)

b. _____________________________________________



d. Known for his sensual nudes as Roman goddesses,

water nymphs, and saints and angels.

4. Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)

a. ____________________________________________


b. Numerous portraits of the Spanish court and their


5. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652)

  • Famous for vivid depictions of dramatic scenes

and her “Judith” paintings

D. The Dutch Style

1. Characteristics


b. Reflected the Dutch Republic’s wealth and

religious toleration of secular subjects

c. Reflected the urban and rural settings of Dutch life

during the “________________________________________”

d. Many works were commissioned by merchants or

government organizations

2. _______________________ (1606-1669), painter

a. Perhaps the greatest of all Baroque artists

although he doesn’t fit neatly into any category.

b. Scenes covered an enormous range throughout

his career

c. _________________________________________________


d. His works were far more intimate and

psychological than typical Baroque works

e. _______________________________________________

3. Jan Vermeer (1632-1675)

  • Paintings specialized in simple domestic interior

scenes of ordinary people

  • _____________________________________


4. Frans Hals (1580-1666)


E. French Classicism

1. Nicolas Poussin (1593-1665), painter

a. Paintings rationally organized to achieve harmony

and balance; even his landscapes are orderly.

b. Focused early on classical scenes from antiquity or

Biblical scenes.

c. ___________________________________________

d. _________________________________________________

e. Painted temporarily in the court of Louis XIII.

2._______________________ (1639-1699), dramatist

a. His plays (along with Moliere’s) were often funded

by Louis XIV

b. Plays were written in the classical style (e.g.

adherence to the three unities)

c. Wrote some of the most intense emotional works

for the stage.

3. ______________________ (1622-1673), dramatist

a. His plays often focused on social struggles


F. Baroque Music

1. Characteristics

a. _______________________________________


b. Baroque composers developed the modern system

of major-minor tonalities.

c. Dissonance was used much more freely than

during the Renaissance

2. Claudio Monteverdi (1547-1643) developed the ___________

and the modern orchestra

  • __________ (1607) is his masterpiece—the first opera

3. ________________ (1685-1750)

a. ______________ of the baroque composers

b. Often wrote dense and polyphonic structures (in

contrast to the later balance and restraint of the

Classical Period—Mozart & Haydn)

  1. ________________________________________________


  • e.g. masses, organ works, concertos

d. Extremely prolific

4. _______________________ (1685-1759)

a. Like Bach, wrote in a variety of genres

b. ______________________________________________

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