Absolutism v constitutionalism unit iv 1450 1750 ce

This preview shows page 5 - 7 out of 15 pages.

Absolutism v. Constitutionalism
UNIT IV: 1450 - 1750 C.E.Most of the newly powerful European states, including Spain and France, developed into absolute monarchies, or governments in which the king held all power. Absolutism was reinforced by the belief in divine right, or the god-given authority to rule. According to divine right theory, kings were not gods but served as "God's lieutenants upon earth." In these countries, no one else had the right to share policymaking powers with the king, not even the nobility.The most famous of the absolute French rulers was Louis XIV, who designated himself the "Sun King," the magnetic center of all around him. His often repeated, "L'etat c'est moi" (I am the state) expresses his unshakable belief in his absolute authority. He contained the nobles by inviting them to his huge, ornate palace at Versailles, where they were welcome to stay as long as they liked. Meanwhile, the nobles were away from their castles, unable to start any rebellions, and completely under the thumb of their clever king.Other countries followed the French model, although generally less successfully. Rulers in Austria, Prussia, and Russia built huge palaces and sought to increase central control. Both Prussia and Russia had developed into formidable powers by 1750.Elsewhere, in England and the Netherlands, a different government model was developing. Neither had a written constitution, but they both allowed limitations to be placed on the ruler's power. In England the nobility demanded and received the right to counsel with the king before he imposed new taxes, starting with William the Conqueror in the 11th century. The limitations were famously encapsulated in the Magna Carta of 1215, a document that listed the rights of nobility. From this right to counsel developed a "parliament" (literally a place to talk things over) that came to blows with King Charles I in the 1640s in the English Civil War. Parliament won this war, and even though the institution of the monarchy was eventually retained, it marks the turning point of power toward a limited, or "constitutional" government. In both England and the Netherlands, wealthy merchants were allowed to participate in government, partly because their continuing prosperity was vital to the states.CHANGES IN SOCIAL AND GENDER STRUCTURESThe rise of the middle class - Whereas the social structure in medieval Europe was split into two classes (nobility and serfs), increasing trade and business created a new class that the French called the bourgeoisie, meaning "town dwellers." Over time the bourgeoisie came to have more wealth than the nobles, since they often formed mutually beneficial alliances with monarchs anxious to increase state revenues. Growth in the gap between the rich and the poor - By the late 16th century, the rising wealth of the bourgeoisie created a growing gap between the rich and the poor. The poor were not only the rural peasants, but they also lived in cities as craftsmen, peddlers, and beggars.

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture