Rise of the Absolute
Sovereignty - the power and right to rule,
resides exclusively with the King
– The idea of the Divine Right of Kings became
Absolute Monarchs were limited in actual
power and were not "totalitarian".
Very practical - Developed modern ways of
– State bureaucracies
– Committee structures of government
– Standing armies
Louis XIV (Ruled 1643-1715)
Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661)
– Controlled France while Louis XIV a child
– Effective ruler at first - continues policies of
The Fronde 1649-52
Aborted revolution directed against
– revolt by nobles sick of absolute claims.
– Psychological effect on Louis XIV, determined
to be powerful
Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715)
the “Sun King”
L’état, c’est moi (“the state is myself”)
Best model of absolutism in Europe
Comes to power in 1661.
Government under Louis XIV
One of the first modern governments.
– System of councils -real ruling of the country
– Intendants - royal officials in provinces gives central
control of the entire country.
– Establishment of a standing army which Louis used
in a series of expensive wars.
Influence of Louis XIV's
Government and Style
Versailles and Louis' government were
admired throughout Europe.
– Versailles Palace: became a pleasure prison
for the French nobility
– Copycat palaces were built all over Europe:
Vienna/Schonbrunn, St. Petersburg, Berlin.
French became the language of many
courts - e.g. Russia (ref. Tolstoy: War and
Schönbrunn Palace
Louis XIV and Religion
Divine Right was important in Louis' ideas.
French church was like a state within in a state
largely independent of Rome
-tax free
Church Courts had power over parts of life- ( marriage and wills)
Louis supported the Church fervently.
1685 - Edict of Fountainbleau
– Revoked Edict of Nantes,
– Repressed Jansenism (a kind of Calvinism within Catholic
– 1/4 million Protestants left - (New Rochelle)
Absolutism and Religion
Absolutism did not allow, in France, liberty
of conscience.
Affects French Enlightenment thinkers.
Anti-clericalism even from those who
support monarchy.
Louis XIV' successors tried to maintain the
same system.
Absolutist Fiscal Policy
Main problem was that nobles would not pay tax.
France remained under-taxed.
Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1693) – Finance minister.
– Promoted mercantilism
– Goals was self-sufficiency for France;
Built roads & canals
Gov’t supported monopolies
Cracked down on guilds
Colbert's aim
Trade balance in France's favor
Established Mercantilism.
– It centralizes economy
– Close government control.
– Relieves the need for direct taxes.
– Expansion abroad - emphasis on exports and getting
bullion into the country.
Worldwide Effects of Fiscal Policies
– Expansion of Mercantile empires in India, North
America and above all the West Indies.
– Development of Slave trade.
Colbert’s Results
By 1683, France leading industrial country:
– textiles,
– mirrors,
– lacemaking
– foundries for steel making and firearms
– Poor peasant conditions (esp. taxation) resulted in large
– Louis opted for army instead of navy; France later lost naval
wars w/ England
– War in later years nullified Colbert’s gains
Louis at war for 2/3 of his reign
Wars of Louis XIV:
Initially successful but eventually ruinous to
– Creation of modern army
William of Orange (later King William III of
England) thwarted Louis’ expansionism
– War of Devolution (First Dutch War),
Second Dutch War (1672-78) – Invasion of
the Dutch Rhineland
– Peace of Nijmegan (1678-79)
France took Franche-Comté from
League of Augsburg
League of Augsburg (formed in 1686): HRE,
Spain, Sweden, Bavaria, Saxony, Dutch Rep.
– Resisted expansion into Germany
– Louis Invades Palatine: League vs. France
Peace of Ryswick: William and Leopold
France did not expand into Germany
War of the League of Augsburg (1688-97)
– ( King William’s War): ended in status quo
– William of Orange (now king of England) brought
England in against France.
War of Spanish Succession (17011713) – (Queen Anne’s War)
– In the will of Charles II (Hapsburg king): all Spanish
territories to grandson of Louis XIV
– Succession of Charles II (Spain)
– Louis and Leopold (Austria) Claim
Louis’s Nephew: Philip of Anjou Gains Spain
Grand Alliance: England, Dutch Rep., HRE,
Brandenburg, Portugal, Savoy
Battle of Blenheim (1704)
Treaty of Utrecht (1713):
Britain was biggest winner:
– Gained asiento from Spain- to sell slaves to Spanish
– Gained Gibraltar and Minorca.
– Partitioned Spanish possessions:
Belgium given to Austria
– Louis’ grandson enthroned as King of Spain
– Prevented unification of Bourbon dynasties.
Kings recognized in Sardinia (Savoy) and Prussia
Costs of Louis XIV’s wars:
– Destroyed French economy,
– Depopulation,
– Weakened Louis XIV.
Treaty of Utrecht Map
Absolutism in Other States
Some of the Older States Faded
The Holy Roman Empire (the state which
nominally included Germany and
surrounding areas) faded.
So did Poland and the Ottoman Turkey.
Three new powers come to occupy central
Europe in the 18th century.
Poland - A failed state
Nobles became too powerful.
– A very large state in Eastern Europe.
– The "Noble Republic" - the nobles elected the kings.
– Any noble could veto any law in the parliament.
– Complete collapse of central government.
– The enserfment of the peasant population.
– The eventual disappearance of Poland from map of
The Hapsburgs
Kept the HRE- relied on cooperation of different
groups for power
By 1714 – most of the Hapsburg territory was
not in Germany
– Empire was too diverse to be united
Religions, Ethnic groups, Languages
Leopold I
– Kept the Turks from invading in 1683, and Louis XIV
Charles VI
– Pragmatic Sanction- guarantee rule through his
Daughter Maria Theresa
War of the Austrian Succession
Involved almost all the major European powers,
– Started with pretext that Salic “Frankish law” precluded female
– Maria Theresa inherited her fathers Charles VI - Habsburg
dominions in 1740,
Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Archduchess of Austria,
Duchess of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla.
Ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)
– Maria Theresa survived sacrificing only the territory of
Silesia to Prussia.
– Sparked the beginning of German Dualism between
Prussia and Austria
– Start of German Nationalism
Copied France
– Prussia became an important state
under Frederick I Hohenzollern
Military emphasis:
– The upper class ( Junkers) become
the officers in the army.
-300 other states in Germany
remain divided.
– Frederick the Great of Prussia
(1740-1786) continued the trend.
Built palaces, art and university patron
Peter the Great
– Brought western ideas back to Moscow
– Put down rebellion with torture and executions
Arrested his own son for conspiring against him.
– Developed a modern navy
Great Northern War
– Fought against Swedish king Charles XII
– Gave Russia an ice free port and control over
Estonia, Livonia, and part of Finland
Founded St. Petersburg
Built colleges- system of running the govt.
Organized the social standing of the boyars
Gained control over the Orthodox church
Remained divided with inefficient oldfashioned governments and some
Large population,
Politically insignificant.
Absolutism is the political actuality of the
Ancien Regime.
Development of Early Modern, not
medieval Europe.
Background to French Revolution and also
to the Enlightenment
The Ottomans
Individual Enhance
– Here are the topics to include
Religious Toleration
Role of the Ulama
End of Ottoman Expansion

The Age of Absolutism