Change in Government in Europe from Around 1400-1815

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Government in Europe changed a lot from 1400-1815. Government changed from an organized system sharing land called feudalism, to absolutism: governing from the divine right of kings to enlightened absolutism all the way to the French Revolution. England had its own history and type of government and didn’t change exactly with the majority of Europe. In order to effectively trace the change in Government in Europe from 1400-1800, going back a little bit is necessary. Feudalism developed around the 8th century, but did not reach Europe really until the 10th century. It began to develop in France, and then spread to Spain, Italy, and later Germany and Eastern Europe. It then extended eastward into Slavic lands to the marches which were continually battered by new invasions, and it was adopted partially in Scandinavian countries. The important features of feudalism were similar throughout, but there existed definite national differences. Feudalism continued in all parts of Europe through the middle ages, ending around the 15th century. Basically, Feudalism divides a state up so that different people have control of the land and people in it. Kings held the most power; they granted land to Barons in exchange for soldiers. Barons allowed Knights to own land if they swore an oath of loyalty and devotion to serve in battle. The Barons were also in charge of the small communities and made all decisions. Knights then gave the serfs some pasture for farming, but they expected gifts in return. These often included money and goods. In England the French feudalism was enforced by William I after 1066. Dispute between France and England caused the 100 years war which lasted from 1337-1453. The feudal relationship between the two countries was a big cause of the hundred years war. Although Kings in England owned land in France, they were technically vassals to the French Kings. England’s kings were then subordinate to the French Kings and they did not like that. France suspected that England would try to consolidate the lands they essentially owned as part of England. In 1337 Phillip VI of France declared all English owned lands south of the river Loire confiscated. Edward III of England responded by declaring himself the rightful king of France. This was only valid because he had a strong hereditary claim through his grandmother, which had been overlooked when Phillip VI was declared king in 1328. England soon and invaded France and this marked the start of the hundred years war. After being defeated in the hundreds years war, England suffered from dynastic problems. These dynastic disputes caused what we call today, the war of roses which began in 1455 and ended in 1485. The war of roses was a series of civil wars fought in England in order to determine who the throne of England would go to. One side was those who supported the Lancaster family and the other side who supported the York family. The ultimate result of the war of roses was the side of the Lancaster house. Henry VII became the King of England, but married into the York family to unite the two houses. Overall, the war of roses weakened the nobility and led to the establishment of strong monarchial rule by the Tudor dynasty. As the feudal lords lost power, that power was taken by the kings who ruled those lords. The rise of cities, growth in trade, middle class, national kingdoms, decline of church power, and rise of colonial holdings contributed to the rise of absolutism.

Absolutism is where the King holds complete, limitless power. In Europe, to be able to move away from feudalism, Monarchs had to completely eliminate the power of the Lords. The shift in government started during the late middle ages. Creating extremely powerful monarchs was essential in taking away Lords’ power. At this point in time, monarchs believed that they governed by the divine right of kings. This is the belief that their power comes solely from God choosing them to rule. Biblical scriptures...
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