Chapter 16 Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe Chapter 18 Toward A New World View
Seventeenth-Century Crisis and Rebuilding
Economic and Demographic Crisis
The vast majority of seventeenth-century Europeans lived in the countryside.
Bread was the primary element of most people’s diet.
Rural society lived on the edge of subsistence.
Poor weather put additional stress on agriculture and industry.
Peasants and the urban poor were hit hardest by bad harvests and economic depression.
Seventeenth-Century State-Building; Common Obstacles and Achievements
Both constitutional and absolutists monarchs attempted to protect and expand their frontiers, raise new taxes, and consolidate state control.
State-building faced considerable obstacles.
Privileged groups, chiefly the nobility, resisted the centralizing efforts of European monarchies.
Most states succeeded, to varying degrees, in overcoming obstacles to achieving new levels of central control.
A larger and more powerful state required new sources of revenue.
Warfare and the Growth of Army Size
The driving force behind seventeenth-century state-building was warfare.
Armies grew larger, more professional, and, consequently, much more expensive.
Popular Political Action
Popular revolts were common in England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy in the mid-seventeenth century.
In France, urban disorders were so common as to be seen as a fact of life.
Authorities often struggled to overcome popular revolts.
By the end of the seventeenth century, the state was better able to deal with popular discontent.
Absolutism in France and Spain
The Foundations of French Absolutism; Henry IV, Sully, and Richelieu
Henry IV lowered taxes on peasants and his chief minister, Sully, streamlined tax collection. As the economy revived, tax receipts grew.
In 1598, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes.
Cardinal Richelieu was appointed to the council of ministers in 1628, during the reign of Louis XIII (r. 1610-1643)
Richelieu curbed the power of the nobility by reshuffling the royal council, leveling castles, and executing aristocratic conspirators against the king.
Richelieu divided France up into thirty-two generalites supervised and monitored by one intendant each. The intendants were beholden to the king only and generally came from the newer nobility of the robe (not the older nobility of the sword).
The intendants recruited soldiers for the army, supervised tax collection, kept an eye on the local nobility, presided over the administration of local laws, and regulated economic activity.
In 1627 Louis XIII moved to end Protestant independence, more or less revoking the Edict of Nantes.
During the later seventeenth century urban revolts based on resentment of high taxation were common.
Following the deaths of Louis XIII and Richelieu, Richelieu’s successor, Mazarin provoked an aristocratic rebellion that became known as the Fronde (1648-1653)
The Fronde convinced King Louis XIV, then a boy, that the only alternative to anarchy was absolute monarchy, even as it also informed his decision to make local elites and nobles tax exempt.
Louis XIV and Absolutism
Louis XIV secured the collaboration of the nobility in projects that increased his prestige and theirs.
Louis XIV’s royal court at Versailles was a tool of state policy, overawing subjects and visiting dignitaries. Other European monarchs constructed their...
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