15-Absolutism - C H A P T E R Response to Crisis: State...

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426 CHAPTER 15 Response to Crisis: State Building and the Search for Order in the Seventeenth Century L CHAPTER OUTLINE The Theory of Absolutism Absolutism in Western Europe Absolutism in Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe Limited Monarchy and Republics Economic Trends: Mercantilism and European Colonies in the Seventeenth Century The World of Seventeenth-Century Culture Conclusion FOCUS QUESTIONS What theories of government were proposed by Jacques Bossuet, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke, and how did their respective theories reflect concerns and problems of the seventeenth century? What was absolutism in theory, and how did its actual practice in France reflect or differ from the theory? What developments enabled Brandenburg-Prussia, Austria, and Russia to emerge as major powers in the seventeenth century? What were the main issues in the struggle between king and Parliament in seventeenth-century England, and how were they resolved? What role did the Netherlands play in the political, economic, and artistic life of the seventeenth century? T HE AGE OF CRISIS from 1560 to 1650 was accompanied by a decline in religious orientation and a growing secularization that affected both the political and the intellectual worlds of Europe (on the intellectual effect, see the Scientific Revolution in Chapter 16). Some historians like to speak of the seventeenth century as a turning point in the evolution of a modern state system in Europe. The idea of a united Christian Europe (the practice of a united Christendom had actually been moribund for some time) gave way to the practical realities of a system of secular states in which reason of state took precedence over the salvation of subjects’ souls. Of course, these states had emerged and begun their development during the Middle Ages, but medieval ideas about statehood had still been couched in religious terms. By the seven- teenth century, the credibility of Christianity had been so weakened in
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Response to Crisis: State Building and the Search for Order in the Seventeenth Century 427 the religious wars that more and more Europeans could think of politics in secular terms. One of the responses to the crises of the seven- teenth century was a search for order. As the internal social and political rebellions and revolts died down, it became apparent that the privileged classes of soci- ety—the aristocrats—remained in control, although the various states exhibited important differences in politi- cal forms. The most general trend saw an extension of monarchical power as a stabilizing force. This develop- ment, which historians have called absolutism or abso- lute monarchy, was most evident in France during the flamboyant reign of Louis XIV, regarded by some as the perfect embodiment of an absolute monarch. In his memoirs, the duc de Saint-Simon, who had firsthand experience of French court life, said that Louis was “the very figure of a hero, so imbued with a natural but
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15-Absolutism - C H A P T E R Response to Crisis: State...

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