Chapter 14 Section 3

By Amy Wessenberg, Marilyn Clark, and Kelli Reyes

Louis XIV and Absolutism

In the seventeenth century, people seeked a solution that would give more power to the monarchy. Their solution was absolutism. Absolutism is a system when a ruler holds total power. Under this, rulers were seen as divine. They had a tremendous amount of power. They could raise taxes, make laws, etc. Louis XIV's has been known as the best example of absolutism.

Richelieu and Mazarin

Because of the struggles before Louis, the government was left in the hands of the ministers. The two ministers that played the most important roles were Richelieu and Mazarin.

Cardinal Richelieu, strengthened the power of the monarch by taking away Huguenots' (who were seen as a threat to the king's power) political and military rights. He aslo tamed the nobles by setting up spies to uncover plots against the government. He then crushed the conspiracies and executed the conspirators.

Because of the king's young age when he came into power (he was four), Cardinal Mazarin, took control. Under his rule, a revolt was led by unhappy nobles that didn't like how much power the monarch had.

In the end, the French people concluded that the best hope for stability was with a strong monarch.

Louis Comes to Power

When Mazarin died in 1667, Louis took over at the age of 23. Since he had a reputation of games and affairs with the maids, his mother didn't think he would take the rule seriously. However, he established a strict routine. He promoted the myth of him being the "Sun King" - the source of light for all of his people.

Government and Religion

Louis' control over the central government was one of the keys to his power. The royal court that Louis established at Versailles served three purposes.

  1. Personal household of the king
  2. Chief offices of the state were there so Louis could keep an eye on them
  3. place where powerful subjects came for favors and offices.

The greatest danger to Louis' rule came from princes and high nobles. The thought that they should play a role in France's government. Louis got rid of them by removing them from the council and persuaded them to come to his court. He kept them busy with court life and out of politics.

Louis' government ministers were expected to follow his every wish. As a result, Louis had control over the traditional areas: foreign policy, the Church, and taxes.

Although Louis had absolute power over the government, he was limited at a local level. The nobles, local officials, and town councils had more influence then the king. The king then bribed important people to see that his policies were followed.

Maintaining religious harmony has always been a part of monarchial power in France. To keep his power, he decided to pursue an anti-Protastant policy. He aimed at converting Huguenots at Catholicism. He ordered the destruction of Huguenot churches and schools.

The Economy and War

The cost of building palaces, maintaining his court, and making wars made finances an issue. Louis was fortunate that he had Jean Baptiste Colbert as a helper.

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Colbert wanted to increase the wealth and power of France by following mercantilism. To decrease imports and increase exports, he granted subsidies to new industries. To improve communication and transportation, he built roads and canals. To decrease imports directly, he raised tariffs on foreign goods and created a merchant marine to carry goods.

The increase of power that Louis wanted led the king to develop a standing army numbering 400,000 in time of war. He wanted to achieve the military glory that would be appropriate for the Sun King. He also wanted to ensure the domination of his Bourbon dynasty over European affairs.

To achieve his goals, Louis stared four wars between 1667 and 1713. His ambitions caused many nations to form alliances to provent him from dominating Europe. Through his wars, Louis added territory to France's northeastern side and set up a member of his own dynasty on the throne of Spain.

Absolutism in Central and Eastern Europe.

After the Thirty Years' War, there was no German state, but instead, there were over 300 "Germanies". Of these states, two- Prussia and Austria- emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries as European powers.

Frederick William the Great Elector laid out the foundation for the Prussian state. Realizing that Prussia was a small, open territory with no natrural things for defence, William build a large and efficient standing army. He had a force of forty thousand men, which made it the 4th largest in Europe.

To maintain his army and his power, William set up the General Was Commissariat to raise taxes for the army and oversee it's growth. The Commissariat soon became an agency for civil government as well. The new bureaucratic machine became the elector's instrument to govern the state. Many of the officials were members of the Prussian aristocracy, known as the Junkers, who served as officers in the army.

In 1701, William's son offically gained the title of king.

The Austrian Hapsburgs had long played a significant role in European politics as Holy Roman emperors. By the end of the Thirty Years' War their hopes of creating an empire in Germany had been crushed. The Hapsburgs made a hard transition in the 17th century. They lost the German Empire, but now they created a new empire in eastern and southeastern parts of Europe.

The core of the Empire was now in present day Austria, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

The Austrian monarchy never became a highly centeralized, absolutist state, mainly because it was made up of so many different groups. Each of the areas had their own laws and political life. No common sentiment tied them together.

Russia under Peter The Great

A new Russian state had come forth in the fifteenth century under the leadership of Muscovy and it's grand dukes. In the 16th century, Ivan IV became the first ruler to become a czar, the Russian name for caesar.

Ivan expanded the territories of Russia toward the east. He also took out the power of the Russian nobilit, known as the boyars. He was known as Ivan the Terrible because of the ruthless things he did, one of which he stabbed his own son to death in a heated argument.

When Ivan's dynasty came to an end in 1598, a period of anarchy knows as the Time of Troubles came around. This period lasted until the Zemsky Sobor, or national assemblu, chose Michael Romanov as the new czar in 1613.

The Romanov dynasty lasted until 1917. One of it's most important members was Peter the Great who became czar in 1689. Like the other czars, Peter was an absolutist monarch who claimed the divine right to rule.

A few learns after becoming a czar, Peter was on a trip to the west. When he came back, he wanted to westernize Russia, especially in the area of technology. Only that could give him the army and navy that could make Russia great power.

By Peter's death in 1725, Russia was an important European state.

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Military and Governmental Changes

Peter wanted to reorganize the army. He hired both Russian and Europeans as officers. He drafter peasants and slowly built an army of 210,000 men. Peter was also given credit for organizing the first navy.

To in force the rule of central government though the land, Peter divided Russia into provinces. He hoped that this would create "political state". However, few of the bureaucrats shared his views. Peter hoped for a sense of civic duty, but instead there was a feeling of fear. Peter wanted the impossible - that his administrators be slaves and free men at the same time.

Peter introduced western customs, practices and manners into Russia. He ordered the preparations of the first Russian book of etiquette to teach western manner. The book pointed out that it was not polite to spit on the floor or to scratch oneself at dinner. ​Westerners did not wear beards or traditional long coats, so russian beards had to be shaved and coats were short. ​Peter, himself, also shaved beards of nobles and cut off coats.

​Upper class women had a lot of rules from Peter. He insisted that Russian women remove the veils and move out into society.

​The purpose of Peter’s reforms was to make russia a great state and military power. ​He “opened a window to the West” meaning a port with ready access to Europe. ​He wanted to do this in the baltic sea but this was for Sweden. After a long war, Sweden enabled Peter to the land.

He began to construct the new city St. Petersburg in 1703. It was finished during his lifetime and remained Russia’s capital until 1918 because Moscow is now the capital of Russia.


Central and Eastern Europe - page 444-44

France - page 441-444

Russia 445-447