01:506:101 Lecture 5: Ch5

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Chapter V. The Transformation of Eastern Europe,
1648-1740 (pp. 210-249)
Three old, increasingly ineffective, loose and sprawling political organizations are in decline--
the Holy Roman Empire, the Republic of Poland, and the empire of the Ottoman Turks. Newer
and stronger powers are rising to replace them: Prussia, Austria, and Russia.
Eastern Europe: more rural, less productive human labor, weaker middle classes. Peasants were governed
by their landlords and were losing freedom. The Commercial Revolution strengthened great lords who
produced for export and secured their labor through “hereditary subjection,” including forced labor.
23. Three Aging Empires:
Each of the three was different in origins and traditions but with basic resemblances: central
authority was weak, with a nominal head and powerful local lords. All were outmoded; none had
an efficient administration. All were made up of diverse ethnic/language groups; none had been
formed into a compact organization. The whole area was malleable, at the mercy of strong neighbors.
A. The Holy Roman Empire after 1648: The area had been ruined by the religious divisions
produced by the Protestant Reformation, with splinter groups demanding special safeguards.
Large areas had suffered in the Thirty Years’ War, with vast losses in capital and savings, and a
small, static burgher class. Lacking large-scale organization, they could not carry on overseas
colonization or trade, and internally their commerce was stifled by varying laws, tariffs, tolls
and coinage. Culture was at a low ebb, in spite of Leibniz and J. S. Bach.
B. Germany was composed of 300 sovereign states plus 200 sovereigns “free knights” --a bizarre
neo-feudalism. Each state was anxious to preserve its “German liberties,” and France and
others were happy to oblige and weaken the potential threat of a unified nation. Electors
required each new emperor to agree to “capitulations,” promises to safeguard those liberties. In
theory, the Diet could raise an army and taxes, but in reality, it was so evenly split between
Protestants and Catholics that no decision was possible; the Diet was characterized by
wordiness and futility. Each minor state was a petty absolutism, with a court and an army--a
vast array of mini-Sun Kings. Ambitious states used the politics of marriage to increase power
and territory. Hohenzollerns accumulated key territories while Bavarians used the church to
gain key cities; Saxons gained the thrones of England and Poland.
C. Poland was called a Republic because its king was elected; nobles were proud of their liberties. It was
large, with a heterogeneous population--Lithuania, the Duchy of Prussia, and Ukraine. Townspeople
were largely Germans and Jews. Jews had tended to live apart from religious reasons but were gradually
forced to live in ghettos. Poland lacked a national middle class and language (except Church Latin).
Aristocrats, 8% of the people, held sufficient power to prevent either absolutism or parliamentary
government. Royal elections were centers of foreign intrigue and bribery; the people were too split to
accept any Polish king under most conditions. The Diet was ineffective since every member held veto
power--the right to “explode” the diet. The king lacked an army, law courts, officials and income. Nobles
were highly cultured and cosmopolitan. They paid no taxes, and top aristocrats had their own army and
foreign policy. “Poland was, in short, a power vacuum...and as centers of higher pressure developed,
notably around Berlin and Moscow, the push against the Polish frontiers became steadily stronger.” Talk
began of partitioning Poland.
D. The Ottoman Empire was the largest and most solid of the territories. It had a strong army with
janissaries. It had developed the best artillery but was already falling toward obsolescence by 1650. The
Ottomans controlled many subject peoples, but there was no assimilation. Law was religious but was
only applied to Moslems; non-Moslems were left to settle their own problems by religious groupings.
Only in Albania were the subject peoples converted; generally Christian princes were left
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in control of Christian subjects, with toleration the norm. Overall, Turkish rule was oppressive,
arbitrary and brutal--especially since the central authority was corrupt and governors were given
a free hand. Border provinces were only loosely attached, serving as battlegrounds--as southern
Russia and Hungary. In 1663, Turkey began to modernize under the rule of the Kauris, a
dynasty of exceptional viziers. The Turks again became a threat to Austria.
24. The Formation of an Austrian Monarchy
A. The Recovery and Growth of Habsburg Power, 1648-1740
l. The Thirty Years’ War meant the collapse of the Habsburg hope of twin supports in Spain and the Holy
Roman Empire--though the Austrians did maintain an interest in the Germanies until 1870.
2. Main divisions: Austria, the “hereditary provinces” of the Habsburgs; the Kingdom of Bohemia,
made up of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia; and the Kingdom of Hungary, made up of Hungary,
Transylvania, and Croatia. The Habsburgs had eliminated Protestantism in their territories during the
Thirty Years’ War, and conquered Hungary soon after from the Turks.
3. Siege of Vienna: One of the great events of the 17th century was the Turkish siege of Vienna
in 1683 (with the Turks egged on by Louis XIV). An international force, financed by Pope
Pius XI, with imperial troops, and led by Duke Charles of Lorraine (who needed Habsburg
aid against Louis’ attempt to annex Lorraine). The Turks were defeated and driven back,
largely through the efforts of Prince Eugene of Savoy, who reorganized the Austrian army
along the lines of Louis XIV’s army and added Hungary to the Habsburg domains. Taking
Croatia gave the Habsburgs Trieste, its window on the Mediterranean.
B. The Austrian Monarchy by 1740:
1. The Empire was international, though with a strong German influence. It was based on
cosmopolitan aristocrats “who felt closer to each other, despite difference of language, than to the
laboring masses who worked on their estates.” Old Diets remained in place in Austria, Hungary,
and Bohemia; there was no overall imperial Diet. National diets retained their “liberties,” and “So
long as they produced taxes and soldiers as needed and accepted the wars and foreign policy of the
ruling house, no questions were asked in Vienna.”
2. Bohemian independence had been crushed in 1620, and the nation became a Catholic state,
presided over by land-owners who had been officers in the Thirty Years’ War. After 1699
Protestant Hungary was given the same treatment, with the old Magyar aristocracy severely
weakened. A rebellion in 1703 (encouraged by Louis XIV) was crushed. The Hungarians
remained proud, nationalistic, and distinct. Each constituent country had its own law, diet,
and political life; no feeling in the people held these regions together. To give a semblance
of unity, emperor Charles VI in 1713 produced the Pragmatic Sanction: every diet and all
Habsburg archdukes were to agree that the Habsburg territories were indivisible with only
one line of heirs. But Charles’ only heir was his daughter, Maria Theresa; to secure her
succession, Charles got all major foreign powers to sign a guarantee as well.
25. The Formation of Prussia (226-234) [read text]
A. Influence of small states in European affairs basically stemmed from the problems of
maintaining a large army in the field. Armies were therefore relatively small but heavily
capitalized: importance of expensive training and weaponry. Sweden, under two talented rulers,
Gustavo’s Adolphus (r. 1611-1632) and Charles XII (r. 1697-1718), expanded greatly before
checked by the growing power of Prussia and Russia.
B. Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia:
1. In spite of an unpromising site, Prussia likewise expanded because of the “rules of the game” and a
several key rulers. Its population was small, its farmland was poor, it generally lacked the key
natural resources. It was composed of two basic territories: Brandenburg, which was a
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