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HIS109Y1 (520)

The Absolute State / The Scientific Revolution

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University of Toronto St. George
Kenneth Bartlett

HIS109 Nov. 15 , 2010 The Absolute State Absolute: free from any restriction that may reduce one’s power to act; power to do absolutely anything w/o the interference of anyone Created a difficult world for a large number of people Easier to serve a single man; king protected you from the other agencies that would rob you (wanted everything for himself) Having a powerful central government protected the country from foreign intervention; people were willing to make sacrifices for protection Reduced the incidences of civil war Ideological Elements Practical response to problems, as well as a theoretical justification that was good in itself Thomas Hobbes: Wrote during the English wars, was a Royalist but rejected all the arguments made by Charles before his execution (said he was only answerable to God b/c God made him King) Proposed a secular notion of kingship Men and women lived in a state of nature in the beginning in which the strong preyed upon the weak (this served the immediate interests of the strong, this was an age of torment and misery) How could one escape this? –Only possible recourse was to join together and create a group in which laws applied equally to everyone by building a society. These people had to have a ruler in which they would give up their rights in return for protection and government. Unrestricted, absolute power of the king was a gift from the people themselves, and this contract remained forever Having a tyrannical king was simply a misfortune; nothing could be done because a contract was made There must be reasons for a king’s tyranny because he sees issues that you may not, the protection of the whole more important than the individual No point in challenging the king, because there was no other alternative other than going back to a brutish state of nature (theory of absolutism) Absolutism came together under Richelieu, but even more so under Louis XIV Louis XIV France became an absolute state France was initially governed by a regency council headed by Mazarin (chosen by Richelieu) because Louis came to power very young J. Mazarin was very tolerant of the Protestants, reinforced the Edict of Nantes, was hated by the great nobles because he wasn’t of noble birth and was Italian Fronde Mazarin suggested that the Louis XIV become his own first minister and rely on no one but him self Louis became his own first minister, but needed servants who could actually deliver such as J.B Colbert (worked his way up from the middle class, caught Mazarin’s attention) Louis began to use Colbert and made him the superintendent of the king’s finances, in which he did a very good job Colbert did not have the advantage of being born into a noble family Was unable to restructure France’s taxes however Complained about the extravagance of the palace of Versailles, but nevertheless found money to fund it Colbert centralized the government in such a way as to make the king the center of the kingdom, French culture, etc. After 1683 (Colbert’s death) led to the beginning of a decline, Louis’ reign no longer successful Everything had to pass through a tariff system, and everything had to be taxed; this strangled any entrepreneurial sense Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes, was convinced that there should only be a single religion in France Protestants driven out of France, brought their abilities to the nations that were at war with France Louis decided to invade Germany, this made Europe realize how dangerous France was under Louis XIV was The invasion was made worse because of the actions of the French army that treated the Germans horribly Grand Alliance was created (England, Spain, Holland, all of Europe allied against France) The French still won battles on land; France began to run out of money and men to fight in these wars Chaos ensued in France, for example soldiers were tired of fighting, and Louis had no choice but to make peace – the country could no longer sustain Louis’ ambitions The taxing system strangled the country War of the Spanish Concession – rest of Europe refused to add Spain to the dynasty of France (the ambitious kingdom of France had to be restrained) The French were defeated, and the kingdom became increasingly impoverished, France lost a great deal of its wealth Alliance couldn’t agree amongst themselves in regards to who to support which allowed Louis XIV to leave the war with a bit of dignity Powers of everyone outside the crown were destroyed under absolutism; these powers were weakened economically, s
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