HIS103Y1 Study Guide - Continental System

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7 Apr 2011
THE WARS OF LOUIS XIV (1667-1714), PP.17-159
These wars were called the wars of Louis XIV because not only did he cause and
influence these wars, but also fought them. They were his wars.
1.Louis XIV was a proud monarch( He labelled himself the Sun King)
2.Was arrogant
3.He ruled as an absolute monarch (but not as a dictator). His authority knew
no limits
4.He considered the privilege and power of existing elites
5.On matters of war, and foreign policy he tolerated no interference from
tradition elites
6.He rendered more obedience from the servants
7.He designed the government to ensure absolute authority. Louis XIV
limited /suppressed independent action from his agents( military
commanders in particular)
8.He concentrated more authority at courts which were under the Kings direct
supervision. In so doing, he monitored all the activities done by ministers and
Exercised complete/absolute authority in decision making (especially in
making foreign policies and drafting strategy)
His decisions were mostly based on common sense
He chose men for administrative post who had legal and administrative
background, and who were from only recently nobbled families
Seriously punished agents(e.g. finance ministers) to give notice that he
will not tolerate even slightest threat to his authority
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He chaired meetings of most prominent nobbles so as to stay in control of
all the government affairs. He strictly forbade ministers to meet while he
was absent.
Ministers fell behind the Kings decision in order to protect their positions
In council meetings, he allowed ministers to criticise him but dare not in
public. He also allowed open discussions but the final decision was his.
He also sought military advice from war experts/ generals (Turrene,
Conde, and Vauban). This however changed after the death of Turrene
and the retirement of Conde. (In 1675 He and his civilian advisers drafted
strategy and policies
Limits of Absolutism:
Louis XIVs inability to pay for his wars.
Financial weaknesses of the state showed the limitations of absolutism.
Louis XIV found borrowing easier than taxing. As a result,
financial/economic problems hit the state. France had many resources,
like rich agricultural land and a high population (19 000 000) which would
generate income to finance the wars. The problem lied in the inability to
manage the available wealth of France. Increasing tax in wartime to cover
up warfare demands could result in resistance and rebellion. As a result,
Louis XIV opted to borrow (1661). Financial problems and taxation
undermined the monarch and strategic options of Louis XIV.
The expense of maintaining an army in the field made it desirable to
support troops by levying demands on the enemys population. ( sending
your enemy to fight on your enemys territory)
Financial weaknesses also forced the delay of offensive attacks ( Italy in
Money problems also crippled strategic options ( during the Last war
Nobility set the values of the society and those of the King as well.
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Spent most of his time with nobles in the court populated with nobles. The
court served as a lens through which he viewed and measured his policies.
During the century, combat tested manhood for the king and warfare tested
his reign. Young Courtiers were sure to push for vigorous military actions. All
they wanted was fame. War was source of fame and pride, hence it was to be
sought( As good in itself)
Louis XIV realised that he must demonstrate his interest and ability in war
in order to command the respect of the social and political elites, hence
allowing him to govern effectively
War justified legal authority and defined kingship and elites relationship
with the monarch. So for Louis XIV to be a complete ruler, he had to
represent himself as the warrior king.
The proper prise of war was territory; land being a supreme good during that
Gloire (Renowned reputation or prestige) guided the kings actions in a
number of actions: the creation of the academy of sciences, the sponsorship of
composer Lully. Policies that benefited people and the state added to Gloire (
the good of one gives to the Gloire of the other)
Gloire pushed/motivated the king a monarch to desire war, especially a
young monarch in need to establishing his own reputation.
Gloire was also a weapon of intimidation. But Louiss Gloire depended on
actual achievements just words
Louis XIV reign can be divided into three stages:
1.The first stage (1676-75): Louis IXV aggressively sought to advance his
Gloire by conquering new territory for France
2.The second stage (1676-97): French strategy was far more offensive,
though often aggressive in its means. ( sought to establish defensive
frontiers/borders for France)
3.The third stage; (1697-1714): Struggle over the Spanish succession
dominated this stage of Louis XIV reign
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