Absolutism and enlightenment
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Absolutism and Enlightenment. The Commercial Revolution. Although most of Europe remained agricultural during this period, the fastest growing part of the European economy was the trade of goods, especially those manufactured in Europe or brought from Asia and the Americas

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Absolutism and enlightenment

Absolutism and Enlightenment

The commercial revolution

The Commercial Revolution

  • Although most of Europe remained agricultural during this period, the fastest growing part of the European economy was the trade of goods, especially those manufactured in Europe or brought from Asia and the Americas

  • This Commercial Revolution marked an important step in the transition of Europe from the local economies of the Middle Ages to the formation of a truly global economy

The commercial revolution1

The Commercial Revolution

  • The Commercial Revolution included the following aspects:

    • The Emergence of Free Enterprise

    • Global Trade

    • Mercantilism

Global trade

Global Trade

  • Goods started being produced for sale rather than just for the use of the makers

  • Trade increased as sugar, rice, tobacco and precious metals were shipped from the Americas to Europe

  • Ming China exported silks and porcelain while India exported tea

  • The East Indies produced spices and Africa provided enslaved workers

  • Europe exported woolen cloth, lumber and finished goods



  • European kings hoped to increase their power through this trade system

  • Mercantilists acted to remove trade barriers within their countries

  • They also taught that wealth and power were based on amassing gold and silver which could in turn be used to defend the state

  • In order to accrue more gold and silver, they worked to establish an unbalanced trade system and keep money flowing into the “mother country”



Here’s a video explaining Mercantilism

Global empires of europe

Global Empires of Europe

Free enterprise

Free Enterprise

  • Free Enterprise = Capitalism

  • Made possible by merchants and bankers

  • Business owners invest capital (money) in a business in order to make profits

Free enterprise1

Free Enterprise

  • Businesses needed money to pay for growing their business (supplies, equipment, insurance, etc.)

  • To raise these large sums, the first joint-stock companies were formed

    • Companies sold stock to investors

    • Investors hope to gain a share of the profits

Free enterprise2

Free Enterprise

  • Banks also wanted new ways to raise and lend money

    • Governments also wanted in on the new trend and began issuing funds sold to the public that the public could cash in later with interest

  • This “Financial Revolution” enabled some governments to raise large sums of money to expand their armies and navies

  • Bankers and merchants also became more powerful and influential in government

  • In Holland, a few rich merchants were able to establish an oligarchy—rule by a few

Free enterprise3

Free Enterprise

  • As a result of this Commercial Revolution, Europeans has more products from which to choose

    • Tea, sugar, coffee, cotton cloth and other goods were widely available

  • New books and forms of entertainment (theatre groups, newspapers, schools) also helped lead to more choices in occupations as well as consumption

  • These advances led to rising standards of living in Europe

Apply it

Apply it!

  • In what ways is Mercantilism “selfish”? Who tends to benefit and who suffers?

  • How did the Commercial Revolution fuel the growth of Free Enterprise and vice versa?

  • Compare an oligarchy with democracy…

The age of kings

The Age of Kings

  • The decline of feudalism, the rise of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the Commercial Revolution all served to enrich European society and greatly increase the power of European monarchs.

The growth of royal power

The Growth of Royal Power

  • During the Middle Ages, the power of kings had been limited by nobles, parliaments, and the Church

  • But during the 16th and 17th Centuries, this began to change

  • Kings were now able to increase their power

Wars of religion

Wars of Religion

  • During the Reformation, most kings took control of religion within their own borders

  • Henry VIII made himself of the Anglican

    Church as early as 1534

  • Religious wars that followed the Reformation provided kings with an opportunity to build large standing armies, introduce new bureaucrats (government officials) and increase taxes

    • The army was often used to suppress uprisings due to new taxes

Nobles roles change

Nobles Roles Change

  • During the Middle Ages, nobles had been an independent source of power

    • Many had their own armies, castles

  • In the 1600s, rulers like Louis XIV “tamed” the nobility

    • He built a huge palace in Versailles and forced his nobles to live there where he could keep a close eye

    • Nobles kept their wealth and privilege but were expected to obey the kings commands

    • The growing middle class frequently allied themselves with the kings against any resistance by the nobility

Louis xiv l etat c est moi

Louis XIV“l’etatc’estmoi”

New justifications for royal power

New Justifications for Royal Power

  • Many rulers adopted the Renaissance view, and justified their actions on the basis of “reason of the state”

  • Some monarchs like James I in England and Louis XIV in France justified their power on the basis of Divine Right

    • According to this theory, the king was God’s deputy on Earth and royal commands expressed God’s wishes

    • Video about Louis XIV

Hobbes leviathan

Hobbes’ Leviathan

  • An Englishman, Thomas Hobbes, wrote that man was naturally cruel, greedy and selfish and that without a strong central authority to keep order, life would be “nasty, brutish and short”

    • Hobbes argued that society would break into “war of every man against every many”

    • Hobbes argued that kings were justified in seizing power because only they could act impartially and maintain order

    • Verbal description of Leviathan

Apply it1

Apply it!

  • What Renaissance writer was Thomas Hobbes most likely “channeling” when he wrote his “Leviathan”?

  • What conditions allowed many rulers in Europe to establish absolute power?

  • Which idea (that we have previously studied) is similar to “Divine Right”?

Absolutism in russia

Absolutism in Russia

  • Russia adopted the system of royal absolutism on a grand scale

  • By the end of the 15th century, rulers around Moscow had declared independence from Mongol rule

  • They then set off to increase Muscovy’s size by conquering neighboring lands

  • Video about Mongols and rise of Russia

Absolutism in russia1

Absolutism in Russia

  • Most of Russia’s population were serfs

  • Just as serfdom was ending in Western Europe, it was increasing in Eastern Europe

  • In return for power over the serfs, Russian nobles pledged absolute loyalty to the Tsar

Apply it2

Apply it!

  • Why were Peter the Great and Catherine the Great considered “great” even when the majority of their populations suffered?

  • How was absolutism in France different from that in Russia?

Limited monarchy in england

Limited Monarchy in England

  • In England, monarchs were never able to establish absolute rule as in France or Russia. During the Middle Ages, strong checks had been established on the kings power:

  • Magna Carta- in 1215, English Nobles forced King John to sign this document which guaranteed Englishmen could not be fined or imprisoned except according to the laws of the land. John could also not raise taxes without the consent of his barons. The Magna Cartashowed that the king’s power could be limited

  • Rise of Parliament-Parliament was established as a legislative body made up of nobles in the House of Lords and elected representatives in the House of Commons. New taxes needed the approval of Parliament.

England s road to limited monarchy

England’s Road to Limited Monarchy

  • Later events turned England into a limited monarchy, in which subjects enjoyed basic rights and power was shared between the king and Parliament

England s road to limited monarchy1

England’s Road to Limited Monarchy

  • Tudor Monarchs

    • Henry VIII and Elizabeth I created a strong, centralized monarchy based on a sense of national unity, the Church of England and a sharing of power between the Monarch and Parliament. Henry relied on Parliament to approve his break with the Catholic Church in Rome

England s road to limited monarchy2

England’s Road to Limited Monarchy

  • Early Stuart Monarchs

    • James I became king in 1603 and believed in the divine right of kings. James was often in conflict with Parliament. His son, Charles I, tried to establish absolutism and to collect new taxes without Parliament’s consent. He imprisoned those who refused to obey. When the House of Commons questioned these practices, Charles dissolved Parliament and ruled without it for 11 years. A rebellion in Scotland forced Charles to recall Parliament.

England s road to limited monarchy3

England’s Road to Limited Monarchy

  • English Civil War

    • The conflict soon led to a civil war between the king and Parliament. Army reforms were introduced by Parliament that helped it to win the Civil War. In 1649, Charles was tried and became the first English monarch to be executed. For a short time, England was a republic. When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he agreed to limits on royal power.

England s road to limited monarchy4

England’s Road to Limited Monarchy

  • Glorious Revolution

    • When James II converted to Catholicism and failed to respect his subjects’ rights. Parliament, angered, deposed James II and invited James’ daughter and husband to take his place. In 1689, William and Mary, the new rulers, agreed to the Bill of Rights, which established Parliaments supremacy over the king and other rights. W & M agreed that they would neither collect new taxes nor raise an army without Parliament consent. These events marked the final shift of power from Monarch to Parliament and Parliament was never again successfully challenged.

John locke

John Locke

  • One of the most influential writers of this

    period was John Locke.

  • Locke challenged both divine right theory and the views of Hobbes

    • Locke argues men are free in the state of nature but join together to form a community in order to protect themselves

    • The community then hands power over to government in the form of a social contract

    • Therefore the purpose of government was to protect life, liberty and property and it was a people’s right (and duty) to revolt when the government abused its power

Apply it3

Apply it!

  • How did the abuses of power by the English Monarchs lead to their ultimate loss of power?

  • What document(s) and/or revolution(s) did John Locke most likely influence?



John locke1

John Locke

  • To properly understand political power, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally—the state of perfect freedom…within the bounds of nature. People in this state do not have to ask permission to act or depend on the will of others. The natural state is one of equality in which all power [is shared] and no one has more than another. If man in the state of nature [is] so free…why will he part with his freedom? Why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the control of any other power? It is obvious, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others. The enjoyment of this property in this state is unsafe and unsecure. This makes him willing to…join society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and property.

  • According to the passage, why do people give up their freedom to join society?

Sir william blackstone

Sir William Blackstone

  • As an English Judge, Blackstone summarized English law in his Commentaries on the Laws of England

  • This book explained English Common Law—a system of laws based on a judge following precedents of others courts

  • Blackstone defined the rights of individuals in English laws as well as property rights that could not be violated even by the king

  • He also explained England’s “mixed monarchy” where power was shared by the king and Parliament

The scientific revolution

The Scientific Revolution

  • Roots of the Scientific Revolution can be found in the Renaissance with the work of Copernicus, Galileo and other scientists

  • As it continued through the 17th and 18th centuries, it rejected traditional authority and church teachings in favor of the direct observation of nature

  • This revolution was based on the new scientific method

  • Galileo, for example, conducted tests on the motion of objects to find general principles of physics

  • Scientists also began to discover that the motions of objects could be predicted by mathematics

The scientific revolution1

The Scientific Revolution

  • The Irish Chemist Robert Boyle is sometimes known as the “father of chemistry”

  • Boyle conducted experiments on gases at different temperatures and pressures

    • Found gas pressure increased as the volume of gas decreased

    • Distinguished mixtures from compounds

    • One of the first to perform controlled

      experiments and to publish his work in detail

The scientific revolution2

The Scientific Revolution

  • The most influential thinker of the Scientific Revolution was Sir Isaac Newton

    • His book Principia Mathematica connected the speed of falling objects on Earth to the movements of planets

    • All of his patterns were reduced to a single formula: the law of gravity

    • Newton’s discovery raised hopes that all the universe acted according to certain fixed and fundamental laws

    • It seemed that all scientists had to do was apply observation, experimentation and mathematics

Apply it4

Apply it!

  • In what ways did Galileo inspire the Scientific Revolution?

  • How was the Scientific Revolution most likely “helped” by the Printing Press?

The enlightenment

The Enlightenment

  • The Enlightenment refers to an important movement in 18th century European thought

  • The spark came from the progress of the Scientific Revolution

  • Enlightenment thinkers believed that by applying reason and scientific laws, people would be better able to understand both nature and one another

  • They applied the scientific method to society and its problems

The enlightenment1

The Enlightenment

  • At the core of the Enlightenment was a questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals

  • In particular, they questioned the divine right of kings, heredity privileges of the nobility and the power of the Catholic Church

  • Enlightened philosophers believed that nature and society operated according to certain universal principles called “natural laws”

  • They believed people could use reason to discover these laws and apply this knowledge to improve the quality of life

The enlightenment2

The Enlightenment

  • Many Enlightenment thinkers were French, influenced by earlier French Protestants who argued that citizens could challenge the actions of an “ungodly king”

  • They were also impressed with the ideas of John Locke who said each of us were born as a “tabla rasa” or blank slate

    • Our experiences then shape our personalities

    • A peasant could be just as good as a nobleman if he had the same experiences

  • Enlightenment thinkers favored religious toleration and opposed torture

    • Privileged nobility, powerful church and absolute king also made no sense to Enlightenment thinkers

Key thinkers of the enlightenment

Key Thinkers of the Enlightenment


poked fun at traditional authority in society, government and church. His views on religious toleration and intellectual freedom influenced leaders of the American and French Revolutions

Jean-Jacques Rosseau

believed a government should express the “general will” of the people. His book, The Social Contract, helped to inspire the democratic ideals of the French Revolution

Baron de Montesquieu

argued for a separation of powers in government as a check against tyranny. His book, The Spirit of Laws, encouraged the development of a system of checks and balances later in the U.S. Constitution

Adam Smith

described capitalism in, The Wealth of Nations. He explained how competition and the division of labor help to guide a free-market system based on self-interest. He argued that a government should follow a laissez faire or “hands off” policy towards the economy

The enlightenment3

The Enlightenment

  • Enlightenment ideas were applied by Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence

  • The Declaration recognized the existence of natural rights such as the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness

  • It stated that the purpose of government was to protect these rights

  • This demonstrated the strong influence of Locke on colonial thinking

Apply it5

Apply it!

  • Why might stock brokers revere Adam Smith?

  • Would a king agree more with Locke or Hobbes? Why?

  • Why might Jefferson have wanted to use ideas such as those from Locke to justify the Declaration of Independence?

Enlightened despotism

Enlightened Despotism

  • Enlightened despots were absolute monarchs who tried to use Enlightenment ideas to reform their societies “from above”

    • Typically they came from countries with a strong middle class

  • They instituted religious tolerance, established scientific academies, and promoted social reform but rarely shared political power

  • Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia and Joseph II of Austria are examples of enlightened despots

Apply it6

Apply it!

  • Why did the Renaissance need to happen to open up the door for the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment?

  • How did the Protestant Reformation work first for Kings and then against them?

  • What can you see “next on the horizon” for history?

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