In what ways did the Enlightened challenge traditional ideas in 18



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European History Study Guide

For your test I will select 10 of these 15 questions to be on the exam. I will also have a second section to the test which will have primary sources for you to use in order to answer the question.



  1. In what ways did the Enlightened challenge traditional ideas in 18th century Europe?

    1. Education: Issac Newton, John Locke, Rene Descartes were the main leaders. Newton’s laws about motion Principia Mathematica became popular. Observation and scientific reasoning would replace the blind faith of the Church. God + Laws = God made universe that follows laws.

    2. Divine right monarchy: Descartes stated that he would question anything that could not be proven, such as the right of the monarchy to declare divinity. Voltaire and Montesquieu both liked the English model of government in which the king was checked by a parlament. John Locke also hoped for a civil society where all individuals would have basic freedoms. He supported this idea in his writings of Second Treatise on Civil Government (1690).

    3. Church: Printing presses were allowing attacks on the church to be spread and subjects of injustice and backwards thinking of the church were discussed. The Catholic Church was the predominant leader in education so they were able to control the spread of new ideas. The philosophes had other ideas with their writings in the 28 volume Encyclopedia written in 1772.




  1. Choose at least four philosophes and discuss their positions on 18th century issues in Europe.

    1. Voltaire: Liked checks and balances of the throne (English model)

    2. Montesquieu: Liked checks and balances of the throne (English model)

    3. Descartes: Mathematician and philosopher. Looked at the importance of the human soul and appreciated the checks and balances on a monarchy.

    4. Newton: His scientific theories helped to support the idea of questioning the church.

    5. Locke: Agreed that societies should have basic freedoms for every person…attacks the practices of privilege.

    6. Rousseau: The Social Contract stated how there was a “natural” goodness in every individual. He believed that money could buy things, but not buy things like morals. The evils in the world could be blamed on civilization.




  1. Can Joseph II of Austria be considered an enlightened leader? Why or why not? Joseph II of Austria can be considered to be an enlightened leader. He did set up a strong education system, however its goal was specifically teach people how to be obedient servants to the state. His educational goals were not one of obtaining knowledge through inquiry. Although his Joseph II had a flaw in his education system, he did lessen the power of the church, while encouraging better education for priests. His attempt to weaken the church was exhibited through the decree of removing religious relics from Austrian territories. He also supported the Edict of Toleration for Protestants and The Edict Relating to Jews. Both protected the groups more, even though Jews did not receive as many rights as the Protestants. Joseph also paid attention to populations that had been overlooked. Orphanages were opened as well as protection for children and the insane from criminal charges. Joseph also attempted to abolish serfdom with the Decree of 1789. (a)It abolished slavery, (b) hold of nobles was weakened, (c) serfs could leave a village without permission, (d) Penal Patent limited the nobles in punishing serfs, serfs could appeal against their landlords, (e) peasants could buy land.



  1. Discuss at least three actions (positive or negative) that Joseph took towards the Church?

    1. Positives:

      1. Built over a 1,000 churches and monasteries in Hungary

      2. Increased education for priests

    2. Negatives:

      1. Forced people to remove religious relics from their houses and churches in Austrian territories.

      2. German not Latin would be spoken.

      3. Papal influence was weakened by the pope having to check his statements that he sent out to bishops by Joseph II

  2. Why have historians differed in their views on Catherine the great? Catherine the great did attempt some ideas of the Enlightenment. She declared that there should be no religious persecution. Took over Church lands which demonstrated how weak the Church was in Russia. Tried to have the assembly, Zemstvo, look at the laws to rationalize them. Very few laws were passed because the participants were interested in protecting their privileges. She also got rid of monopolies and regulations which deregulated the economy; a sign of the Enlightenment.


She did not consistently carry Enlightened ideas throughout her reign. Issues such as rural poverty were unaddressed. Serfs were not granted land which meant that they could not make to spend in the economy. Industry declined and debt increased. Also agriculture was not productive because of ineffective farming techniques. Catherine the great did not want to address the issue of serfdom because she knew that her power depended on the nobles who owned the serfs. By the end of her reign, Catherine began to censure philisophes as well as the use of spies was implemented.


  1. Did the Enlightenment present a coherent program of change? Philisophes were effective in dispersing their ideas using the printing press. Philisophes wrote about the ideas of how certain 18th century issues should change but did not give solutions to those defects. They could agree that the theory of divine right monarchy was no longer sufficient in explaining the monarchy’s authority. There was a consensus about having a monarchy that was confined by a constitution. Montesquieu and Voltaire wanted the checks and balances of the monarchy, but did not want to get rid of privileges. John Locke was interested in giving all citizens of a nation certain protections and rights. There was also an agreement among philosophes of the Enlightenment about the importance of scientific inquiry. Descartes, Newton and Locke all contributed to the process of scientific reasoning about the world.




  1. How successfully did Louis XVI respond to the problems faced by France? Support your answer. Louis XVI was very passive in dealing with the problems that faced France. Louis XVI was very reactionary to events that could have been prevented. His aggressive actions towards entering the War of Austrian Succession. France invaded part of Austria while Austria was fighting Prussia. Also, The Seven Years War (French and Indian War) France begins to build forts along the British border and Britain viewed that as a threat. The debts they incurred from these wars led to economic problems for France. The French would also get involved in the American Revolution which would cause another burden on the French. His commitment to Divine Right monarchy was also a hindrance to his power. People no longer accepted that as a right to power.




  1. To what extent was absolutism just a myth? The Enlightenment really had attacked the theory of Divine Right monarchies, which would ultimately undermine absolutism. The idea that a monarchy could demand power based solely upon an idea that has no “proof” was old thinking. In reality, European monarchies never really did have absolute power. There would be a continuous power struggles between the Church and state. In addition to that, thrones depended upon the nobility to uphold the power of the throne. The nobles in return would maintain the privileges that came along with nobility. The fact that the king or queen had to rely on anyone was a point that philosophes brought up against absolutism.




  1. How far did social tensions threaten the stability of France? The social tensions within France not only stemmed from the tensions between the classes the issues that the classes had within themselves. The First Estate was made up of clergy did not contribute to France’s tax system. This increased the tax burden on the peasants, one of the factors that led to revolution in France. Another contributing factor to instability was the notion that the king and clergy supported their status by stating God had ordained the social order, therefore solidifying their place in the upper tiers of society. Social tensions also arose out of the privileged status of the nobility. Nobles were given certain privileges such as special courts, tax exemption, and weren’t subjected to forced labor. The tax burden was once again passed onto the peasants because the nobility contributed little to the French government. The nobility was also divided amongst themselves with the various positions they held in society. The ‘nobility of the sword’ held positions that were generational. Those positions were found throughout the Church, army or Provincial government. ‘Nobles of the robe’ held government offices such as magistrates, judges, parlaments , taxation and finance. Finally there was the provincial nobility that were landlords. They lived lives of gentlemen in the French country. The Third Estate consisted of the bourgeoisie and peasants. The bourgeoisie had a particular important role in the turmoil of France. They didn’t fit the characteristics of peasants so they did not want to be associated with them, however, the nobility didn’t want them either. When the writings of the philosophes became popular, the bourgeoisie became more educated and well read on their ideas which added to the social tensions. Another contributing factor to the social tensions was the inequality of the peasants. They were subjected to harsh conditions and unfair taxation. Peasants made very little money, but were forced to pay the most taxes. This could be considered the most tumultuous point in the struggle between classes.




  1. Explain and describe the social classes of France.

    1. First Estate:

      1. Made up of the clergy

      2. Ability to make great wealth with the practice of pluralism.

      3. Did not have to pay taxes (did make a donation every five years).

      4. Gallican priests wanted the French Church to be separate from papal influence.

    2. Second Estate:

      1. Divided into three categories

        1. Nobles of the sword: Held honorary and ancient titles, generational titles. High ranks in the army, courts and clergy.

        2. Nobles of the robe: Office holders in the government (taxe officiers, magistrates and helped uphold the law). They were considered to be inferior by the nobles of the sword.

        3. Provincial nobles: Considered to be the least of the nobility. Lived mostly in rural France holding provincial positions.

    3. Third Estate:

      1. Divided into two categories

        1. Bourgeoisie: Merchants, lawyers, doctors and financed other people. Didn’t really feel like they were part of the peasants or nobles. They did however want o to become a part of the nobility.

        2. Peasants: Lived very minimal lives that came with many difficulties. Peasants did not have very many rights. They could be punished directly by their landlords, had to participate in forced labor, carried most of the taxes in France.




  1. How important were Enlightenment views in bringing revolution to France by 1789? France had a dilapidated system of government that supported a system of privilege and social injustice. Writings from Locke and Voltaire talked about the inequality within a society. Voltaire looked down on practices such as the letters de cachet, or being imprisoned without a trial. John Locke understood that if a leader was to have true “absolute” power it must come from the consent of the people. The declaration of Divine Right Monarchy was no longer an acceptable answer. King Louis XVI clung to the idea of Divine Right monarchy which was a point of contention from the philosophes. Writings from Montesquieu would have supported the calling of the Estate General. The idea that no one person should have sole power was paramount in Montesquieu writings, giving influence to the French demanding the Estate General should be called to guide France.




  1. Explain the similarities and differences among the Controlleurs-General.

    1. Anne Turgot: Get rid of useless officers, allow free trade for grain, and issued a general land tax. Let go because he did not respect the social privileges of the nobility.

    2. Neckar: Get rid of useless posts, reduce government expenditures, and reorganize public accounts. The intendants were not happy about this. Neckar began to overstep his bounds, just like Turgot. Good at raising money through loans, but that would get expensive with interest.

    3. Calonne: Good at raising money through loans just like Neckar, but was not concerned with spending. He did public work projects to help out France’s image. Also wanted a general land tax, abolish forced labor, reduce the taille and wanted to use an assembly to determine taxes.

    4. Brienne: Came in when the public realized how much debt France had accumulated. Wanted to implement the reforms of Calonne, but the Paris Parlement did not agree to the reforms.




  1. Explain how each of the following people, groups of people and events led to the calling of the estates general:

  • King: When he could have addressed the issue, he did nothing. He either stayed in Versaille or Paris not wanting to do anything. His excessive spending also led to a financial crisis in which the King needed to addres.

  • Nobles: They were only concerned with protecting the privileges which led to social tensions and financial crisis.

  • Parlements: Paris Parlement was controlled by the nobility so of course they wanted to protect their privileges. When the Estates General was to meet the parlement made a decision about the Estates meeting separately. This infuriated the Third Estate. They did meet separately, where the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath.

  • Controlleurs-General: One could argue that there ones that did try to go against the Ancien Regime however they were met with opposition from the nobility. They borrowed money instead of raised money through fiscal responsibility and taxation.

  • The financial crisis: Deregulated grain markets led to very expensive bread which led to angry peasants. Also the peasants carried the majority of the tax burden, which did not allow France to raise enough money. Their taxation system was inefficient while the intendants were dishonest.




  1. Why did the Third Estate turn against the nobility and clergy? After it was determined that the Estate General would meet, the first two estates wanted to meet separately. If they met separately like they did in 1614, the nobility and clergy would have more voting power because their vote would mean more. If the Estate General met together then there would be a head count giving the Third Estate more power. This is when the Third Estate would claim itself as the National Assembly and claimed to represent the true interests of the Nation.




  1. Why have historians differed on the reasons for the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789?

    1. Marxist View: They believe that it was really a class struggle between the clergy and nobles and the bourgeoisie that helped the violence breakout. Groups were either trying to cling to their established power while other groups were trying to reduce privileges.

    2. Some historians such as George Taylor and Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret claimed that the Revolution did not break out because of tensions among classes. They argue that the upper tiers of the bourgeoisie and nobility really did have similarities in the acquisition of wealth. Really the issue came down to the breakdown in the financial institution. Historians from this school of thought really break it down to the economic crisis. If capitalism was allowed to flourish



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