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Absolutism and the State Supreme. “I would rather obey a fine lion, much stronger than myself, than two hundred rats of my own species.” - Voltaire . I. It’s good to be the king ...sometimes. The strange childhood of Louis XIV b. 1638 r. 1643-1715

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Absolutism and the State Supreme

“I would rather obey a fine lion, much stronger than myself, than two hundred rats of my own species.”- Voltaire

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I. It’s good to be the king ...sometimes

The strange childhood of Louis XIVb. 1638 r. 1643-1715

Era of RegentsCardinal RichelieuAnne of AustriaMazarin “foreigners”

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Put away these childish things…

The Fronde, 1649-52

Monarchy v. the Parlements Paris

Nobles Peasants

The lesson…?

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“Life is nasty, brutish and short”

Thomas Hobbes

- Leviathan, 1660

Absolutism“It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law”

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Perils of Progress

Wars of religion & colonization

Price Revolution


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III. Absolutism? Absolutely!

A well conducted government must have an underlying concept so well integrated that it could be likened to a system of philosophy…All financial, political and military matters must flow towards one goal…the strengthening of the state and the furthering of its power.

- Frederick II “The Great” d. 1786

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Enlightened despotism

King James(VI & I)

True Law of Free Monarchies – 1598

- material/spiritual well-being- sacred obedience- sovereignty lies in the monarch

Joseph II of Austria1780-1790


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“Servant of the state”


Frederick the Great Joseph II

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A. The Renaissance1350-1650

Machiavelli The Prince 1513

How things are v. how they ought to be

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B. The Reformation

  • Religion and nationalism- Fragmentation v. universalism

    - Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation 1521

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C. Decline in Church Primacy

1. State Sovereignty- Henry VIII, Act of Supremacy 1535- Charles V, Peace of Augsburg 1555- Peace of Westphalia 1648

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D. Decline of medieval “empires”

1. Ottoman Empire

Suleiman the Magnificentr. 1520-1566

Battle of Lepanto 1571

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2. Poland “elective monarchy”

- frontier-less- anti-Semitism

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3. Spain

Philip II r. 1550-1598

Revolt of the Netherlands

The Spanish Armada (1588)

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A. France

  • Henry IVd. 1610

    Edict of Nantes 1598monopolies

    2. Cardinal Richelieud. 1642 (Louis XIII)intendantsHabsburg warsFrance before individuals, classes, or ChurchMazarin

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The Sun King Louis XIV

3. “I am the state”dismissed assembliesdirect rule / appointmentsprofessional armyGallicanism Edict of Fontainebleau 1685 Jansenism

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4. King’s Men

bourgeois bureacracyJean-Baptiste Colbertmercantilism

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5. “I have loved war too much”

Natural borders

AlliancesHabsburgsWar of the League of AugsburgWar of Spanish Succession

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Catherine Palace


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When divas ruled Baroque / Rococo style

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R & D

  • Science and the state- Académie des Sciences 1666 - Royal Academy 1660

    Christopher Wren. d. 1723

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The Grand Embassy


Peter Mikhailov

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C. Czar of all the Russias

1. Peter I “The Great” 1689-1725- Westernization - Baltic expansion St. Petersburg- state service of nobles- serfs as slaves

Romanovs Eastern Expansion

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2. Catherine “the Great”r. 1762-1796- un-Enlightenment 1773 revolt- southern, western expansion

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D. Germany stirs

  • HRE?

  • Reformation

  • Westphalia 1648

  • Siege of Vienna 1683

    Leopold I r. 1657-1705Habsburg Dynasty

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Austrian Habsburg Dynasty

Maria Teresa 1740-1780Joseph II 1780-1790- religious toleration- abolished torture- equality before the law- abolished serfdom

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2. Hohenzollerns(Prussia)- militarism / state serviceFrederick William I

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Absolute rulers helped early modern states negotiate fundamental social and economic change…

…but Absolutism itself would become the target of reformers.