Spain’s Empire and European Absolutism



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Chapter 21

Absolute Monarchs in Europe, 1500–1800



Spain’s Empire and European Absolutism

A Powerful Spanish Empire

A New Spanish Ruler

• In 1556, Philip II begins ruling Spain and its possessions

Philip II’s Empire

• Philip seizes Portugal in 1580

• Gold and silver from Americas make Spain extremely wealthy

Defender of Catholicism

• Philip defends Catholicism against Muslims, Protestants

• Spanish fleet helps defeat Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571

• Spanish Armada defeated by British in 1588

Golden Age of Spanish Art and Literature

El Greco and Velázquez

• El Greco uses unusual style to convey religious themes

• Works of Velázquez show Spanish court life

Don Quixote

• In 1605, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is published

• Novel marks birth of modern European novel

The Spanish Empire Weakens

Inflation and Taxes

• Inflation weakens Spain’s economy

• Taxes on lower class prevents development of middle class

Making Spain’s Enemies Rich

• Spaniards buy goods abroad, making Spain’s enemies rich

• Philip declares bankruptcy three times due to weak economy

The Dutch Revolt

• Protestants in Netherlands win independence from Spain in 1579

The Independent Dutch Prosper

A Different Society

• Netherlands is a republic and practices religious toleration

Dutch Art

• In 1600s, Netherlands becomes center of European art

• Rembrandt and Vermeer are famous Dutch painters

Dutch Trading Empire

• Dutch merchants engage in world trade

• Dutch have world’s largest trading fleet

• Dutch replace Italians as Europe’s bankers

Absolutism in Europe

The Theory of Absolutism

• Rulers want to be absolute monarchs—rulers with complete power

• Believe in divine right—idea that monarchs represent God on earth

Growing Power of Europe’s Monarchs

• Decline of feudalism, rise of cities help monarchs gain power

• Decline in Church authority also increases power

Crises Lead to Absolutism

• The 17th century is period of great upheaval

• Monarchs impose order by increasing their own power

The Reign of Louis XIV

Religious Wars and Power Struggles

Henry of Navarre

• Henry ascends to French throne in 1589 and adopts Catholicism

• Issues Edict of Nantes—a declaration of religious toleration

Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu

• Cardinal Richelieu—Louis XIII’s minister who rules France

• Increases power of the Bourbons by limiting Huguenots’ freedom

• Also weakens power of the nobility

Writers Turn Toward Skepticism

A New Attitude

• Skepticism—the idea that nothing can be known for certain

Montaigne and Descartes

• Montaigne explores ideas about life’s meaning in essays

• Descartes uses observation and reason to create new philosophy

Louis XIV Comes to Power

A New French Ruler

• Louis XIV—the most powerful ruler in French history

Louis, the Boy King

• Hatred of Mazarin—young Louis’s minister—leads to riots

Louis Weakens the Nobles’ Authority

• Louis takes control in 1661

• Appoints intendants—government agents—to collect taxes

Economic Growth

• Jean Baptiste Colbert—finance minister—helps economy grow

• In 1685, Louis cancels Edict of Nantes; Huguenots flee France

The Sun King’s Grand Style

A Life of Luxury

• Louis lives very well, with every meal a feast

Louis Controls the Nobility

• Louis keeps nobles at palace to increase his power over them

• Builds magnificent palace at Versailles

Patronage of the Arts

• Versailles is a center of arts during reign of Louis XIV

• Purpose of the arts is to glorify Louis

Louis Fights Disastrous Wars

Attempts to Expand France’s Boundaries

• Louis fights wars in 1660s, 1670s to expand France

• In 1680s, many countries unite against him in League of Augsburg

• France is weakened by poor harvests, warfare, high taxes

War of the Spanish Succession

• War of the Spanish Succession begins in 1701

• Attempts to prevent union of the French and Spanish thrones

• Ends in 1714; France and Spain lose some possessions

Louis’s Death and Legacy

• Louis dies leaving mixed legacy

• Rule makes France a major military and cultural power in Europe

• His wars and palace leave France with heavy debts



Central European Monarchs Clash

The Thirty Years’ War

Rising Tension

• Tension rises between Lutherans and Catholics in central Europe

Bohemian Protestants Revolt

• In 1618, Protestants revolt against Catholic Hapsburg rulers

• Result is Thirty Years’ War—conflict over religion, land, power

Hapsburg Triumphs

• From 1618 to 1630, Hapsburg armies have many victories

• Troops plunder many German villages

The Thirty Years’ War

Hapsburg Defeats

• In 1630, tide turns in favor of Protestants

Peace of Westphalia

• War ruins German economy, greatly decreases population

• Peace of Westphalia (1648) ends war

• Treaty weakens Hapsburgs, strengthens France

• Treaty introduces idea of negotiating terms of peace

Beginning of Modern States

• Treaty recognizes Europe as group of independent states

States Form in Central Europe

Economic Contrasts with the West

• Economy in central Europe still based on serfs, agriculture

Several Weak Empires

• Landowning nobles in central Europe block growth of kings’ power

• Ottoman and Holy Roman empires are also weak

Austria Grows Stronger

• Hapsburgs in Austria take more lands, rule large empire

Maria Theresa Inherits the Austrian Throne

• Maria Theresa becomes empress of Austria, faces years of war

Prussia Challenges Austria

The Rise of Prussia

• Hohenzollern rulers of Prussia build Europe’s best army

• Call themselves kings and become absolute monarchs

• Nobles resist royal power, but king buys loyalty

Frederick the Great

• Frederick the Great becomes king of Prussia

• Enforces father’s military policies but softens some of his laws

War of the Austrian Succession

• In 1740, Frederick starts war against Austria to gain Silesia

• Maria Theresa resists Prussian power but loses Silesia in treaty

• As result of war, Prussia becomes a major power in Europe

The Seven Years’ War

• Austria allies with France against Britain and Prussia

• In 1756, Frederick attacks Saxony, launching Seven Years’ War

• France loses colonies in North America; Britain gains India



Absolute Rulers of Russia

The First Czar

Ivan the Terrible

• In 1533, Ivan the Terrible becomes king of Russia

• Struggles for power with boyars—landowning nobles

• Seizes power and is crowned czar, meaning “caesar”

Rule by Terror

• In 1560, Ivan turns against boyars, kills them, seizes lands

Rise of the Romanovs

• Ivan’s heir is weak, leading to period of turmoil

• In 1613, Michael Romanov becomes czar

Peter the Great Comes to Power

The Rise of Peter

• Peter the Great becomes czar in 1696, begins to reform Russia

Russia Contrasts with Europe

• Land of boyars and serfs

• Cut off geographically from Europe

• Culturally isolated, little contact with western Europe

• Religious differences widen gap

Peter Visits the West

• In 1697, Peter visits western Europe to learn European ways

Peter Rules Absolutely

Peter’s Goal

• Goal of westernization—using western Europe as model for change

Peter’s Reforms

• Brings Orthodox Church under state control

• Reduces power of great landowners

• Modernizes army by having European officers train soldiers

Westernizing Russia

• Introduces potatoes

• Starts Russia’s first newspaper

• Raises women’s status

• Adopts Western fashion

• Advances education

Establishing St. Petersburg

• Peter wants a seaport that will make travel to West easier

• Fights Sweden to win port on Baltic Sea

• In 1703, begins building new capital called St. Petersburg

• Building city takes many years; many serfs die in process

• By the time of Peter’s death, Russia is a force to be reckoned with in Europe



Parliament Limits the English Monarchy

Monarchs Defy Parliament

James’s Problems

• James I of Scotland becomes king of England in 1603

• Struggles with Parliament over money, Church reform

Charles I Fights Parliament

• James’s son, Charles I, becomes king in 1625

• Also fights with Parliament over money

• Parliament forces him to sign Petition of Right in 1628

• Petition limits Charles’s power, but he ignores it

English Civil War

War Topples a King

• In 1641, Parliament passes laws to limit king’s power

• Result is English Civil War (1642–1649) between Puritans, king

• In 1644, Oliver Cromwell becomes general on Puritan side

• After Puritans win, Charles faces trial and execution in 1649

Cromwell’s Rule

• In 1649, Cromwell abolishes monarchy, House of Lords

• Becomes military dictator

• Suppresses rebellion in Ireland

Puritan Morality

• Puritans abolish activities they find sinful

Restoration and Revolution

Cromwell’s End

• After Cromwell dies in 1658, government collapses

• Next year, Parliament asks son of Charles I to rule

Charles II Reigns

• Restoration—return of monarchy under Charles II

• Habeas corpus—law requiring king to charge prisoner with crime

James II and the Glorious Revolution

• Charles’s Catholic brother James becomes king in 1685

• Glorious Revolution—bloodless overthrow of James in 1688

Limits on Monarch’s Power

A New Type of Monarchy

• Protestants William and Mary become rulers of England

• Agree to constitutional monarchy—legal limits on royal power

Bill of Rights

• In 1689, Parliament drafts Bill of Rights

• Sets limits on royal power

Cabinet System Develops



• In 1700s, cabinet, a group of government ministers, develops

• Ministers link majority party in Parliament with monarch


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