The third unit of our AP European History course focuses on the development of absolutism and constitutionalism in Western and Eastern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.
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This section has two parts. First, we will learn about the context surrounding the development of absolutist states as absolute monarchs had to contend with lingering Medieval institutions. The second part of the section is an introduction to the Divine Right of Kings, a doctrine used by many European monarchs in the 17th century to provide biblical justification for their pretensions to absolute power.
Any serious discussion of absolutism must contain Louis XIV, the Sun King who built an absolute monarchy in France, which before his rule had been dominated by powerful nobles. Louis brought the French monarchy to an unprecedented level of power. He is most famous for his Palace at Versailles and for his wars, which culminated in the War of the Spanish Succession.
Absolute monarchs sought not only to centralize the political power of the state, but also to harness all available economic forces in order to create a competitive economy. Mercantilism was an attractive economic philosophy for absolute monarchs as it allowed for economic development coordinated by a central authority.
Louis XIV might have put together the largest standing army that Europe had ever seen, but the Prussians mobilized more soldiers per capita than any other European nation. Prussia's trademark militarism earned the small kingdom the nickname, "Sparta of the North."
While Louis XIV was building an absolutist state in Western Europe, Peter the Great was laboring to build Russia into a great power on the Western model.
While absolutism was implemented successfully in France, Prussia, Russia, and Austria, the English and the Dutch rejected this model in favor of constitutionalism, a form of government that limits the power of the central authority. We will contrast absolutism and constitutionalism, which will be helpful when we review the development of constitutionalism in England and the Netherlands.
After the death of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, James VI of Scotland was invited to reign in England as James I. James was the first monarch of the Stuart Dynasty. The Stuarts had a rough time adjusting to the constitutional system of government that was developing in England, with conflicts between Crown and Parliament leading to the English Civil War.
November 5th - Guy Fawkes Night - commemorates the failure of the November 1605 Gunpowder Plot by a gang of Roman Catholic activists
Following Cromwell's death, the monarchy was restored and Charles II, the son of Charles I, was invited to reign in England. Charles II, known as the "Merry Monarch," finished his reign without serious incident but the same cannot be said for his brother, James II, who was run off by Parliament after many conflicts with Parliament (many of them having their roots in his Catholic religion). William and Mary signed the English Bill of Rights in 1689, ending the turmoils of the Stuart era by acknowledging the legislative supremacy of Parliament.
Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were two of the most important political philosophers of the 17th century and continued to be studied today by students of history, philosophy, and government. Students should be able to compare and contrast these philosophers and explain their differing views of the social contract.
In an age when absolutism was the fashion in continental Europe, the confederated Dutch Republic experienced a Golden Age, becoming the preeminent trading power and most prosperous nation in Europe in the early 17th century.
Is she turning towards you or away from you? No one can agree. She’s the subject of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer’s "Girl with the Pearl Earring," a painting often referred to as the ‘Mona Lisa of the North.’ But what makes this painting so captivating? James Earle explains how this work represents the birth of a modern perspective on economics, politics, and love.