Politics in Period 4

Governance in the early modern period


A single government structure was ubiquitous across the global Empires during period 4: a strong centralized government headed by an autocrat and assisted by an extensive bureaucracy. This system of government had been the norm in China for centuries, where it continued with few changes, and became more and more popular across the world as executives like Ivan the Great and Akbar united myriad citystates, kingdoms and municipalities into empires.

Another common thread is expansion, whether overland or imperially, through acquisition of colonies, particularly in the New World by the Western European powers.

As the 18th century dawned, however, we saw stirrings of new forms- in England battles raged over autocratic and parliamentary power struggles and the Ottoman Empire waned as a result of its leaders' corruption and hoarding of power.

It was these circumstances- emphasis on powerful and deeply ingrained centralized government but the stirrings of republican, federalist, and democratic ideals, which perfectly set the stage for the upcoming French and American revolutions in the late 18th century.

Russian politics: Mongols to Moscow

Russian autonomy

Monday, Feb. 9th 1480 at 9pm


Mongol occupation of Russia slowly weakens, until Russia begins the process towards autonomy. Under Ivan III, Muscovite forces drive the Mongols out of Russia.

Mongols vanquished

Thursday, Oct. 2nd 1552 at 9pm

Kazan, Russia

Ivan III's son, Ivan IV (the Terrible) defeats the Kavan Khanate at Kazan after a six week siege, fending off the Tartars, who frequently invaded, and pushing the last of the Kavan Mongols out of Russia.

Expansion and Warfare

  • Following the casting off of Mongol rule by Russian/Muscovite forces, Russia focused on centralizing its government and expanding its borders under hereditary leaders called tsars, like Ivan the Great, Ivan the Terrible, and Peter the Great.
  • The power center of Russia was moved to Moscow when the Mongols took over, as the Mongols collected tributary funds from Moscow. The city maintained its power after the Mongols' departure.
  • After the Mongols' departure Russia was a group of connected states, rather than a unified country. This proved to be a challenge for leaders who tried to coalesce the states into one entity ruled by... them.
  • Russian expansion was centered on three objectives:

1. Security from nearby nomadic societies: pastoral peoples to the South and East often raided Russia's neighbors' cities and towns, sometimes selling their people into slavery. Russians worried one of these societies would rise to power and take control as the Mongols did. However, it was Russia, ultimately, which held political and military hegemony in the region.

2. Furs: to Russia's east was Siberia, home to exotic creatures like the snow leopard, whose fur was extremely valuable (such furs were nicknamed soft gold). Russian traders wanted access to that market.

3. Expanding Russian civilization: When Russia took Kazan, settlers tore down mosques and built Byzantine Christian churches. Russians felt the need to bring civilization and enlightenment to nearby societies, like the nomads to the south and east and Muslims to the west. Conquered native peoples were "Russified", forced to adopt Russian language and culture and give up their hunting and gathering, and converted to Christianity.

  • Ultimately this forceful expansion accumulated thousands of miles of territory. However, conflicts over leadership and ascension and intersocietal tensions led to decades of war and famine. Russia continually butted heads with the nearby Ottoman Empire and Qing Dynasty for territorial reasons.
Big image

The rise of the tsars

After Russians gained autonomy, the very top of the political hierarchy was the tsar, who had complete executive and military power. Some tsars, like Ivan the Terrible, were ruthless and used their power to behead (or boil alive) enemies. Others, like Peter the Great, implemented reforms and reached out to the global community.

Renaissance politics: Roman throwback

Big image

Italian governance

  • The Renaissance began in Italy, which was divided into many city-states (as Rome had been back in the day). These city-states carried out many actions typical of an autonomous government, like printing money and waging war on the other cities.
  • Florence, one of the Renaissance's most influential cities, was a Republic, in which citizens and leaders alike held and admired democratic values.
  • However, supremely wealthy families, like the Medicis (bankers who owed their wealth to converting money and goods travelling from one city state to another), wielded enormous influence over not only the economy, but also the government.

Spanish governance

  • Spain was headed by a monarchy, which held significant control over the country. Ferdinand and Isabella, for instance, tried to use their executive power to convert the country to Catholicism, persecuting and expelling Moors and Jews in the process. They also re-established an Inquisition, a severe religious court from centuries earlier- the Italians weren't the only ones looking to the past for their governmental structure!!
  • Spain was also one of the most important and expansive imperial powers, establishing many colonies in the New World.

French and English governance

  • During and following the tumultuous fifteenth century (including the Hundred Years War between the two forces), rulers succeeded in unifying small kingdoms and territories into powerful states in both France and England (in France's case, Louis Xi. In England's, Henry VII)
  • The countries were headed by centralized hereditary monarchies covetous of their power, and embroiled in disputes over ascension and family ties. These rulers, often young, were impacted by their courts and advisors.
  • Both countries were occasionally governed by queens but almost always headed by domineering autocrats, who often spurred conflict and genocide- Mary executed thousands of non-Catholics in England.
  • (Despite the best efforts of Parliament and other rights activists, who tried to reign in the leader's power- we see an early example of this in the Magna Carta of 1215)
  • International diplomacy became more and more important, and war became a less popular MO for settling disputes. Intermarriages between the royal families served as treaties and compacts, not just for France and England but Spain and others as well.
  • Additionally, both countries were involved in exploratory missions into the New World. Though not as expansive as Spain's originally, the English and French settlements in North America steadily grew and flourished by the eighteenth century.

Ottoman politics: Imperialism and isolationism

The takeover of Constantinople

Wednesday, Feb. 9th 1453 at 9pm


Mehmed II, the 21-year-old ruler of the burgeoning Ottoman Empire, led the battering of Constantinople, the longtime political, religious, and cultural capital of the Byzantine Empire. He assumes the city as the new Ottoman capital and it eventually gets renamed Istanbul.

Justice is served

  • At its peak the Ottoman Empire was vast, stretching from Central Europe to Arabia. In order for the Empire to survive and thrive, as it did for over 600 years, the people had to be organized and content, and the government centralized and organized. It was.
  • The Ottoman executive was the Sultan, who had complete control in every regard, much like Russia's tsar or China's emperor. He claimed the title "Caliph", the highest in Islam. The Sultan's job was to provide justice (adalet) to the people, a crucial idea in Islamic political science. In an ideal world the Sultan PROTECTED the people from the excesses of government and its power, rather than embodying it. Some Islamic historians argue the Ottoman Empire declined because Sultans took less and less interest in protecting justice in the Empire.
  • Fun fact: the Sultan was required to periodically tour local governments to ensure the magistrates and judges were acting justly.
  • Advancement in the governmental hierarchy was contingent upon military service; prestige was not given, but earned.
  • As the empire expanded, provincial leaders became more important and became more powerful.
  • Government was intentionally open- citizens could approach the Imperial Court (pictured with the Sultan below) with complaints about government officials
  • Though the Sultan had official executive power, as was the case with China, the government was run by a sprawling bureaucracy governed by a strict set of rules (the Sultan was also bound by these restrictions)
  • First came the Divian, essentially the Sultan's cabinet
  • The most powerful single person below the Sultan, however, was the Grand Vizier (comparable to a Prime Minister or President) who actually carried out executive decisions
  • Additionally, the Imperial Harem was ruled by the mother of the Sultan (known as the Valide Sultan) and occasionally impacted policy. The Valide Sultan could involve herself in political matters and decrease or expand the Sultan's power.
  • Below the Viziers and Courts were the Ministers, who controlled the departments- the most important of which was the Department of Justice.
Big image

Mughal politics: subcontinental federalism and bureaucracy

Mughal empire founded

Tuesday, Feb. 9th 1526 at 9pm


The Mughal (an Indo-Aryan variation of 'Mongol', as its founder was of Mongol descent) Empire was founded in 1526 when Babur defeated the last of the Afghan sultans at the first Battle of Panipat. (This battle was also the first time gunpowder was used in India)
Big image

Mughal foundations

  • Mughals attempted to unify Muslims and Hindus into a united Indian state
  • Founded by Turkish Prince, descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur (Turkish conquerer)
  • Ousted from his domain in central Asia so turned to India to fulfill his conquering needs
  • His grandson, Akbar (who ascended at age THIRTEEN), was the greatest of the Mughal emperors. He annexed all of northern and part of southern India (via constant warfare)
  • Benevolent toward his Hindu subjects (though that’s partly because he married a Hindu princess); enlisted them in government and military
  • Akbar ended a tax on non-Muslims
  • 1600s- British tried to set up trading posts on Indian coast to transport to East Indies, but after a while tensions flared up between the local and British government and the British were expelled after a war in 1686
  • In 1757 a British army of 3,000 defeated the Mughal empire and the British East India company left the decrepit Mughal court. Soon the British forces seized the Mughal Empire and the British now took over India. The British East India company expanded to generate revenues to pay for expensive military operations in India, further decreasing local power and handing India over to the British
  • British items were imported duty free, competing with local goods and ruining Indian industry
  • In the 1770s massive famine led to the death of 1/3 of the population in company-controlled areas

Mughal governance

  • A Muslim minority ruled the Hindu majority.
  • Religious toleration was extremely important- Akbar believed everyone should be treated equally.
  • Emperor was the center of government- he was head of state, commander in chief, and final word on judicial and legislative matters. Akbar had instituted a centralized government, which lasted until the 19th century
  • The emperor’s main focus, however, was foreign policy- he broke his administration into four parts:

1. Diwan- taxes and finances

2. Mir Bakshi- military affairs and intelligence

3. Mir Saman- ran the royal household, governed trade and production

4. Qazi- religious and legal affairs- ruled by Sharia law

Mughal military

  • Mansbdar system- Mansabs are officers- often provincial governors or military commanders- who provided troops for imperial service
  • Each Mansab could control 20-10,000 troops
  • Were hired and placed by the emperor, who made sure to move them around often to prevent gaining support and challenging the emperor

Qing politics: Ming to Manchus

Qing dynasty founded

Tuesday, Feb. 9th 1644 at 9pm


The Manchus, a northern power which had helped the Ming fight the Mongols, turned on the Ming once they realized how weak the dynasty was. In 1644 they took over and proclaimed a new dynasty- the Qing.

Dynastic structure: business as usual

  • The Qing essentially maintained the governmental system of the Ming
  • Like many Chinese dynasties before it, the Qing dynasty was headed by an emperor, who was assisted by an extensive bureaucracy
  • BUT to ensure the balance of power was tipped in the emperor's favor, the most important matters were decided in "Inner Court", comprised of the imperial family and other nobility
  • The bureaucracy was divided into six Boards/Ministries, each of which had two Presidents and four Vice Presidents

  1. Board of Civil Appointments- in charge of all government personnel
  2. Board of Revenue- taxes.
  3. Board of Rites- oversaw the civil examination system (by which government positions were chosen) and periodic ancestor worship
  4. Board of War- limited administrative power over one army- the Emperor controlled troop movements, etc
  5. Board of Punishment- all legal matters, BUT the emperor often overturned decisions and because there was no separation of the executive and judicial systems, the legal framework was weak
  6. Board of Works- building projects and minting coins

  • All governmental positions were divided between two officials- one Han and one Manchu. The Han official did the work and the Manchu ensured the Han's loyalty to the dynasty.
  • As China expanded- it was largest during the 18th century- and contracted, the number of administrative districts increased and decreased. The emperor maintained complete control over all of them.
  • This dynasty was stable and powerful, lasting over 300 years and spanning from its conception in the wake of the Mongol takeover of the continent to the founding of the Republic of China in 1910.