Scheduled maintenance: Saturday, August 7 from 5PM to 6PM PDT
Only $2.99/month

Terms in this set (46)

Developments in Russia took a chaotic turn with the reign of Ivan IV, the famous "Ivan the Terrible,". At age sixteen Ivan pushed aside his advisers and crowned himself tsar.
Ivan defeated the remnants of Mongol power, added vast new territories to the realm, and laid the foundations for the Russian empire. After the death of his wife, Ivan began persecution against those he suspected of opposing him. To replace them, Ivan created a new service nobility, whose loyalty was guaranteed by their dependence on the state for land and titles.
As landlords demanded more from the serfs, peasants fled toward territories to the east and south. They joined groups known as Cossacks. Ivan responded by tying peasants to the land. He ordered that urban dwellers be bound to their towns and jobs so that he could tax them more heavily. These restrictions checked the growth of the Russian middle classes and stood in sharp contrast to economic and social developments in western Europe.
After the death of Ivan and his successor, Russia entered a chaotic period known as the "Time of Troubles" Ordinary people suffered drought, crop failure, and plague. The Cossacks and peasants rebelled against nobles and officials, demanding fairer treatment. This brought nobles together. They crushed the Cossack rebellion and brought Ivan's grandnephew, Michael Romanov, to the throne.
Although the new tsar reconsolidated central authority, he and his successors did not improve the lot of the common people. A law extended serfdom to all peasants in the realm, giving lords unrestricted rights over their serfs and establishing penalties for harboring runaways. Social and religious uprisings among the poor and oppressed continued through the seventeenth century. One of the largest rebellions was led by the Cossack Stenka Razin, who in 1670 attracted a great army of urban poor and peasants. He and his followers killed landlords and government officials and proclaimed freedom from oppression, but their rebellion was defeated in 1671.
Despite the turbulence of the period, the Romanov tsars made several important achievements. Russia gained land in Ukraine from Poland and completed the conquest of Siberia by the end of the century. Territorial expansion was accompanied by growth of the bureaucracy and the army. The tsars employed foreign experts to reform the Russian army, and enlisted Cossack warriors to fight Siberian campaigns. The great profits from Siberia's natural resources, especially furs, funded the Romanovs' bid for Great Power status. Russian imperialist expansion to the east paralleled the Western powers' exploration and conquest of the Atlantic world in the same period.
Peter was determined to build the army and to continue Russian territorial expansion. Fascinated by weapons and eager to gain support against the Ottoman Empire, the tsar led a group of Russian officials and young nobles on a tour of western European capitals. Peter met with foreign kings, toured the sites, and learned shipbuilding and other technical skills from local artisans and experts. He was impressed with the growing economic power of the Dutch and the English, and he considered how Russia could profit from their example.
Peter entered into a secret alliance with Denmark and Poland to wage a sudden war against Sweden with the goal of securing access to the Baltic Sea and westward expansion. Peter believed that their combined forces could win easy victories because Sweden was in the hands of a new king.
Eighteen-year-old Charles XII of Sweden surprised Peter. He defeated Denmark quickly, then turned on Russia. His well-trained professional army attacked and routed unsuspecting Russians. It was, for the Russians, a grim beginning to the long and brutal Great Northern War.
Peter responded to this defeat with measures designed to increase state power, strengthen his armies, and gain victory. He required all nobles to serve in the army for life. Peter created new schools and required every young nobleman to spend five years in education. Peter established a military-civilian bureaucracy with fourteen ranks, and decreed that all had to start at the bottom and work toward the top. The system allowed some people of non-noble origins to rise to high positions. Peter sought talented foreigners and placed them in his service.
Peter also increased the service requirements of commoners. In the wake of the Narva disaster, he established an army of more than two hundred thousand peasant-soldiers. He added an additional hundred thousand men in special regiments of Cossacks and foreign mercenaries. Taxes on peasants increased threefold during Peter's reign. Serfs were also assigned to work in the growing number of factories and mines that supplied the military.
Peter's new war machine was able to crush the small army of Sweden in Ukraine at Poltava. Russia's victory against Sweden was conclusive, and Estonia and present-day Latvia came under Russian rule for the first time. After his victory at Poltava, Peter channeled enormous resources into building a Western-style capital on the Baltic to rival the great cities of Europe. The city of St. Petersburg was designed to reflect modern urban planning, with wide, straight avenues, buildings set in a uniform line, and large parks.
The government drafted twenty-five thousand to forty thousand men each summer to labor in St. Petersburg, many of whom died from hunger, sickness, and accidents. Nobles were ordered to build costly palaces in St. Petersburg and to live in them most of the year. The building of St. Petersburg was an enormous direct tax levied on the wealthy, with the peasantry forced to do the manual labor.
There were other important consequences of Peter's reign. Modernization meant westernization, and Westerners and Western ideas flowed into Russia for the first time. He required nobles to shave their beards and wear Western clothing, previously banned in Russia. He ordered them to attend parties where young men and women would mix together and choose their own spouses. From these efforts a new elite class of Western-oriented Russians began to emerge.
Peter's reforms were unpopular with many Russians. For nobles, one of Peter's most detested reforms was the imposition of cutting daughters and other sons from family property. For peasants, the reign of the tsar saw a significant increase in the bonds of serfdom, and the gulf between the enserfed peasantry and the educated nobility increased. Peter's modernizing and westernizing of Russia paved the way for it to move somewhat closer to the European mainstream in its thought and institutions during the Enlightenment, especially under Catherine the Great.
Most Christian Europeans perceived the Ottomans as the antithesis of their own values and viewed the empire as driven by an insatiable lust for warfare and conquest. In their view the fall of Constantinople was a historic catastrophe and the taking of the Balkans a form of imprisonment. To Ottoman eyes, the world looked very different. The siege of Constantinople liberated a glorious city from its long decline under the Byzantines. The Balkans became a haven for refugees fleeing the growing intolerance of Western Christian powers. The Ottoman Empire provided Jews, Muslims, and even some Christians safety from the Inquisition and religious war.
The Ottomans came out of Central Asia as warriors, settled in Anatolia, and ruled one of the most powerful empires in the world. Their possessions stretched from western Persia across North Africa and into the heart of central Europe.
The Ottoman Empire was built on a unique model of state and society. Agricultural land was the personal hereditary property of the sultan, and peasants paid taxes to use the land. There was an absence of private landed property and no hereditary nobility.
The Ottomans also employed a distinctive form of government administration. The top ranks of the bureaucracy were staffed by the sultan's slave corps. The sultan's agents purchased slaves along the borders of the empire. Within the realm, the sultan levied a "tax" of one thousand to three thousand male children on the conquered Christian populations every year. These young slaves were raised in Turkey as Muslims and were trained to fight and to administer. Unlike enslaved Africans in European colonies, the most talented Ottoman slaves rose to the top of the bureaucracy, where they might acquire wealth and power. The less fortunate formed the core of the sultan's army, the janissary corps. These organized and efficient troops gave the Ottomans a formidable advantage in war with western Europeans. Service in the janissary corps had become so prestigious that the sultan ceased recruitment by force, and it became a volunteer army open to Christians and Muslims.
The Ottomans divided their subjects into religious communities, and each millet enjoyed autonomous self-government under its religious leaders. The Ottoman Empire recognized Orthodox Christians, Jews, Armenian Christians, and Muslims as distinct millets, but the empire was an explicitly Islamic state. The millet system created a powerful bond between the Ottoman ruling class and religious leaders, who supported the sultan's rule in return for extensive authority over their own communities. Each millet collected taxes for the state, regulated group behavior, and maintained law courts, schools, houses of worship, and hospitals for its people.
Istanbul was the capital of the empire. The old palace was for the sultan's female family members, who lived in isolation under the care of eunuchs, men who were castrated to prevent sexual relations with women. The newer Topkapi palace was where officials worked and young slaves trained for future administrative or military careers. Sultans married women of the highest social standing, while keeping many concubines of low rank. Sultans procreated only with their concubines and not with official wives. They adopted a policy of allowing each concubine to produce only one male heir. At a young age, each son went to govern a province of the empire accompanied by his mother. These practices were intended to stabilize power and prevent a recurrence of the civil wars of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.
Sultan Suleiman undid these policies when he boldly married his concubine, a former slave of Polish origin named Hürrem, and had several children with her. Starting with Suleiman, imperial wives began to take on more power. Marriages were arranged between sultans' daughters and high-ranking servants, creating powerful new members of the imperial household. Over time, the sultan's exclusive authority waned in favor of a more bureaucratic administration.
Relations between the king and the House of Commons were also embittered by religious issues. Growing numbers of English people felt dissatisfied with the Church of England established by Henry VIII. Many Puritans believed the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century had not gone far enough. They wanted to purify the Anglican Church.
James I responded to such ideas by declaring, "No bishop, no king." For James, bishops were the chief supporters of the throne. His son, Charles I, antagonized religious sentiments. Not only did he marry a Catholic princess, but he supported the heavy-handed policies of the archbishop of Canterbury William Laud. Laud attempted to impose two new elements on church organization in Scotland: a new prayer book and bishoprics. The Presbyterian Scots rejected these elements and revolted. To finance an army to put down the Scots, King Charles was compelled to call a meeting of Parliament in November 1640.
Charles had ruled without Parliament, financing his government through extraordinary stopgap levies considered illegal. Most members of Parliament were not willing to trust such a despotic king with an army. Many supported the Scots' resistance to Charles's religious innovations. Accordingly, this Parliament, called the "Long Parliament" because it sat from 1640 to 1660, enacted legislation that limited the power of the monarch and made government without Parliament impossible.
In 1641 the Commons passed the Triennial Act, which compelled the king to summon Parliament every three years. The Commons impeached Archbishop Laud and threatened to abolish bishops. King Charles, fearful of a Scottish invasion — the reason for summoning Parliament — accepted these measures.
The next act in the conflict was precipitated by outbreak of rebellion in Ireland, where English governors and landlords had exploited the people. The Catholic gentry of Ireland led an uprising in response to a feared invasion by anti-Catholic forces of the British Long Parliament.
Without an army, Charles I could neither come to terms with Scots nor respond to the Irish rebellion. After a failed attempt to arrest parliamentary leaders, Charles left London for the north of England. He recruited an army. In response, Parliament formed its own army, the New Model Army, composed of the militia of the city of London and country squires with business connections. A linen weaver became the first casualty of the civil war during a skirmish between royal and parliamentary forces in Manchester.
The English civil war pitted power of the king against the Parliament. Parliament's New Model Army defeated the king's armies at the Battles of Naseby and Langport in the summer of 1645. Charles refused to concede defeat. Both sides jockeyed for position,. This arrived in the form of the army under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, a member of the House of Commons and a devout Puritan. Cromwell's forces captured the king and dismissed anti-Cromwell members of the Parliament. In 1649 the remaining representatives, known as the "Rump Parliament," put Charles on trial for high treason. Charles was found guilty and beheaded on January 30, 1649, an act that sent shock waves around Europe.
Hobbes held a pessimistic view of human nature and believed that humans would compete violently for power and wealth. The only solution was a social contract in which all members of society placed themselves under the rule of the sovereign, who would maintain peace and order. Hobbes imagined society as a human body in which the monarch served as head and individual subjects together made up the body. Just as the body cannot sever its own head, so Hobbes believed that society could not, having accepted the contract, rise up against its king.
Hobbes's longing for a benevolent absolute monarch was not widely shared in England. Instead, Oliver Cromwell and his supporters enshrined a commonwealth known as the Protectorate. Legislative power rested in the surviving members of Parliament, and executive power was lodged in a council of state. However, the army controlled the government, and Oliver Cromwell controlled the army.
The army prepared a constitution, the Instrument of Government, that invested executive power in a lord protector and a council of state. It provided for triennial parliaments and gave Parliament the power to raise taxes. But after repeated disputes Cromwell dismissed Parliament and the instrument was never endorsed. Cromwell continued the standing army and proclaimed quasi-martial law. He divided England into twelve military districts, each governed by a major general. Cromwell's state forbade sports, closed the theaters, and rigorously censored the press.
Cromwell favored some degree of toleration, and the Instrument of Government gave all Christians except Roman Catholics the right to practice their faith. Cromwell had associated Catholicism in Ireland with sedition and heresy, and led an army there to reconquer the country. His forces crushed a rebellion at Drogheda and massacred the garrison. After Cromwell's departure for England, atrocities worsened. The English banned Catholicism in Ireland, executed priests, and confiscated land from Catholics for English and Scottish settlers.
Cromwell adopted mercantilist policies similar to those of absolutist France. He enforced a Navigation Act requiring English goods be transported on English ships. The act was a boost to the development of an English merchant marine and brought a short but successful war with the commercially threatened Dutch. While mercantilist legislation benefited English commerce, for ordinary people the turmoil of foreign war only added to the harsh conditions of life induced by years of civil war. Cromwell also welcomed the immigration of Jews because of their skills in business, and they began to return to England after four centuries of absence.
The Protectorate collapsed when Cromwell died in 1658 and his ineffectual son succeeded him. Fed up with military rule, the English longed for a return to civilian government and, with it, common law and social stability. By 1660 they were ready to restore the monarchy.
The Restoration of 1660 brought to the throne Charles II who had been living on the continent. Both houses of Parliament were also restored. The Restoration failed to resolve two serious problems. What was to be the attitude of the state toward Puritans, Catholics, and dissenters from the established church? And what was to be the relationship between the king and Parliament?
Parliament enacted the Test Act of 1673 against those outside the Church of England, denying them the right to vote, hold public office, preach, teach, attend the universities, or even assemble for meetings. These restrictions could not be enforced. When the Quaker William Penn held a meeting of his Friends and was arrested, the jury refused to convict him.
In politics, Charles II's initial determination to work well with Parliament did not last long. Finding that Parliament did not grant him an adequate income, Charles entered into a secret agreement with his cousin Louis XIV. The French king would give Charles £200,000 annually, and Charles would relax the laws against Catholics, gradually re-Catholicize England, and convert to Catholicism himself. When the details of this treaty leaked out, a great wave of anti-Catholic sentiment swept England.
When Charles died and his Catholic brother James became king, the worst English anti-Catholic fears were realized. In violation of the Test Act, James II appointed Roman Catholics to positions in the army, the universities, and local government. When these actions were challenged in the courts, the judges decided in favor of the king. James and his supporters opened new Catholic churches and schools and issued tracts promoting Catholicism. Attempting to broaden his base of support with Protestant dissenters and nonconformists, James granted religious freedom to all.
James's opponents, a powerful coalition of eminent persons in Parliament and the Church of England, bitterly resisted James's ambitions. They offered the English throne to James's heir, his Protestant daughter Mary, and her Dutch husband, Prince William of Orange. In December 1688 James II, his queen, and their infant son fled to France and became pensioners of Louis XIV. Early in 1689 William and Mary were crowned king and queen of England.
The English call the events of 1688 and 1689 the "Glorious Revolution" because they believe it replaced one king with another with barely any bloodshed. In truth, William's arrival sparked riots and violence across the British Isles and in Boston and New York. Uprisings by supporters of James, known as Jacobites, occurred in Scotland. In Ireland, the two sides waged outright war. William's victory at the Battle of the Boyne and the subsequent Treaty of Limerick sealed his accession to power.
In England, the revolution represented the final destruction of the idea of divine-right monarchy. The men who brought about the revolution framed their intentions in the Bill of Rights, which was formulated in response to Stuart absolutism. Law was to be made in Parliament; once made, it could not be suspended by the Crown. Parliament had to be called at least once every three years. The independence of the judiciary was established, and there was to be no standing army in peacetime. Protestants could possess arms, but the Catholic minority could not. No Catholic could ever inherit the throne. Additional legislation granted freedom of worship to Protestant dissenters, but not to Catholics. William and Mary accepted these principles when they took the throne, and the House of Parliament passed the Bill of Rights in December 1689.
The Glorious Revolution and the concept of representative government found its best defense in John Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government. Locke. maintained that a government that oversteps its proper function becomes a tyranny. By "natural" rights Locke meant rights basic to all men because all have the ability to reason. Under a tyrannical government, people have the natural right to rebellion. He justified limiting the vote to property owners. Locke's idea that there are natural or universal rights equally valid for all peoples and societies was popular in colonial America. American colonists appreciated his arguments that Native Americans had no property rights since they did not cultivate the land and, by extension, no political rights because they possessed no property.
The revolution placed sovereignty in Parliament, and Parliament represented the upper classes. The age of aristocratic government lasted until when women received full voting rights.
The cabinet system of government evolved. The term cabinet derives from the room in which English rulers consulted their chief ministers. In a cabinet system, the leading ministers formulate common policy and conduct the business of the country. During the administration of Sir Robert Walpole, the idea developed that the cabinet was responsible to the House of Commons. The Hanoverian king George I presided at cabinet meetings throughout his reign, but his son George II discontinued the practice. The influence of the Crown in decision making accordingly declined. Walpole enjoyed the favor of the monarchy and of the House of Commons and came to be called the king's first minister. In the English cabinet system, both legislative power and executive power are held by the leading ministers, who form the government.
England's brief and chaotic experiment with republicanism under Oliver Cromwell convinced its people of the advantages of a monarchy, albeit with strong checks on royal authority. For supporters of Parliament, the tolerant and moderate Dutch Republic had provided a powerful counterexample to Louis XIV's absolutism.
The independence of the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was recognized in 1648 in the treaty that ended the Thirty Years' War. In this period, often called the "golden age of the Netherlands," Dutch ideas and attitudes played a role in shaping a new and modern worldview. The United Provinces developed its own model of a constitutional state.
The Dutch established a republic, in which power rested in the hands of the people and was exercised via elected representatives. Among the Dutch, an oligarchy of wealthy businessmen called regents handled domestic affairs in each province's Estates. The Estates held all the power. A federal assembly, or States General, handled foreign affairs and war, but it did not possess sovereign authority. All issues had to be referred to the local Estates for approval, and each of the seven provinces could veto any proposed legislation. Holland, with the largest navy and the most wealth, usually dominated the republic and the States General.
In each province, the Estates appointed an executive officer, or stadholder, who carried out ceremonial functions and was responsible for military defense. Although in theory freely chosen by the Estates and answerable to them, in practice the strong and influential House of Orange held the office of stadholder in several of the seven provinces of the republic. This meant tensions always lingered between supporters of the House of Orange and those of the staunchly republican Estates, who suspected the princes of Orange harbored monarchical ambitions. When William III took the English throne in 1688 with his wife, Mary, the republic simply continued without stadholders for several decades.
The political success of the Dutch rested on their commercial prosperity. The moral and ethical bases of that commercial wealth were thrift, frugality, and religious toleration. Although there is evidence of anti-Semitism, Jews enjoyed a level of acceptance and assimilation in Dutch business and general culture unique in early modern Europe. In the Dutch Republic, toleration paid off: it attracted a great deal of foreign capital and investment.
The Dutch came to dominate the shipping business by putting profits from their original industry into shipbuilding. They boasted the lowest shipping rates and largest merchant marine in Europe, allowing them to undersell foreign competitors.
Trade and commerce brought the Dutch the highest standard of living in Europe, perhaps in the world. Salaries were high, and all classes of society ate well. A scholar has described the Netherlands as "an island of plenty in a sea of want." Consequently, the Netherlands experienced very few of the food riots that characterized the rest of Europe.
The term baroque may have come from the Portuguese word for an "odd-shaped, imperfect pearl" and was used by art critics as an expression of scorn for what they considered overblown and unbalanced. Specialists agree that the baroque style marked one of the high points in the history of Western culture.
Rome and the revitalized Catholic Church of the late sixteenth century spurred the development of the baroque. The papacy and Jesuits encouraged growth of an emotional, exuberant art. These patrons wanted artists to go beyond the Renaissance focus on pleasing a small, wealthy cultural elite. They wanted artists to appeal to the senses and touch the souls and kindle the faith of ordinary churchgoers while proclaiming the power and confidence of the reformed Catholic Church. The baroque drew its sense of drama, motion, and ceaseless striving from the Catholic Reformation. The interior of the famous Jesuit Church of Jesus in Rome — the Gesù — combined all these characteristics in its lavish, wildly active decorations and frescoes.
Taking shape in Italy after 1600, the baroque style in visual arts developed with exceptional vigor in Catholic countries. Yet baroque art was more than just "Catholic art". Neither Protestant England nor the Netherlands ever came fully under the spell of the baroque, but neither did Catholic France. And Protestants accounted for some of the finest examples of baroque style, especially in music. The baroque style spread partly because its tension and bombast spoke to an agitated age that was experiencing great violence and controversy in politics and religion.
In painting, the baroque reached maturity early with Peter Paul Rubens, the most outstanding and most representative of baroque painters. Studying in his Flanders and in Italy, Rubens developed his own rich, sensuous, colorful style, characterized by animated figures, melodramatic contrasts, and monumental size. Rubens excelled in glorifying monarchs such as Queen Mother Marie de' Medici of France. He was a devout Catholic; nearly half of his pictures treat Christian subjects. One of Rubens's trademarks was the fleshy, sensual nudes who populate his canvases as Roman goddesses, water nymphs, and remarkably voluptuous saints and angels.
In music, the baroque style reached its culmination almost a century later in the dynamic, soaring lines of the endlessly inventive Johann Sebastian Bach. Organist and choirmaster of Lutheran churches across Germany, Bach was equally at home writing secular concertos and sublime religious cantatas. Bach's organ music combined the baroque spirit of invention, tension, and emotion in a striving toward the infinite. Bach was not fully appreciated in his lifetime, but his reputation has grown steadily.
One of the most important disciplines was natural philosophy, which focused on questions about the nature of the universe, its purpose, and how it functioned. Natural philosophy was based on the ideas of Aristotle. Medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas brought philosophy into harmony with Christian doctrines. According to Aristotelian view, a motionless earth was at the center of the universe and was encompassed by ten separate concentric crystal spheres that revolved around it. In the first eight spheres were embedded the moon, the sun, the five known planets, and the fixed stars. Then followed two spheres. Beyond the tenth sphere was Heaven, with the throne of God and the souls of the saved. Angels kept the spheres moving in perfect circles.
Aristotle's cosmology made intellectual sense, but could not account for the observed motions of the stars and planets and provided no explanation for the backward motion of the planets. Ptolemy offered a solution to this dilemma: the planets moved in small circles, called epicycles, each of which moved in turn along a larger circle, or deferent. Ptolemaic astronomy was less elegant than Aristotle's neat nested circles and required complex calculations, but it provided a surprisingly accurate model for predicting planetary motion.
Aristotle's views dominated thinking about physics and motion on earth. Aristotle distinguished between the world of the celestial spheres and that of the earth. The spheres consisted of a perfect, incorruptible quintessence. The sublunar world, was made up of four imperfect elements. The fire and air naturally moved upward, while the water and earth naturally moved downward. These natural directions of motion did not always prevail, for elements were mixed together and could be affected by an outside force. Aristotle also believed that a uniform force moved an object at a constant speed and that the object would stop as soon as that force was removed.
Natural philosophy was considered superior to mathematical disciplines, and Aristotle's ideas about the cosmos were accepted for two thousand years. His views offered an explanation for what the eye actually saw. Aristotle's science as interpreted by Christian theologians fit with Christian doctrines. It established a home for God and a place for Christian souls. It put human beings at the center of the universe and made them the critical link in a "great chain of being" that stretched from the throne of God to the lowliest insect on earth. This approach to the natural world was thus a branch of theology, and it reinforced religious thought.
The Scientific Revolution drew on long-term developments in European culture/borrowings from Arabic scholars. The first important development was the medieval university. Permanent universities had been established to train the lawyers, doctors, and church leaders society required. Philosophy had taken its place alongside law, medicine, and theology. Medieval philosophers acquired an independence from theologians and a sense of free inquiry.
Medieval universities drew on traditions of Islamic learning. With the expansion of Islam into the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim world inherited ancient Greek learning, which Islamic scholars added their own commentaries and new discoveries. Many Greek texts, including Aristotle, were lost to the West after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, re-entered through translation from the Arabic; these became the basis for the curriculum of the medieval universities. Leading universities established professorships of mathematics, astronomy, and optics within their faculties of philosophy. The prestige of the new fields was low, but the stage was set for the union of mathematics with natural philosophy that was to be a hallmark of the Scientific Revolution.
The Renaissance stimulated scientific progress. Renaissance patrons played a role in funding scientific investigations. Renaissance artists' turn toward realism and their use of geometry to convey three-dimensional perspective encouraged scholars to practice close observation and to use mathematics to describe the natural world. The quest to restore the glories of the ancient past led to the rediscovery of more classical texts, such as Ptolemy's Geography. The encyclopedic treatise on botany by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus was rediscovered, moldering on the shelves of the Vatican library. The fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453 resulted in a great influx of little-known Greek works, as Christian scholars fled to Italy with their precious texts.
Developments in technology encouraged the emergence of the Scientific Revolution. The rise of printing provided a faster and less expensive way to circulate knowledge. Fascination with the new discoveries being made in Asia and the Americas increased the demand for printed material. Publishers found an eager audience for the books and images they issued about unknown peoples, plants, animals, and other new findings.
The navigational problems of long sea voyages in the age of overseas expansion led to technological innovations. The king of Portugal appointed a commission of mathematicians to perfect tables to help seamen find their latitude. Navigation and cartography were critical in the development of many new scientific instruments. Better instruments enabled the rise of experimentation as a crucial method of the Scientific Revolution.
Recent research on the contribution to the Scientific Revolution of practices that no longer belong to the realm of science, such as astrology. For most of human history, interest in astronomy was inspired by the belief that the changing relationships between planets and stars influence events on earth. This belief was held in Europe up to and during the Scientific Revolution. Many of the most celebrated astronomers were also astrologers and spent much time devising horoscopes for their patrons. Used as a diagnostic tool in medicine, astrology formed a regular part of the curriculum of medical schools.
Practices of magic and alchemy remained important traditions for natural philosophers. The practitioners of magic strove to understand and control hidden connections they perceived among different elements of the natural world, such as that between a magnet and iron. The idea that objects possessed invisible or "occult" qualities that allowed them to affect other objects through their innate "sympathy" with each other was a particularly important legacy of the magical tradition. Belief in occult qualities was not antithetical to belief in God. On the contrary, adherents believed that only a divine creator could infuse the universe with such meaningful mystery.
The desire to explain and glorify God's handiwork led to the first departure from the medieval system. This was the work of the Polish cleric Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus was drawn to the vitality of the Italian Renaissance. He studied astronomy, medicine, and church law. Copernicus noted that astronomers depended on the work of Ptolemy for their calculations, but he felt that Ptolemy's rules detracted from the majesty of a perfect creator. He preferred an alternative ancient Greek idea: that the sun, rather than the earth, was at the center of the universe.
Copernicus theorized that the stars and planets, including the earth, revolved around a fixed sun. Desiring to be certain of his claims before revealing them to the world, Copernicus did not publish his On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres until after his death.
The Copernican hypothesis had enormous scientific and religious implications, many of which Copernicus did not anticipate. First, it put the stars at rest and destroyed the main reason for believing in crystal spheres capable of moving the stars around the earth. Copernicus's theory suggested a universe of staggering size. If in the course of a year the earth moved around the sun and yet the stars appeared to remain in the same place, then the universe was unthinkably large. Third, by using mathematics to justify his theories, he challenged the traditional hierarchy of the disciplines. Finally, by characterizing the earth as just another planet, Copernicus destroyed the basic idea of Aristotelian physics — that the earthly sphere was quite different from the heavenly one. Where then were Heaven and the throne of God?
Religious leaders varied in their response to Copernicus's theories. A few Protestant scholars became avid Copernicans, while others accepted some elements of his criticism of Ptolemy, but firmly rejected the notion that the earth moved, a doctrine that contradicted the literal reading of some passages of the Bible. Among Catholics, Copernicus's ideas drew little attention prior to 1600. Because the Catholic Church had never held to literal interpretations of the Bible, it did not officially declare the Copernican hypothesis false until 1616.
Other events were almost as influential in creating doubts about traditional astronomy. In 1572 a new star appeared and shone very brightly for almost two years. The new star, which was actually a distant exploding star, made an enormous impression on people. It seemed to contradict the idea that the heavenly spheres were unchanging and therefore perfect. In 1577 a new comet suddenly moved through the sky, cutting a straight path across the supposedly impenetrable crystal spheres.
One astronomer who agreed with Copernicus was Tycho Brahe. Brahe became interested in astronomy as a young boy and spent many nights gazing at the skies. Brahe established himself as Europe's leading astronomer with his detailed observations of the new star of 1572. Aided by generous grants from the king of Denmark, Brahe built the most sophisticated observatory of his day.
Brahe acquired a new patron in the HRE Rudolph II and built a new observatory in Prague. In return for the emperor's support, he pledged to create new tables of planetary motions, dubbed the Rudolphine Tables. Brahe observed the stars and planets and compiled much more complete data than ever before. His limited understanding of mathematics and his death prevented him from making much sense out of his mass of data. Part Ptolemaic, part Copernican, he believed that all the planets except the earth revolved around the sun and that the entire group of sun and planets revolved in turn around the earth-moon system.
It was left to Brahe's young assistant, Johannes Kepler, to rework Brahe's observations. From a minor German noble family, Kepler suffered a bout of smallpox as a small child, leaving him with damaged hands and eyesight. A brilliant mathematician, Kepler was inspired by his belief that the universe was built on mystical mathematical relationships and a musical harmony of the heavenly bodies.
Kepler's examination of his predecessor's findings convinced him that Ptolemy's astronomy could not explain them. Kepler developed three new and revolutionary laws of planetary motion. First, through observations of Mars, he demonstrated that the orbits of the planets around the sun are elliptical. Second, he demonstrated that planets do not move at a uniform speed in their orbits. When a planet is close to the sun it moves more rapidly, and it slows as it moves farther away from the sun. Kepler published the first two laws in his book, The New Astronomy, which heralded the arrival of an entirely new theory of the cosmos. Kepler put forth his third law: the time a planet takes to make its complete orbit is precisely related to its distance from the sun.
Kepler's contribution was monumental. Whereas Copernicus used mathematics to describe planetary movement, Kepler proved the precise relations of a sun-centered system. He united the theoretical cosmology of natural philosophy with mathematics. His work demolished the old system of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and with his third law he came close to formulating the idea of universal gravitation. In 1627 he also fulfilled Brahe's pledge by completing the Rudolphine Tables begun so many years earlier. These tables were used by astronomers for many years.
Kepler was a genius with many talents. He pioneered the field of optics. He was the first to explain the role of refraction within the eye in creating vision, and he invented an improved telescope. He was also a great mathematician whose work furnished the basis for integral calculus and advances in geometry.
Kepler was not the consummate modern scientist that these achievements suggest. His duties as court mathematician included casting horoscopes, and he based his life on astrological principles. He wrote at length on cosmic harmonies and explained elliptical motion through ideas about the beautiful music created by the motion of the planets. Kepler's fictional account of travel to the moon, written partly to illustrate the idea of a non-earth-centered universe, caused controversy and may have contributed to the arrest and trial of his mother as a witch in 1620. Kepler also suffered deeply as a result of his unorthodox brand of Lutheranism, which led to his rejection by both Lutherans and Catholics. His career exemplifies the complex interweaving of ideas and beliefs in the emerging science of his day.
Young Florentine Galileo Galilei was challenging all the old ideas about motion. Galileo was a poor nobleman first marked for a religious career. His fascination with mathematics led to a professorship in which he examined motion and mechanics in a new way. His great achievement was the elaboration and consolidation of the experimental method. That is, rather than speculate about what might or should happen, Galileo conducted controlled experiments to find out what actually did happen.
In his early experiments, Galileo focused on deficiencies in Aristotle's theories of motion. He measured the movement of a rolling ball across a surface, repeating the action again and again to verify his results. In his famous acceleration experiment, he showed that a uniform force produced a uniform acceleration. Through another experiment, he formulated the law of inertia. He found that rest was not the natural state of objects. Rather, an object continues in motion forever unless stopped by some external force. His discoveries proved Aristotelian physics wrong.
Galileo then applied the experimental method to astronomy. On hearing about the invention of the telescope in Holland, Galileo made one for himself and trained it on the heavens. He discovered the first four moons of Jupiter, which clearly suggested that Jupiter could not possibly be embedded in any impenetrable crystal sphere as Aristotle and Ptolemy maintained. This discovery provided new evidence for the Copernican theory, in which Galileo already believed. Galileo then pointed his telescope at the moon.
In 1597, when Johannes Kepler sent Galileo an early publication defending Copernicus, Galileo replied that it was too dangerous to express his support for heliocentrism publicly. The rising fervor of the Catholic Reformation increased the church's hostility to such radical ideas, and in 1616 the Holy Office placed the works of Copernicus and his supporters, including Kepler, on a list of books Catholics were forbidden to read. The accompanying decree declared that belief in a heliocentric world was "foolish and absurd, philosophically false and formally heretical."3
Galileo was a devout Catholic who sincerely believed that his theories did not detract from the perfection of God. Out of caution he silenced his beliefs for several years, until in 1623 he saw new hope with the ascension of Pope Urban VIII, a man sympathetic to developments in the new science. However, Galileo's 1632 Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World went too far. Published in Italian and widely read, this work openly lampooned the traditional views of Aristotle and Ptolemy and defended those of Copernicus. The papal Inquisition placed Galileo on trial for heresy. Imprisoned and threatened with torture, the aging Galileo recanted, "renouncing and cursing" his Copernican errors.
The work of Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo had been largely accepted by the scientific community. The old astronomy and physics were in ruins, and several fundamental breakthroughs had been made. But the new findings failed to explain what forces controlled the movement of the planets and objects on earth. That challenge was taken up by English scientist Isaac Newton.
Newton was born into the lower English gentry and enrolled at Cambridge University. Newton was an intensely devout, non-orthodox Christian, who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. Newton was fascinated by alchemy. He left behind thirty years' worth of encoded journals recording experiments to discover the elixir of life and a way to change base metals into gold and silver. He viewed alchemy as one path, alongside mathematics and astronomy, to the truth of God's creation. Like Kepler and other practitioners of the Scientific Revolution, he studied the natural world not for its own sake, but to understand the divine plan.
Newton arrived at some of his most basic ideas about physics during a break from studies at Cambridge caused by an outbreak of plague. During this period he discovered his law of universal gravitation as well as the concepts of centripetal force and acceleration. Not realizing the significance of his findings, he did not publish them, and upon his return to Cambridge he took up the study of optics.
Newton returned to physics and the preparation of his ideas for publication. The result appeared three years later in Philosophicae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Newton's accomplishment was a single explanatory system that could integrate the astronomy of Copernicus, as corrected by Kepler's laws, with the physics of Galileo and his predecessors. Principia Mathematica laid down Newton's three laws of motion, using a set of mathematical laws that explain motion and mechanics. These laws of dynamics are complex, and it took scientists and engineers two hundred years to work out all their implications.
The key feature of the Newtonian synthesis was the law of universal gravitation. According to this law, every body in the universe attracts every other body in the universe in a precise mathematical relationship, whereby the force of attraction is proportional to the quantity of matter of the objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The whole universe — from Kepler's elliptical orbits to Galileo's rolling balls — was unified in one coherent system. The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried von Leibniz, with whom Newton contested the invention of calculus, was outraged by Newton's claim that the "occult" force of gravity could allow bodies to affect one another at great distances. Newton's religious faith, as well as his alchemical belief in the innate powers of certain objects, allowed him to dismiss such criticism.
Two important thinkers, Francis Bacon and René Descartes, were influential in describing and advocating for improved scientific methods based, respectively, on experimentation and mathematical reasoning.
English politician and writer Francis Bacon was the greatest early propagandist for the new experimental method. Bacon argued that new knowledge had to be pursued through empirical research. Bacon formalized the empirical method, which had been used by Brahe and Galileo, into the general theory of inductive reasoning known as empiricism. Bacon's work, and his prestige as lord chancellor under James I, led to the widespread adoption of what was called "experimental philosophy" in England after his death. In 1660 followers of Bacon created the Royal Society, which met weekly to conduct experiments and discuss the latest findings of scholars across Europe.
On the continent, more speculative methods retained support. French philosopher René Descartes was a multitalented genius who made his first great discovery in mathematics. As a 23-year-old soldier in the Thirty Years' War, he experienced a life-changing intellectual vision one night in 1619. Descartes saw that there was a perfect correspondence between geometry and algebra and that geometrical spatial figures could be expressed as algebraic equations and vice versa. A major step forward in the history of mathematics, Descartes's discovery of analytic geometry provided scientists with an important new tool.
Descartes used mathematics to elaborate a highly influential vision of the workings of the cosmos. Accepting Galileo's claim that all elements of the universe are composed of the same matter, Descartes began to investigate the basic nature of matter. Drawing on ancient Greek atomist philosophies, Descartes developed the idea that matter was made up of identical "corpuscules" that collided together in an endless series of motions. All occurrences in nature could be analyzed as matter in motion and, according to Descartes, the total "quantity of motion" in the universe was constant. Descartes's mechanistic view of the universe depended on the idea that a vacuum was impossible, which meant that every action had an equal reaction, continuing in an eternal chain reaction.
Although Descartes's hypothesis about the vacuum was proved wrong, his notion of a mechanistic universe intelligible through the physics of motion proved inspirational. Decades later, Newton rejected Descartes's idea of a full universe and several of his other ideas, but retained the notion of a mechanistic universe as a key element of his own system.
Descartes's greatest achievement was to develop his initial vision into a whole philosophy of knowledge and science. The Aristotelian cosmos was appealing in part because it corresponded with the evidence of the human senses. When the senses were proven to be wrong, Descartes decided it was necessary to doubt them and everything that could reasonably be doubted, and then, as in geometry, to use deductive reasoning from self-evident truths, which he called "first principles," to ascertain scientific laws. Descartes's reasoning ultimately reduced all substances to "matter" and "mind" — that is, to the physical and the spiritual. The devout Descartes believed that God had endowed man with reason for a purpose and that rational speculation could provide a path to the truths of creation. His view of the world as consisting of two fundamental entities is known as Cartesian dualism. Descartes's thought was highly influential in France and the Netherlands, but less so in England, where experimental philosophy won the day.
Both Bacon's inductive experimentalism and Descartes's deductive mathematical reasoning had their faults. Bacon's inability to appreciate the importance of mathematics and his obsession with practical results clearly showed the limitations of antitheoretical empiricism. Likewise, some of Descartes's positions demonstrated the inadequacy of rigid, dogmatic rationalism. For example, he believed that it was possible to deduce the whole science of medicine from first principles. Although insufficient on their own, Bacon's and Descartes's extreme approaches are combined in the modern scientific method, which began to crystallize in the late seventeenth century.
The Scientific Revolution inspired renewed study of the microcosm of the human body. For many centuries ancient Greek physician Galen's explanation of the body carried the same authority as Aristotle's account of the universe. According to Galen, the body contained four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Illness was believed to result from an imbalance of humors, which is why doctors frequently prescribed bloodletting to expel excess blood.
Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus was an early proponent of the experimental method in medicine and pioneered the use of chemicals and drugs to address what he saw as chemical, rather than humoral, imbalances. Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius studied anatomy by dissecting human bodies, often those of executed criminals. In 1543, Vesalius issued his masterpiece, On the Structure of the Human Body. Its two hundred precise drawings revolutionized the understanding of human anatomy. The experimental approach also led English royal physician William Harvey to discover the circulation of blood through the veins and arteries in 1628. Harvey was the first to explain that the heart worked like a pump and to explain the function of its muscles and valves.
Some decades later, Irishman Robert Boyle helped found the modern science of chemistry. Following Paracelsus's lead, he undertook experiments to discover the basic elements of nature, which he believed was composed of infinitely small atoms. Boyle was the first to create a vacuum, thus disproving Descartes's belief that a vacuum could not exist in nature, and he discovered Boyle's law, which states that the pressure of a gas varies inversely with volume.
More recently scholars have emphasized the impact of Europe's overseas empires on the accumulation and transmission of knowledge about the natural world. Thus, moving beyond Ptolemy's Geography was as important for the emergence of modern science as overturning his cosmography.
Building on the rediscovery of Theophrastus's botanical treatise and other classical texts, early modern scholars published new works cataloguing forms of life in northern Europe, Asia, and the Americas that were unknown to the ancients. These encyclopedias of natural history included realistic drawings and descriptions that emphasized the usefulness of animal and plant species for trade, medicine, food, and other practical concerns.
Much of the new knowledge contained in such works resulted from scientific expeditions, often sponsored by European governments eager to learn about and profit from their imperial holdings. Spain took an early lead in such voyages, given their early conquests in the Americas. The physician of King Philip II of Spain spent seven years in New Spain in the 1560s recording thousands of plant species and interviewing local healers about their medicinal properties. Other countries followed suit as their global empires expanded.
Audiences at home eagerly read the accounts of naturalists, who braved the heat, insects, and diseases of tropical jungles to bring home exotic animal, vegetable, and mineral specimens. They heard much less about the many indigenous guides, translators, and practitioners of medicine and science who made these expeditions possible and who contributed rich local knowledge about animal and plant species. In this period the craze for collecting natural history specimens in Europe extended from aristocratic lords to middle-class amateurs. Many public museums, like the British Museum in London, began with the donation of a large private collection.
The rise of modern science had many consequences, some of which are still unfolding. First, it went hand in hand with the rise of a new social group — the international scientific community. Members of this community were linked together by common interests and shared values as well as by journals and the learned scientific societies founded in many countries in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The personal success of scientists and scholars depended on making new discoveries, and science became competitive. Second, as governments intervened to support and sometimes direct research, the new scientific community became closely tied to the state and its agendas, a development strongly endorsed by Francis Bacon in England. In addition to England's Royal Society, academies of science were created under state sponsorship in Paris in 1666, Berlin in 1700, and later across Europe. At the same time, scientists developed a critical attitude toward established authority that would inspire thinkers to question traditions in other domains as well.
It was long believed that the Scientific Revolution had little relationship to practical concerns and the life of the masses until the late-eighteenth-century Industrial Revolution. More recently, historians have emphasized the crossover between the work of artisans and the rise of science, particularly in the development of the experimental method. Many craftsmen developed strong interest in emerging scientific ideas and, in turn, the practice of science in the seventeenth century often relied on artisans' expertise in making instruments and conducting precise experiments.
Some things did not change in the Scientific Revolution. Scholars have noted that nature was often depicted as a female, whose veil of secrecy needed to be stripped away and penetrated by male experts. New "rational" methods for approaching nature did not question traditional inequalities between the sexes — and may have worsened them in some ways. For example, the rise of universities and other professional institutions for science raised new barriers because most of these organizations did not accept women.
There were, however, a number of noteworthy exceptions. In Italy, universities and academies did offer posts to women, attracting some foreigners spurned at home. Women across Europe worked as makers of wax anatomical models and as botanical and zoological illustrators, like Maria Sibylla Merian. They were also very much involved in informal scientific communities, attending salons (see page 522), participating in scientific experiments, and writing learned treatises. Some female intellectuals became full-fledged members of the philosophical dialogue. In England, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Mary Astell all contributed to debates about Descartes's mind-body dualism, among other issues. Descartes himself conducted an intellectual correspondence with the princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, of whom he stated: "I attach more weight to her judgment than to those messieurs the Doctors, who take for a rule of truth the opinions of Aristotle rather than the evidence of reason."6
By the time Louis XIV died in 1715, many of the scientific ideas that would eventually coalesce into a new worldview had been assembled. Yet Christian Europe was still strongly attached to its established political and social structures and its traditional spiritual beliefs. By 1775, however, a large portion of western Europe's educated elite had embraced the new ideas. This was the work of many men and women across Europe who participated in the Enlightenment, either as publishers, writers, and distributors of texts or as members of the eager public that consumed them.
The European Enlightenment was a broad intellectual and cultural movement that gained strength gradually. It was the generation between the publication of Newton's Principia and the death of Louis XIV that tied the knot between the Scientific Revolution and a new outlook on life. Enlightenment thinkers believed their era had gone far beyond antiquity and that intellectual progress was very possible. Talented writers of that generation popularized hard-to-understand scientific achievements and set an agenda of human problems to be addressed through the methods of science.
The Enlightenment was also fueled by Europe's increased contacts with the wider world. The rapidly growing travel literature taught Europeans that peoples of China, India, Africa, and Americas all had different beliefs and customs. Europeans shaved their faces and let their hair grow. Turks shaved their heads and let their beards grow. Countless similar examples discussed in travel accounts helped change the perspective of educated Europeans. They began to look at truth and morality in relative, rather than absolute, terms. If anything was possible, who could say what was right or wrong?
The Scientific Revolution generated doubt and uncertainty, contributing to a crisis in late-seventeenth-century European thought. Some people asked whether ideological conformity in religious matters was really necessary. Others asked if religious truth could ever be known with certainty and concluded that it could not. The atmosphere of doubt spread from religious to political issues. This was a natural extension, since many rulers viewed religious dissent as a form of political opposition and took harsh measures to stifle unorthodox forms of worship. Thus, questioning religion inevitably led to confrontations with the state.
These concerns combined spectacularly in the career of Pierre Bayle, a Huguenot who took refuge from government persecution in the Dutch Republic. Bayle examined the religious beliefs and persecutions of the past in his Historical and Critical Dictionary. Bayle concluded that nothing can ever be known beyond all doubt, a view known as skepticism. His Dictionary was found in more private libraries of eighteenth-century France than any other book.
Many Huguenots fled France for the Dutch Republic, a center of early Enlightenment thought for people of many faiths. Baruch Spinoza borrowed Descartes's emphasis on rationalism and his methods of deductive reasoning, but rejected mind-body dualism. Spinoza came to believe that mind and body are united in one substance and that God and nature were two names for the same thing. Spinoza was excommunicated by the relatively large Jewish community of Amsterdam for his controversial religious ideas, but he was heralded by his Enlightenment successors as a model of personal virtue and courageous intellectual autonomy.
German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz adopted the idea of an infinite number of substances or monads from which all matter is composed. His Theodicy declared that ours must be the best of all possible worlds because it was created by God. Leibniz's optimism was ridiculed by the French philosopher Voltaire.
Out of this period of intellectual turmoil came John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke set forth a new theory about how human beings learn. Locke insisted all ideas are derived from experience. The human mind at birth is like a blank tablet on which the environment writes the individual's understanding and beliefs. Human development is determined by education and social institutions. Locke's essay contributed to the theory of sensationalism, the idea that all human ideas and thoughts are produced as a result of sensory impressions. With his emphasis on the role of perception in the acquisition of knowledge, Locke provided a systematic justification of Bacon's emphasis on the importance of observation and experimentation. The Essay Concerning Human Understanding passed through many editions and translations and, along with Newton's Principia, was one of the dominant intellectual inspirations of the Enlightenment. Locke's equally important contribution to political theory, Two Treatises of Civil Government, insisted on the sovereignty of the elected Parliament against the authority of the Crown.
The spread of the spirit of inquiry owed a great deal to the work of the philosophes, intellectuals who proclaimed that they were bringing light of reason to their ignorant fellow humans. Philosophe is French for "philosopher," and in the mid-eighteenth century France became a hub of Enlightenment thought. There were three reasons for this. French was the international language of the educated classes. France was the wealthiest and most populous country in Europe. The unpopularity of King Louis XV and his mistresses generated growing discontent and calls for reform among the educated elite. The French philosophes made it their goal to reach a larger audience of elites, many of whom were joined together in a concept inherited from the Renaissance known as the Republic of Letters — an imaginary transnational realm of the well educated.
One of the greatest philosophes, the baron de Montesquieu, pioneered this approach in The Persian Letters, a social satire that's considered the first major work of the French Enlightenment. It consisted of amusing letters written by two Persian travelers who saw European customs in unique ways, allowing Montesquieu a vantage point for criticizing existing practices and beliefs.
Montesquieu turned to the study of history and politics. His interest was personal, for he was disturbed by the growth in absolutism under Louis XIV. Montesquieu was also inspired by the example of the physical sciences, and set out to apply the critical method to the problem of government in The Spirit of Laws. The result was a complex, comparative study of republics, monarchies, and despotisms.
Showing that government was shaped by history and geography, Montesquieu focused on conditions that would promote liberty and prevent tyranny. He argued for a separation of powers, with political power divided and shared by a variety of classes and legal estates. Admiring the English balance of power, Montesquieu believed that in France the thirteen high courts — the parlements — were defenders of liberty against royal despotism. Apprehensive about the uneducated poor, Montesquieu was no democrat, but his theory of separation of powers had a great impact on the constitutions of the young United States in 1789 and of France in 1791.
François Marie Arouet was known by the pen name Voltaire. He wrote more than seventy witty volumes, hobnobbed with royalty, and died a millionaire through shrewd speculations. His early career was turbulent, and he was arrested on two occasions for insulting noblemen. Voltaire moved to England for three years in order to avoid a longer prison term in France, and there he came to share Montesquieu's enthusiasm for English liberties and institutions.
Returning to France, Voltaire had met Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet, a noblewoman with a passion for science. Inviting Voltaire to live in her country house, Madame du Châtelet studied physics and mathematics and published scientific articles and translations, including the first translation of Newton's Principia into French. Excluded from the Royal Academy of Sciences because she was a woman, Madame du Châtelet had no doubt that women's limited role in science was due to their unequal education.
Voltaire wrote works praising England and popularizing English science. He witnessed Newton's burial and lauded him as history's greatest man, for he had used his genius for the benefit of humanity. In the true style of the Enlightenment, Voltaire mixed the glorification of science and reason with an appeal for better individuals and institutions.
Voltaire was a reformer, not a revolutionary, in politics. He concluded that the best one could hope for in the way of government was a good monarch, since human beings are very rarely worthy to govern themselves. He praised Louis XIV and conducted an enthusiastic correspondence with King Frederick the Great of Prussia, whom he admired as an enlightened monarch. Nor did Voltaire believe in social and economic equality, insisting that the idea of making servants equal to their masters was "absurd and impossible."
Voltaire's philosophical and religious positions were more radical than his social and political beliefs. His writings challenged the Catholic Church and Christian theology at almost every point. Voltaire believed in God, but he was a deist, envisioning God as akin to a clockmaker who set the universe in motion and ceased to intervene in human affairs. Above all, Voltaire and most of the philosophes hated all forms of religious intolerance, which they believed led to fanaticism. Simple piety and human kindness were religion enough.
The strength of the philosophes lay in their dedication and organization. The philosophes felt they were engaged in a common undertaking that transcended individuals. Their greatest intellectual achievement was a group effort — the Encyclopedia: The Rational Dictionary of the Sciences, the Arts, and the Crafts, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert. The two men set out to find coauthors who would examine the rapidly expanding whole of human knowledge. Even more fundamentally, they set out to teach people how to think critically and objectively about all matters.
The Encyclopedia survived resistance from the French government and the Catholic Church. It contained 72000 articles by scientists, writers, skilled workers, and progressive priests, and it treated every aspect of life and knowledge. Not every article was daring or original, but the overall effect was little short of revolutionary. Science and the industrial arts were exalted, religion and immortality questioned. Intolerance, legal injustice, and out-of-date social institutions were openly criticized. The encyclopedists were convinced that greater knowledge would result in greater human happiness, for knowledge was useful and made possible economic, social, and political progress. Summing up the new worldview of the Enlightenment, the Encyclopedia was widely read, especially in less-expensive reprint editions, and it was extremely influential.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau made his way into the Parisian Enlightenment through his intellect. He contributed articles on music to the Encyclopedia and became friends with its editors. Rousseau came to believe that the philosophes were plotting against him. In the mid-1750s he broke with them, living as a lonely outsider with his uneducated common-law wife and going in his own highly original direction.
Rousseau was passionately committed to individual freedom. However, he attacked rationalism and civilization as destroying, rather than liberating, the individual. Warm, spontaneous feeling had to complement and correct cold intellect. Moreover, the goodness of the individual and the unspoiled child had to be protected from the cruel refinements of civilization. Rousseau's ideals greatly influenced the early romantic movement, which rebelled against the culture of the Enlightenment in the late eighteenth century.
Rousseau also called for a rigid division of gender roles. According to Rousseau, women and men were radically different beings. Destined by nature to assume a passive role in sexual relations, women should also be subordinate in social life. Women's love for displaying themselves in public was unnatural and had a corrupting effect on both politics and society. Rousseau rejected the sophisticated way of life of Parisian elite women. His criticism led to calls for privileged women to renounce their frivolous ways and stay at home to care for their children.
Rousseau's contribution to political theory in The Social Contract was based on two fundamental concepts: the general will and popular sovereignty. The general will is sacred and absolute, reflecting common interests of all the people, who displaced the monarch as the holder of sovereign power. The general will is not the will of the majority, however. The general will may be the long-term needs of the people as correctly interpreted by a farsighted minority. Little noticed in its day, Rousseau's concept of the general will had a great impact on the political aspirations of the American and French Revolutions. Rousseau was both one of the most influential voices of the Enlightenment and, in his rejection of rationalism and social discourse, a harbinger of reaction against Enlightenment ideas.
Thinkers traversed borders in a constant exchange of visits, letters, and printed materials. Voltaire wrote almost 18000 letters to correspondents across Europe. The Republic of Letters was a cosmopolitan set of networks stretching from western Europe to its colonies in the Americas, to Russia and eastern Europe, and along the routes of trade and empire to Africa and Asia.
Within this international conversation, scholars have identified regional and national particularities. Many strains of Enlightenment — Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish — sought to reconcile reason with faith. Some scholars point to a distinctive "Catholic Enlightenment" that aimed to renew and reform the church from within, looking to divine grace rather than human will as the source of progress.
The Scottish Enlightenment, centered in Edinburgh, was marked by an emphasis on common sense and scientific reasoning. After the Act of Union with England, Scotland was freed from political crisis to experience a period of intellectual growth. Scottish intellectual revival was also stimulated by the creation of the first public educational system in Europe.
David Hume's emphasis on civic morality and religious skepticism had a powerful impact at home and abroad. Building on Locke's teachings, Hume argued the human mind is nothing but a bundle of impressions. These impressions originate in sensory experiences and our habits of joining these experiences together. Since our ideas reflect only our sensory experiences, our reason cannot tell us anything about questions that cannot be verified by sensory experience, such as the origin of the universe or the existence of God. Hume's rationalistic inquiry ended up undermining the Enlightenment's faith in the power of reason.
Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments argued that thriving commercial life of the eighteenth century produced civic virtue through values of competition, fair play, and individual autonomy. In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith attacked the laws and regulations that, he argued, prevented commerce from reaching its full capacity.
The Enlightenment in British North America was influenced by English and Scottish thinkers, especially John Locke, and by Montesquieu's arguments for checks and balances in government. Leaders of the American Enlightenment, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, would play a leading role in the American Revolution.
Enlightenment ideas were debated in German-speaking states. Immanuel Kant, was the greatest German philosopher of his day. Kant posed the question of the age when he published a pamphlet in 1784 entitled What Is Enlightenment? He answered, "Sapere Aude [dare to know]! 'Have the courage to use your own understanding' is therefore the motto of enlightenment." He argued that if intellectuals were granted freedom to exercise their reason publicly, enlightenment would almost surely follow. Kant was no revolutionary; he also insisted that individuals must obey all laws, no matter how unreasonable, and should be punished for "impertinent" criticism. Like other Enlightenment figures in central and east-central Europe, Kant thus tried to reconcile absolute monarchical authority and religious faith with a critical public sphere.
Northern Europeans regarded Italian states as culturally backward, yet important developments in Enlightenment thought took place in the Italian peninsula. After achieving independence from Habsburg rule, Naples entered a period of intellectual expansion as reformers struggled to lift the weight of church and noble power. In northern Italy a central figure was Cesare Beccaria. His On Crimes and Punishments was a passionate plea for reform of the penal system that decried the use of torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and capital punishment, and advocated the prevention of crime over the reliance on punishment. The text was quickly translated into French and English and made an impact throughout Europe.
A series of new institutions and practices encouraged the spread of enlightened ideas in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The European production and consumption of books grew significantly. In Germany, the number of new titles appearing rose from six hundred in 1700 to twenty-six hundred in 1780. The types of books changed dramatically. The proportion of religious and devotional books published in Paris declined after 1750; history and law held constant; the arts and sciences surged.
Reading more books on more subjects, the public approached reading in a new way. The result was what some scholars have called a reading revolution. The old style of reading in Europe was centered on a core of sacred texts that taught an obedience to God. Reading had been patriarchal and communal, with the father slowly reading the text aloud to his assembled family. Now reading involved a broader field of books that constantly changed. Reading became individual and silent, and texts could be questioned. Subtle but profound, the reading revolution ushered in new ways of relating to the written word.
Conversation, discussion, and debate played a role in the Enlightenment. Evolving from gatherings presided over by the précieuses, the salon was a regular meeting held in the elegant private drawing rooms of talented, wealthy men and women. They encouraged exchange of observations on literature, science, and philosophy. Many of the most celebrated salons were hosted by women, known as salonnières, such as Madame du Deffand. Invitations to salons were highly coveted; introductions to the rich and powerful could make the career of an ambitious writer, and, in turn, the social elite found amusement and cultural prestige in their ties to up-and-coming artists and men of letters.
The salon represented an accommodation between the ruling classes and leaders of Enlightenment thought. Salons were sites in which philosophes, French nobility, and prosperous middle classes intermingled and influenced one another while maintaining due deference to social rank. Critical thought about almost any question became fashionable and flourished alongside hopes for human progress through greater knowledge and enlightened public opinion.
Elite women exercised influence on artistic taste. Soft pastels, ornate interiors, sentimental portraits, and starry-eyed lovers protected by hovering cupids were hallmarks of the style they favored. This style, known as rococo, was popular throughout Europe. Feminine influence in the drawing room went hand in hand with the emergence of polite society and the general attempt to civilize a rough military nobility. Some philosophes championed rights and expanded education for women, claiming the position and treatment of women were the best indicators of a society's level of civilization and decency. For these male philosophes, greater rights for women did not mean equal rights, and the philosophes were not particularly disturbed by the fact that elite women remained legally subordinate to men in economic and political affairs. Elite women lacked many rights, but so did the majority of European men, who were poor.
A number of institutions provided the rest of society with access to Enlightenment ideas. Lending libraries served an important function for people who could not afford their own books. The coffeehouses that first appeared in the late seventeenth century became meccas of philosophical discussion. In addition to these institutions, book clubs, debating societies, Masonic lodges and newspapers all played roles in the creation of a new public sphere that celebrated open debate informed by critical reason. The public sphere was an idealized space where members of society came together as individuals to discuss issues relevant to the society, economics, and politics of the day.
What of the common people? Did they participate in the Enlightenment? Enlightenment philosophes did not direct their message to peasants or urban laborers. They believed that the masses had no time or talent for philosophical speculation and that elevating them would be a long and potentially dangerous process. Deluded by superstitions and driven by violent passions, the people, they thought, were like children in need of firm parental guidance. Despite these prejudices, the ideas of the philosophes did find an audience among some members of the common people. At a time of rising literacy, book prices were dropping and many philosophical ideas were popularized in cheap pamphlets and through public reading. Although they were barred from salons and academies, ordinary people were not immune to the new ideas in circulation.
Historians found in the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment a crucial turning point in ideas about race. A catalyst for new ideas about race was the urge to classify nature unleashed by Scientific Revolution's insistence on careful empirical observation. In The System of Nature, Swedish botanist Carl von Linné argued nature was organized into a God-given hierarchy. As scientists developed taxonomies of plant and animal species, they began to classify humans into hierarchically ordered "races" and to investigate the origins of race. The comte de Buffon argued that humans originated with one species that then developed into distinct races due largely to climatic conditions.
Kant elaborated his views about race in On the Different Races of Man, claiming that there were four human races, each of which had derived from an original race. According to Kant, the closest descendants of the original race were the white inhabitants of northern Germany.
Using the word race to designate biologically distinct groups of humans was new. Previously, Europeans grouped peoples into "nations" based on their historical, political, and cultural affiliations. When European thinkers drew up a hierarchical classification of human species, their own "race" was placed at the top. Europeans believed they were culturally superior to "barbaric" peoples in Africa and the New World. Emerging ideas about racial difference taught them they were biologically superior as well. Scientific racism helped legitimate and justify the tremendous growth of slavery that occurred during the eighteenth century. If one "race" of humans was fundamentally different and inferior, its members could be seen as particularly fit for enslavement and liable to benefit from tutelage by the superior race.
Racist ideas did not go unchallenged. The abbé Raynal's History of the Two Indies attacked slavery and abuses of European colonization. Denis Diderot adopted Montesquieu's technique of criticizing European attitudes through the voice of outsiders in his dialogue between Tahitian villagers and their European visitors. James Beattie responded directly to claims of white superiority by pointing out Europeans had started out as savage as nonwhites supposedly were and that many non-European peoples in the Americas, Asia, and Africa had achieved high levels of civilization. Former slaves, like Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoana, published eloquent memoirs testifying to the horrors of slavery and the innate equality of all humans. These challenges to racism, however, were in the minority. Many other Enlightenment voices supporting racial inequality may be found.
Scholars are only at the beginning of efforts to understand the links between Enlightenment thinkers' ideas about race and their notions of equality, progress, and reason. There are clear parallels, though, between the use of science to propagate racial hierarchies and its use to defend social inequalities between men and women. French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau used women's "natural" passivity to argue for their subordinate role in society, just as other thinkers used non-Europeans' "natural" inferiority to defend slavery and colonial domination. The new powers of science and reason were thus marshaled to imbue traditional stereotypes with the force of natural law.
Frederick the Great built on the work of his father, Frederick William I. Although he embraced culture and literature rather than the militarism championed by his father, by the time he came to the throne Frederick was determined to use the splendid army he had inherited.
When young empress Maria Theresa of Austria inherited the Habsburg dominions upon the death of Charles VI, Frederick pounced. He invaded her province of Silesia, defying a diplomatic agreement that had guaranteed Maria Theresa's succession. Maria Theresa was forced to cede almost all of Silesia to Prussia. In one stroke Prussia had doubled its population to 6 million people. Now Prussia unquestionably stood as a European Great Power.
Frederick had to fight against great odds to save Prussia from total destruction after the ongoing competition between Britain and France for empire brought another great conflict in 1756. Maria Theresa, seeking to regain Silesia, formed an alliance with the leaders of France and Russia. The aim of the alliance during the resulting Seven Years' War was to conquer Prussia and divide up its territory. Despite invasions from all sides, Frederick fought on with stoic courage. In the end he was saved: Peter III came to the Russian throne in 1762 and called off the attack against Frederick, whom he greatly admired.
The Seven Years' War tempered Frederick's interest in territorial expansion and brought him to consider how more humane policies for his subjects might also strengthen the state. Frederick went beyond a commitment to Enlightenment culture for himself and his circle. He allowed his subjects to believe as they wished in religious and philosophical matters. He promoted the advancement of knowledge, improving his country's schools and permitting scholars to publish their findings. Moreover, Frederick tried to improve the lives of his subjects more directly.
The legal system and bureaucracy were Frederick's primary tools. Prussia's laws were simplified, torture was abolished, and judges decided cases quickly and impartially. Prussian officials became famous for their hard work and honesty. After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763, Frederick's government energetically promoted the reconstruction of agriculture and industry. Frederick himself set a good example. Thus Frederick justified monarchy in terms of practical results and said nothing of the divine right of kings.
Frederick's dedication to high-minded government went only so far, however. While he condemned serfdom in the abstract, he accepted it in practice and did not free the serfs on his own estates. He accepted and extended the privileges of the nobility, who remained the backbone of the army and the entire Prussian state.
In reforming Prussia's bureaucracy, Frederick drew on the principles of cameralism, the German science of public administration that emerged in the decades following the Thirty Years' War. Influential throughout the German lands, cameralism held that monarchy was the best of all forms of government, that all elements of society should be placed at the service of the state, and that, in turn, the state should make use of its resources and authority to improve society. Predating the Enlightenment, cameralist interest in the public good was usually inspired by the needs of war. Cameralism shared with the Enlightenment an emphasis on rationality, progress, and utilitarianism.
Catherine the Great was one of the most remarkable and adored rulers of her age. Her father commanded a regiment of the Prussian army, but her mother was related to the Romanovs of Russia, and that proved to be Catherine's opening to power.
Catherine's Romanov connection made her a suitable bride at the age of fifteen for the heir to the Russian throne. It was a mismatch from the beginning, but her Memoirs made her ambitions clear: she wanted dat crown. When her husband, Peter III, came to power during the Seven Years' War, his decision to withdraw Russian troops from the coalition against Prussia alienated the army. Catherine formed a conspiracy to depose her husband. Catherine's lover Gregory Orlov and his three brothers murdered Peter, and the German princess became empress of Russia.
Catherine drunk deeply at the Enlightenment. She set out to rule in an enlightened manner. She had three main goals. First, she worked hard to continue Peter the Great's effort to bring the culture of western Europe to Russia. She imported Western architects, musicians, and intellectuals. When the French government banned the Encyclopedia, she offered to publish it in St. Petersburg. With these actions, Catherine won good press in the West for herself and for her country. Peter the Great westernized Russian armies, but it was Catherine who westernized the imagination of the Russian nobility.
Catherine's second goal was domestic reform, and she began her reign with ambitious projects. She appointed a legislative commission to prepare a new law code. This project was never completed, but Catherine restricted the practice of torture and allowed limited religious toleration. She tried to improve education and strengthen local government. The philosophes applauded these measures and hoped more would follow.
Common Cossack soldier Emelian Pugachev sparked an uprising of serfs. Proclaiming himself the true tsar, Pugachev issued orders abolishing serfdom, taxes, and army service. Thousands joined his cause. Pugachev's untrained forces eventually proved no match for Catherine's noble-led army. Betrayed by his own company, Pugachev was captured and savagely executed.
Pugachev's rebellion put an end to intentions Catherine had about reforming the system. The peasants were dangerous, and her empire rested on the support of the nobility. Catherine gave the nobles absolute control of their serfs, and she extended serfdom into new areas. She freed nobles forever from taxes and state service. Under Catherine the Russian nobility attained its most exalted position, and serfdom entered its most oppressive phase.
Catherine's third goal was territorial expansion, and she was successful. Her armies subjugated the descendants of the Mongols and the Crimean Tartars. Her greatest coup was the partition of Poland. When Catherine's armies scored victories against the Ottomans and threatened to disturb the power between Russia and Austria, Frederick of Prussia obligingly came forward with a deal. He proposed that Turkey be let off easily and that Prussia, Austria, and Russia each compensate itself by taking a gigantic slice of the weakly ruled Polish territory. Catherine jumped at the chance. The first partition of Poland took place in 1772. Subsequent partitions in 1793 and 1795 gave away the rest of Polish territory, and the ancient republic of Poland vanished from the map.
Maria Theresa of Austria set out to reform her nation, although traditional power politics was a more important motivation for her than were Enlightenment teachings. A devoutly Catholic mother and wife who inherited power from her father, Charles VI, Maria Theresa was a remarkable but old-fashioned absolutist. Her more radical son, Joseph II, drew on Enlightenment ideals, earning the title of "revolutionary emperor."
Emerging from the War of the Austrian Succession with the serious loss of Silesia, Maria was determined to introduce reforms that would make the state stronger. First, she initiated church reform, with measures aimed at limiting the papacy's influence, eliminating many religious holidays, and reducing the number of monasteries. A whole series of administrative renovations strengthened the central bureaucracy, smoothed out provincial differences, and revamped the tax system. The government sought to improve the lot of the agricultural population, cautiously reducing the power of lords over their hereditary serfs and their partially free peasant tenants.
Joseph II moved forward when he came to the throne. Joseph abolished serfdom and decreed that peasants could pay landlords in cash rather than through labor on their land. This measure was violently rejected not only by the nobility but also by the peasants it was intended to help, because they lacked the necessary cash. When a disillusioned Joseph died prematurely at forty-nine, the entire Habsburg empire was in turmoil. His brother Leopold II canceled Joseph's radical edicts in order to re-establish order. Peasants once again were required to do forced labor for their lords.
Despite differences in their policies, Joseph II and other absolutists of the later eighteenth century combined old-fashioned state-building with the culture and critical thinking of the Enlightenment. In doing so, they succeeded in expanding the role of the state in the life of society. They perfected bureaucratic machines that were to prove surprisingly adaptive and enduring. Their failure to implement policies we would recognize as humane and enlightened — such as abolishing serfdom — may reveal inherent limitations in Enlightenment thinking about equality and social justice, rather than deficiencies in their execution of Enlightenment programs. The fact that leading philosophes supported rather than criticized eastern rulers' policies exposes the blind spots of the era.
Europe's small Jewish populations lived under highly discriminatory laws. Jews were confined to tiny, overcrowded ghettos, were excluded from most professions, and could be ordered out of a kingdom at a moment's notice. Still, a very few did manage to succeed and to obtain the right of permanent settlement, usually by performing some special service for the state. Many rulers relied on Jewish bankers for loans to raise armies and run their kingdoms. Jewish merchants prospered in international trade because they could rely on contacts with colleagues in Jewish communities scattered across Europe.
An Enlightenment movement known as the Haskalah emerged from the European Jewish community, led by the Prussian philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Christian and Jewish Enlightenment philosophers began to advocate for freedom and civil rights for Jews. The Haskalah accompanied a period of controversial social change within Jewish communities, in which rabbinic controls loosened and heightened interaction with Christians took place.
Arguments for tolerance won some ground. The British Parliament passed a law allowing naturalization of Jews, but later repealed the law due to outrage. The progressive reforms took place under Joseph II. Among his edicts were measures intended to integrate Jews more fully into society, including eligibility for military service, admission to higher education and artisanal trades, and removal of requirements for special clothing or emblems. Welcomed by many Jews, these reforms raised fears among traditionalists of assimilation into the general population.
Many monarchs rejected all ideas of emancipation. Although he permitted freedom of religion to his Christian subjects, Frederick the Great of Prussia firmly opposed any general emancipation for the Jews, as he did for the serfs. Catherine the Great, who acquired most of Poland's large Jewish population when she annexed part of that country in the late eighteenth century, similarly refused. In 1791 she established the Pale of Settlement, a territory including parts of modern-day Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus, in which most Jews were required to live. Jewish habitation was restricted to the Pale until the Russian Revolution in 1917.
The first European state to remove all restrictions on the Jews was France under the French Revolution. Over the next hundred years, Jews gradually won full legal and civil rights throughout the rest of western Europe. Emancipation in eastern Europe took even longer and aroused more conflict and violence.
Peasants occupied lower tiers of a society organized in hierarchical levels. At the top, the monarch was celebrated as a semidivine being, chosen by God to embody the state. In Catholic countries, the clergy occupied the second level, due to their sacred role interceding with God. Next came nobles, whose privileged status derived from ancient bloodlines. Many prosperous mercantile families bought their way into the nobility through service to the rising monarchies and constituted a second tier of nobles. Those lower on the social scale, the peasants and artisans, were expected to defer to their betters with humble obedience. This was the "Great Chain of Being" that linked God to his creation in a series of ranked social groups.
European societies were patriarchal in nature, with men assuming authority over women as a God-given prerogative. The father ruled his family like a king ruled his domains. Religious and secular law commanded a man's wife, children, servants, and apprentices to defer to his will. Fathers did not possess the power of life and death, but they were entitled to use forceful measures to impose their authority. These powers were balanced by expectations that a good father would provide and care for his dependents.
Most Europeans lived in the countryside. The hub of the rural world was the small peasant village centered on a church and a manor. Life was circumscribed by the village, although we should not underestimate the mobility induced by war, food shortage, and the desire to seek one's fortune or embark on a religious pilgrimage.
In western Europe, a small number of peasants in each village owned enough land to feed themselves. These independent farmers were leaders of the peasant village. They employed the landless poor, rented out livestock and tools, and served as agents for the noble lord. Below them were small landowners who did not have enough land to be self-sufficient. These families sold their produce on the market to earn cash for taxes, rent, and food. At the bottom were villagers who were dependent laborers and servants. In eastern Europe, the vast majority of peasants toiled as serfs for noble landowners and did not own land in their own right.
Bread was the primary element of the diet. The richest ate a white loaf, leaving brown bread to the poor. Peasants paid fees to the local miller for grinding grain into flour and sometimes to the lord for the right to bake bread in his oven. Bread was most accompanied by soup. An important annual festival in many villages was the killing of the family pig. The whole family gathered to help, sharing a rare abundance of meat with neighbors and carefully salting the extra and putting down the lard. In some areas, menstruating women were careful to stay away from the kitchen for fear they might cause the lard to spoil.
European rural society lived on the edge of subsistence. Because of crude technology and low crop yield, peasants were threatened by scarcity and famine. A period of colder and wetter climate throughout Europe, dubbed the "little ice age", meant a shorter farming season with lower yields. A bad harvest created food shortages; a series of bad harvests could lead to famine. Famines reduced the population of early modern Europe. Most people did not die of starvation, but through the spread of diseases like smallpox and typhoid, which were facilitated by malnutrition and exhaustion. Outbreaks of bubonic plague continued in Europe until the 1720s.
The industry also suffered. The output of woolen textiles, one of the most important European manufactures, declined sharply in the first half of the seventeenth century. Food prices were high, wages stagnated, and unemployment soared. This economic crisis struck various regions at different times and to different degrees. In the middle decades of the century, Spain, France, Germany, and England all experienced great economic difficulties, but these were the golden age of the Netherlands.
The urban poor and peasants were the hardest hit. When the price of bread rose beyond their capacity, they expressed their anger by rioting. In towns they invaded bakers' shops to resell bread at a "just price." In rural areas they attacked convoys taking grain to the cities. Women led these actions, since their role as mothers gave them impunity in authorities' eyes. Historians used the term "moral economy" for this vision of a world in which community needs predominate over competition and profit.
The fragile balance of life was violently upturned by the ravages of the Thirty Years' War. The uneasy truce between Catholics and Protestants via the Peace of Augsburg deteriorated as the faiths of various areas shifted. Lutheran princes felt compelled to form the Protestant Union, and Catholics retaliated with the Catholic League. Each alliance was determined that the other should make no advance. Dynastic interests were also involved; the Spanish Habsburgs strongly supported their Austrian relatives: the unity of the empire and the preservation of Catholicism.
The war is traditionally divided into four phases. The first, or Bohemian, phase was characterized by civil war in Bohemia between the Catholic League and the Protestant Union. Catholic forces defeated Protestants at the Battle of the White Mountain. The second, or Danish, phase of the war — so called because of the leadership of the Protestant king Christian IV of Denmark — witnessed additional Catholic victories. The Catholic imperial army led by Albert of Wallenstein scored victories. Under Charles I, England unsuccessfully intervened in the conflict by entering alliances against France and Spain. Habsburg power peaked in 1629. The emperor issued the Edict of Restitution, which all Catholic properties lost to Protestantism since 1552 were restored, and only Catholics and Lutherans were allowed to practice their faiths.
The third, or Swedish, phase of the war began with the arrival in Germany of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus and his army. A devout Lutheran, he intervened to support the Protestants. The French chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, supported the Swedes, hoping to weaken Habsburg power. Gustavus Adolphus won two important battles but died in combat. The final, or French, phase of the war was prompted by Richelieu's concern that Habsburgs would rebound after the death of Adolphus. Richelieu declared war on Spain and sent military as well as financial assistance.
The 1648 Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War marked a turning point in European history. Conflicts fought over religious faith receded. The treaties recognized the independent authority of more than three hundred German princes, reconfirming the emperor's severely limited authority. The Augsburg agreement became permanent, adding Calvinism as legally permissible creeds. The north German states remained Protestant, the south German states Catholic.
The Thirty Years' War was the most destructive event for the European economy and society. One-third of urban residents and two-fifths of the rural population died, leaving areas depopulated. Trade in southern German cities, was virtually destroyed. Agricultural areas suffered catastrophically. Many small farmers lost their land, allowing nobles to enlarge their estates and consolidate their control.
Seventeenth-century monarchs began to make new demands on their people. Historians have distinguished between the "absolutist" governments of France, Spain, central Europe, and Russia and the constitutionalist governments of England and the Dutch Republic. Whereas absolutist monarchs gathered all power under their personal control, English and Dutch rulers respected laws passed by representative institutions. Historians have emphasized commonalities among these powers. All these states shared common projects of protecting and expanding their frontiers, raising new taxes, consolidating central control, and competing for the new colonies opening up in the New and Old Worlds.
Rulers encountered formidable obstacles in achieving these goals. It took weeks to convey orders from the central government to the provinces. Rulers suffered from lack of information about their realms, making it impossible to police and tax the population. Local power structures presented another serious obstacle. Nobles, the church, provincial and national assemblies, town councils, guilds, and other bodies held legal privileges, which could not be rescinded. In some kingdoms many people spoke a language different from that of the Crown, diminishing their willingness to obey its commands.
Over the course of the seventeenth century both absolutist and constitutional governments achieved new levels of control. This authority focused on four areas in particular: greater taxation, growth in armed forces, larger and more efficient bureaucracies, and the increased ability to compel obedience from subjects. To meet the demands of running their governments, rulers turned to trusted ministers. Cardinal Richelieu in France and Count-Duke Olivares in Spain played the role of chief adviser to his king and enabler of state power. Royal favorites acquired power and fortune from their position, but they were vulnerable to distrust and hostility from others. Olivares ended his career in disgrace, while the duke of Buckingham, favorite to James I and Charles I of England, was killed.
Centralized power added up to something close to sovereignty. A state may be termed sovereign when it possesses a monopoly over the instruments of justice and use of force within defined boundaries. In a sovereign state, no system of courts competes with state courts in the dispensation of justice; and private armies present no threat to central authority. While seventeenth-century states did not acquire total sovereignty, they made important strides toward that goal.
The driving force of state-building was warfare. Monarchs began to recruit their own forces and maintain permanent armies. Army officers were required to be loyal and obedient to those who commanded them. New techniques for training and deploying soldiers meant a rise in the standards of the army.
Along with professionalization came a growth in army size. The French took the lead, with the army growing from 125,000 men to 340,000. Changes in the style of armies encouraged this growth. Mustering a royal army took longer than hiring a mercenary band, giving enemies time to form coalitions. The large coalitions Louis XIV confronted required him to fight on multiple fronts with huge armies. In turn, the size and wealth of France among European nations allowed Louis to field enormous armies and pursue the ambitious foreign policies that caused his alarmed neighbors to form coalitions against him.
Values of glory and honor outshone concerns for safety or material benefit. Because they led their men in battle, noble officers experienced high death rates on the battlefield. Nobles fell into debt because they had to purchase their positions in the army and units they commanded, which meant they were obliged to assume many of the costs involved in creating and maintaining their units. It was not until the 1760s that the French government assumed the full cost of equipping troops.
Other European powers were quick to follow the French example. The rise of absolutism in central and eastern Europe led to an expansion in the size of armies. Great Britain followed a similar, but distinctive pattern. Instead of building a land army, the British built the largest navy in the world.
Neighborhood riots over the cost of bread turned into armed uprisings. Popular revolts were common in England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy during the Thirty Years' War. Philip IV of Spain faced revolt in Catalonia, the economic center of his realm. The city of Palermo in Sicily exploded in protest over food shortages caused by bad harvests. Fearing public unrest, the government subsidized the price of bread, attracting even more starving peasants. When Madrid ordered an end to subsidies, leaders decided to lighten the loaf rather than raise prices. Local women led a bread riot, shouting "Long live the king and down with the taxes and the bad government!" Insurgency spread to the rest of the island and to Naples on the mainland. Apart from affordable food, rebels demanded the suppression of taxes and participation in municipal government. Some dreamed of a republic that would abolish noble tax exemptions. The revolt lacked unity and strong leadership and could not withstand the forces of the state.
In France urban uprisings became frequent. Major insurrections occurred, characterized by deep anger and violence directed at officials sent to collect taxes. These officials were sometimes seized, beaten, and hacked to death. In 1673 Louis XIV's imposition of new taxes on legal transactions, tobacco, and pewter ware provoked an uprising in Bordeaux.
Municipal and royal authorities struggled to overcome popular revolt. They feared that stern repressive measures would further inflame the situation, while full-scale occupation of a city would be very expensive and detract from military efforts. The limitations of royal authority gave leverage to rebels. To quell riots, royal edicts were suspended, prisoners released, and discussions initiated.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, this leverage had disappeared. Municipal governments were better integrated into the national structure, and authorities had prompt military support from the central government. People who publicly opposed royal policies and taxes received swift and severe punishment.
Louis XIV's absolutism had long roots. In 1589 his grandfather Henry IV, founder of the Bourbon dynasty, acquired a devastated country. Civil wars between Protestants and Catholics wracked France since 1561. Poor harvests reduced peasants to starvation, and commercial activity declined drastically. "Henri le Grand" (Henry the Great), as the king was called, promised a chicken in every pot and inaugurated a remarkable recovery.
He did so by keeping France at peace. Although he converted to Catholicism, he issued the Edict of Nantes, allowing Protestants the right to worship in 150 traditionally Protestant towns throughout France. He lowered taxes and charged royal officials a fee to guarantee the right to pass their positions down to their heirs. He improved the infrastructure of the country, building roads and canals and repairing the ravages of civil war. Henry was murdered in 1610 by a Catholic zealot, setting off a national crisis.
After the death of Henry IV, his wife, the queen-regent Marie de' Medici, headed the government for the nine-year-old Louis XIII. In 1628 Armand Jean du Plessis — Cardinal Richelieu — became first minister of the French crown. Richelieu's maneuvers allowed the monarchy to maintain power within Europe and within its own borders despite the Thirty Years' War.
Cardinal Richelieu's political genius is reflected in the administrative system he established to strengthen royal control. He extended the use of intendants, commissioners for each of France's districts who were appointed by the monarch. They recruited men for the army, supervised the collection of taxes, presided over the administration of local law, checked up on the local nobility, and regulated economic activities in their districts. As the intendants' power increased under Richelieu, so did the power of the centralized French state.
Under Richelieu, the French monarchy acted to repress Protestantism. Louis supervised the siege of La Rochelle, a port city and a major commercial center with ties to Protestant Holland and England. After the city fell, its government was suppressed. Protestants retained the right of public worship, but the Catholic liturgy was restored. The fall of La Rochelle was one step in the removal of Protestantism.
Richelieu's main foreign policy goal was to destroy the Catholic Habsburgs' grip on territories that surrounded France. Richelieu supported Habsburg enemies, including Protestants. He signed a treaty with the Lutheran king Gustavus Adolphus promising French support against the Habsburgs in the Thirty Years' War. Interests of state outweighed religious considerations.
Richelieu's successor as chief minister for the next child-king was Cardinal Jules Mazarin. Mazarin continued Richelieu's centralizing policies. His struggle to increase royal revenues led to the uprisings of 1648-1653 known as the Fronde. A frondeur was a street urchin who threw mud at the passing carriages of the rich, but the word came to be applied to the individuals and groups who opposed policies of the government. In Paris, magistrates of the Parlement of Paris, the nation's most important court, were outraged by the Crown's autocratic measures. These robe nobles encouraged violent protest by the common people. During the first riot, the queen mother fled Paris with Louis XIV. As rebellion spread to the sword nobles, civil order broke down completely. Anne's regency ended with the declaration of Louis as king in his own right. Much of the rebellion died away, and its leaders came to terms with the government.
The violence of the Fronde had significant results for the future. The twin evils of noble rebellion and popular riots left the French wishing for peace. This was the legacy Louis XIV inherited in 1661 when he assumed rule of the largest and most populous country in western Europe at the age of twenty-three. Humiliated by his flight from Paris, he was determined to avoid any recurrence of rebellion.
In the reign of Louis XIV, the longest in European history, the French monarchy reached the peak of absolutist development. Religion, Anne, and Mazarin all taught Louis the doctrine of the divine right of kings: God established kings as his rulers on earth, and they were answerable to him alone. Kings were anointed and shared in the sacred nature of divinity, but they couldn't do as they pleased. They had to obey God's laws and rule for the good of the people. To symbolize his central role in the divine order, when he was fifteen years old Louis danced at a court ballet dressed as the sun, thereby acquiring the title of the "Sun King."
In addition to parading his power before the court, Louis worked very hard at the business of governing. He ruled through several councils of state and insisted on taking a personal role in many of their decisions. He selected councilors from the ennobled or the upper middle class because he believed that the public should know he had no intention of sharing power with them. Louis never called a meeting of the Estates General, depriving nobles of united expression or action. This way he avoided the inordinate power of a Richelieu.
Louis hated division within the realm and insisted religious unity was essential to the security of the state. He pursued the policy of Protestant repression launched by Richelieu. Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes. The new law ordered Catholic baptism of Huguenots, destruction of Huguenot churches, closing of schools, and exile of Huguenot pastors who refused to renounce faith. The result was the departure of some of the king's most loyal and industrially skilled subjects.
Multiple constraints existed on Louis's power. He was obliged to rule in a manner consistent with virtue and benevolence. He had to uphold laws issued by his royal predecessors. He also relied on the collaboration of nobles, who maintained prestige and authority in their ancestral lands. Without their cooperation, it would have been impossible to extend his power throughout France or wage his foreign wars. Louis's need to elicit cooperation led him to revolutionize court life at his spectacular palace at Versailles.
The French court had no fixed home, following the monarch to his numerous palaces and country residences. Louis moved his court and government to the newly renovated palace at Versailles, a former hunting lodge. The palace became the center of political, social, and cultural life. The king required all great nobles to spend part of the year in attendance, so he could keep an eye on their activities. Since he controlled distribution of state power and wealth, nobles had no choice but to obey.
The glorious palace was a mirror to the world of French glory. Life in the palace was less glamorous. Versailles served as government offices for royal bureaucrats, as living quarters for the royal family and nobles, and as a place of work for hundreds of domestic servants. It was open to the public at certain hours of the day. As a result, it was crowded with thousands of people every day. Even high nobles had to put up with cramped living space.
Louis established an elaborate set of etiquette rituals to mark every moment of his day, from waking up and dressing in the morning to removing his clothing and retiring at night. Courtiers vied for the honor of participating in these ceremonies, with the highest ranked handing the king his shirt. Endless squabbles broke out over what type of chair one could sit on at court and the order in which great nobles entered and were seated in the chapel for Mass.
These rituals were far from trivial. The king controlled immense resources and privileges; access to him meant favored treatment for government offices, military and religious posts, state pensions, honorary titles, and a host of other benefits.
Courtiers sought these rewards for themselves and their family members and followers. A system of patronage, in which a higher-ranked individual protected a lower-ranked one, flowed from the court to the provinces.
Women played a central role in the patronage system. At court the king's wife, mistresses, and other female relatives recommended individuals for honors, advocated policy decisions, and brokered alliances between factions. Noblewomen played a similar role, bringing family connections to marriage to form powerful social networks. Onlookers resented the influence of powerful women at court.
Louis XIV was an enthusiastic patron of the arts, commissioning many sculptures and paintings for Versailles. Scholars characterize the art and literature of the age of Louis XIV as French classicism, meaning that artists and writers imitated the subject matter of classical antiquity, that their work resembled that of Renaissance Italy, and that French art possessed the classical qualities of discipline, balance, and restraint. Louis XIV loved the stage, and in the plays of Molière and Racine his court witnessed the finest achievements in the history of the French theater. Aristocratic ladies wrote genres of literature and held salons in their mansions where they engaged in discussions of poetry, art, theater, and the latest worldly events. Their refined conversational style led Molière and other observers to mock them as "précieuses", or affected and pretentious. They represented an important cultural force ruled by elite women.
With Versailles as the center of European politics, French culture grew in international prestige. French became the language of polite society and international diplomacy, replacing Latin as the language of scholarship and learning. Royal courts across Europe spoke French, and the great aristocrats of Russia, Sweden, Germany, and elsewhere were more fluent in French than in the tongues of their homelands. France inspired a cosmopolitan European culture in the late seventeenth century that looked to Versailles as its center.
France's ability to build armies and fight wars depended on a strong economy. Fortunately for Louis, his controller general, Jean-Baptiste Colbert was a financial genius. Colbert's principle was that the wealth and the economy of France should serve the state. Colbert rigorously applied mercantilist policies to France.
Mercantilism is governmental policies for the regulation of economic activities by and for the state. It derives from the idea that a nation's international power is based on its wealth, specifically its supply of gold and silver. To accumulate wealth, a country had to sell more goods abroad than it bought. To decrease the purchase of goods outside France, Colbert insisted that French industry should produce everything needed by the French people.
To increase exports, Colbert supported old industries and created new ones, focusing on textiles, the most important sector of the economy. Colbert enacted new production regulations, created guilds to boost quality standards, and encouraged foreign craftsmen to immigrate to France. To encourage the purchase of French goods, he abolished domestic tariffs and raised tariffs on foreign products. Colbert founded the Company of the East Indies with hopes of competing with the Dutch for Asian trade.
Colbert also hoped to make Canada — rich in untapped minerals — part of a vast French empire. He sent four thousand colonists to Quebec. The Jesuit Jacques Marquette and the merchant Louis Joliet sailed down the Mississippi River, which they named Colbert in honor of their sponsor. Marquette and Joliet claimed possession of the land on both sides of the river as far south as present-day Arkansas. French explorers continued down the Mississippi to its mouth and claimed vast territories for Louis XIV. The area was called, naturally, "Louisiana."
During Colbert's tenure as controller general, Louis was able to pursue his goals without massive tax increases and without creating a stream of new offices. The constant pressure of warfare after Colbert's death, however, undid many of his economic achievements.
Louis XIV wrote that "the character of a conqueror is regarded as the noblest and highest of titles." He kept France at war for thirty-three of the fifty-four years of his personal rule. François le Tellier, marquis de Louvois, Louis's secretary of state for war, equaled Colbert's achievements in the economic realm. Louvois created a professional army in which the French state employed the soldiers. Uniforms and weapons were standardized, and a rational system of training and promtion was devised. The new loyalty, professionalism, and growth of the French army represented the peak of Louis's success in reforming government. As in so many other matters, his model was followed across Europe.
Louis's goal was to expand France to what he considered its natural borders. His armies extended French borders to include commercial centers in the Spanish Netherlands, Flanders and the entire province of Franche-Comté. Louis seized the city of Strasbourg, andsent his armies into the province of Lorraine. At that moment the king seemed invincible. Louis had reached the limit of his expansion. The wars of the 1680s and 1690s brought no additional territories but placed unbearable strains on French resources. Colbert's successors resorted to desperate measures to finance these wars, including devaluation of the currency and new taxes.
Louis's last war was endured by a French people suffering high taxes, crop failure, and widespread malnutrition and death. Childless Spanish king Charles II died, opening a struggle for control of Spain and its colonies. His will bequeathed the Spanish crown and its empire to Philip of Anjou, Louis XIV's grandson. The will violated a treaty by which the European powers had agreed to divide the Spanish possessions between the king of France and the Holy Roman emperor, brothers-in-law of Charles II. Claiming he was following both Spanish and French interests, Louis broke with the treaty and accepted the will, thereby triggering the War of the Spanish Succession.
In 1701 the English, Dutch, Austrians, and Prussians formed the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV. War dragged on until 1713. The Peace of Utrecht, which ended the war, allowed Louis's grandson Philip to remain king of Spain on the understanding that the French and Spanish crowns would never be united.
The Peace of Utrecht represented the balance-of-power principle in operation, setting limits on the extent to which any one power could expand. It marked the end of French expansion. Thirty-five years of war had given France the rights to all of Alsace and commercial centers in the north. But at what price? In 1714 an exhausted France hovered on the brink of bankruptcy. When Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715, many subjects felt as much relief as they did sorrow.
France's position appeared extremely weak. Struggling to recover from decades of religious civil war that destroyed its infrastructure and economy, France could not compete with Spain's European and overseas empire or military. Yet by the end of the century their positions were reversed, and France had surpassed all expectations to attain European dominance.
The seeds of Spanish disaster were sprouting. Spanish trade with the colonies in the New World fell 60 percent due to competition from local industries and Dutch and English traders. The native Indian and African slaves who toiled in the South American silver mines suffered epidemics of disease. The mines that filled the empire's treasury started to run dry, and the quantity of metal produced steadily declined after 1620.
In Madrid, royal expenditures constantly exceeded income. The Crown repeatedly devalued the coinage and declared bankruptcy, which resulted in the collapse of national credit. Manufacturing and commerce shrank. In contrast to other countries, Spain had a tiny middle class. The elite condemned moneymaking as vulgar and undignified. Thousands entered economically unproductive professions: there were nine thousand monasteries in the province of Castile alone. The Crown expelled three hundred thousand Moriscos, or former Muslims, reducing the pool of skilled workers and merchants. Those working in the textile industry were forced out of business by steep inflation that pushed their production costs to the point where they could not compete in colonial and international markets.
Spanish aristocrats, attempting to maintain a lifestyle they could no longer afford, increased the rents on their estates. High rents and heavy taxes drove the peasants from the land, leading to a decline in agricultural productivity. In cities wages and production stagnated. Spain ignored scientific methods that might have improved agricultural or manufacturing techniques because they came from the heretical nations of Holland and England.
The Spanish crown had no solutions to these problems. Philip III, a melancholy and deeply pious man, handed the government over to the duke of Lerma, who used it to advance his wealth. Philip IV left his several kingdoms to Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares. Olivares was an administrator who has been compared to Richelieu. He did not lack energy and ideas, but he clung to the belief that the solution to Spain's difficulties rested in a return to the imperial tradition of the sixteenth century. The imperial tradition demanded the revival of war with the Dutch at the expiration of a twelve-year truce in and a long war with France over Mantua. Spain thus became embroiled in the Thirty Years' War. These conflicts brought disaster.
Spain's situation worsened with conflicts and fresh military defeats through the remainder of the seventeenth century. Spain faced serious revolts in Catalonia and Portugal. The French inflicted a crushing defeat on a Spanish army at Rocroi in what is now Belgium. By the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended the French-Spanish conflict, Spain was compelled to surrender extensive territories to France. The Spanish crown reluctantly recognized the independence of Portugal, almost a century after the two crowns were joined. The era of Spanish dominance in Europe had ended.
In Western Europe the demographic losses of the Black Death allowed peasants to escape from serfdom as they acquired enough land to feed themselves. In eastern Europe peasants lost their ability to own land independently. Eastern lords dealt with labor shortages caused by the Black Death by restricting the right of their peasants to move. In Prussian territories the law required that runaway peasants be hunted down and returned to their lords. Lords steadily took more of their peasants' land and imposed heavier labor obligations. Lords in many eastern territories could command their peasants to work for them without pay for as many as six days a week.
The erosion of the peasantry's economic position was bound up with manipulation of the legal system. The local lord was local prosecutor, judge, and jailer. There were no royal officials to provide justice or uphold the common law. The power of the lord reached into serfs' everyday lives. Not only was their freedom restricted, but they also required permission to marry or could be forced to marry. Lords could reallocate the lands worked by their serfs at will or sell serfs apart from their families. These conditions applied even on lands owned by the church.
The consolidation of serfdom in eastern Europe was accompanied by growth of commercial agriculture, particularly in Poland and eastern Germany. As economic expansion and population growth resumed, eastern lords increased the production of their estates by squeezing sizable surpluses out of the impoverished peasants. They sold these surpluses to foreign merchants, who exported them to the growing cities of wealthier western Europe. The Netherlands and England benefited the most from inexpensive grain from the east.
With the approval of kings, landlords undermined the medieval privileges of the towns and the power of the urban classes. Landlords sold products directly to foreigners, bypassing local towns. Eastern towns lost their medieval right of refuge and were compelled to return runaways to their lords. The population of the towns and the urban middle classes declined greatly.
The Habsburgs emerged from the Thirty Years' War exhausted. Their efforts to destroy Protestantism in German lands and to turn the weak H.R.E. into a real state failed. Although the Habsburgs remained the hereditary emperors, real power lay in the hands of a variety of political jurisdictions. Defeat in central Europe encouraged Habsburgs to turn away from a quest for imperial dominance and to focus on an attempt to unify their diverse holdings. If they could not impose Catholicism in the empire, at least they could do so in their own domains.
Habsburg victory over Bohemia during the Thirty Years' War was an important step in this direction. Ferdinand II drastically reduced the power of the Bohemian Estates, the largely Protestant assembly. He also confiscated the landholdings of Protestant nobles and gave them to loyal Catholic nobles and to foreign aristocratic mercenaries who led his armies. A large portion of the Bohemian nobility was of recent origin and owed its success to the Habsburgs.
The Habsburgs established direct rule over Bohemia. Under their rule the condition of the peasantry worsened substantially: three days per week of unpaid labor became the norm. Protestantism was also stamped out. These changes were important steps in creating absolutist rule in Bohemia.
Ferdinand III continued to build state power. He centralized the government in the empire's German-speaking provinces, forming core Habsburg holdings. A permanent standing army was ready to put down any internal opposition. The Habsburg monarchy turned east toward the plains of Hungary, which had been divided between Ottomans and Habsburgs. The Habsburgs pushed the Ottomans from most of Hungary and Transylvania.
The Hungarian nobility thwarted the full development of Habsburg absolutism. Hungarian nobles rose against attempts to impose absolute rule. They didn't triumphed, but neither were they crushed. With the Habsburgs bogged down in the War of the Spanish Succession, the Hungarians rose in one last patriotic rebellion under Prince Francis Rákóczy. The prince and his forces were eventually defeated, but the Habsburgs agreed to restore the traditional privileges of the aristocracy in return for Hungarian acceptance of hereditary Habsburg rule. Thus Hungary was never fully integrated into a centralized, absolute Habsburg state.
The Habsburgs made significant achievements in state-building by forging consensus with the church and the nobility. A sense of common identity to the monarchy grew among elites in Habsburg lands. German became the language of the state, and zealous Catholicism helped fuse a collective identity.
Vienna became the political and cultural center of the empire. By 1700 it was a thriving city with a population of one hundred thousand and its own version of Versailles, the royal palace of Schönbrunn.
The Hohenzollern family ruled parts of eastern Germany as imperial electors of Brandenburg and the dukes of Prussia. The title of "elector" gave its holder privilege of being one of only seven princes or archbishops entitled to elect the Holy Roman emperor. Twenty-year-old Frederick William, later known as the "Great Elector," was determined to unify his three provinces and enlarge his holdings. These provinces were Brandenburg; Prussia, and scattered territories along the Rhine inherited in 1614. Each was inhabited by German-speakers, but each had its own estates. Although the estates had not met regularly during the Thirty Years' War, taxes could not be levied without their consent. The estates of Brandenburg and Prussia were dominated by nobility and landowning classes, known as Junkers.
Frederick William profited from ongoing European war and threat of invasion from Russia when he argued for the need for a permanent standing army. He persuaded Junkers in the estates to accept taxation without consent in order to fund an army. They agreed to do so in exchange for reconfirmation of their own privileges. Having won over the Junkers, the king crushed opposition from the towns. Prussian cities were eliminated from estates and subjected to new taxes on goods and services.
Thereafter, the estates' power declined rapidly, for the Great Elector had both financial independence and superior force. Frederick William tripled state revenue during his reign and expanded the army drastically. A population of 1 million supported an army of 30,000. The elector's son, Frederick I, received title of king of Prussia as a reward for aiding the Holy Roman emperor in the War of the Spanish Succession.
Frederick William I, "the Soldiers' King" completed his grandfather's work, eliminating the last traces of parliamentary estates and local self-government. He established Prussian absolutism and transformed Prussia into a military state. Frederick William was attached to military life. He wore an army uniform, and lived the highly disciplined life of the professional soldier.
Penny-pinching and hard-working, Frederick William achieved results. The king and his ministers built an honest and conscientious bureaucracy to administer the country and foster economic development. Prussia had the fourth-largest army. The Prussian army was the best in Europe, astonishing foreign observers with its precision, skill, and discipline.
Prussians paid a heavy and lasting price for the obsessions of their royal drillmaster. Army expansion was achieved in part through forced conscription, which was declared lifelong. Desperate draftees fled the country or injured themselves to avoid service. Finally, Frederick William I ordered that all Prussian men would undergo military training and serve as reservists in the army, allowing him to preserve both agricultural production and army size. To appease the Junkers, the king enlisted them to lead his growing army. The proud nobility thus commanded the peasantry in the army as well as on the estates.
With all men harnessed to the war machine, Prussian civil society became rigid and highly disciplined. Thus the policies of Frederick William I, combined with harsh peasant bondage and Junker tyranny, laid the foundations for a highly militaristic country.