Samenvatting A history of the modern world (Palmer, 10, 2006)
The Holy Roman Empire was the economic centre in Europe in the Middle Ages. Most of the people spoke German, but religion was more important than language. The Empire was divided in terms of religion. It’s possible that there were even more Protestants than Catholics in the Empire. Because the trade shifted to the Atlantic-coast and the Lutherans were culturally isolated, the Empire was in severe decline.
I.1.1 Background of the Thirty Years’ War
First of all, because of The Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which said that each state could choose his own religion, the Lutherans were making gains, something the Catholics didn’t like. Besides that both the Catholics and Lutherans didn’t like the growing Calvinism. The Catholics turned to Spain while the Protestants were negotiating with the Dutch Republic, England and France for help.
Secondly the Spanish Habsburgs wanted to crush the Dutch, so that they could create a strong borderline in central Europe. In third place, the Austrian Habsburgs couldn’t wait to crush Protestantism in Germany and thereafter create a strong German national state. France was even more scared of the plans of the Austrian Habsburgs than the plans of the Spanish Habsburgs.
As you can see, the war was a mishmash of clashes, and therefore complex:
a German civil war between Protestants and Catholics’
a German civil war over sovereignty between the Emperor and German princes;
an international war with France against the Habsburgs, the Spanish against the Dutch and the Swedes and Danish who helped the Protestants in Germany;
personal ambitions, call them soldiers of fortune, fighting for themselves.
I.1.2 The Four Phases of the War
The Bohemian Phase (1618-1625): the Bohemians wanted to keep their Protestant liberties, so they got rid of the Holy Roman Emperor, Matthias. Frederick V got elected by the Bohemian people, but the new Emperor Ferdinand crushed the Bohemians in the Battle of the White Mountains. Result: victory for the Catholics, Protestantism crushed away in Bohemia and Spain gained control over the Rhineland.
The Danish Phase (1625-1629): the King of Denmark, a Protestant supported by the Dutch, English and Richelieu, got attacked in the name of the Emperor by Albert of Wallenstein’s personal army. Result: Denmark lost, Counter Reformation goes further and further.
The Swedish Phase (1630-1635): The King of Sweden, the Protestant Gustavus Adolphus, was alarmed by the victories of Catholicism and went to war with his modern army. He made big victories in Germany, but got killed. At the same moment the Swedish-allied Saxons signed a peace agreement with the Catholics and the Swedes were isolated in Germany. It looked like the end of the war, but both France and Spain didn’t want any peace in the Empire.
The Swedish-French Phase (1635-1648): the last phase of the war wasn’t that much a civil war, but more an international struggle on German ground. German states got involved with both French and Swedes, but developed a feeling of national resentment against foreign invasions.
I.1.3 The Peace of Westphalia, 1648
There were a lot of outcomes of the Peace of Westphalia. The Peace of Augsburg was revised with the addition of Calvinism; the Dutch Republic and Switzerland got recognized as independent states; all the 300 German states became sovereign; Germany lost a third of its population. This meant the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Peace of Westphalia was the first modern diplomatic congress, thereby indicating a new political order in central Europe. This new political order was based upon the concept of a sovereign state. Europe was understood as a continent with a large number of sovereignties with their own laws, rules, interests, shifting balance of power, etc.
At the beginning of the 17th century England pulled back from the continent. It had no role in the Thirty Years War nor in the Treaty of Westphalia. Simply because England was involved in religious and civil war, fought between the Puritans and the Anglicans and between the Parliament forces and the forces of the king. The wars were relatively calm, but the conflicts between England and Catholic Ireland were fierce and savage.
I.2.1 England in the Seventeenth Century
England made great achievements in the 17th century. It had about 5 million English-speaking inhabitants. Furthermore groups had emigrated to the American colonies, the West Indies and Northern Ireland. Big names of that time were Shakespeare, Milton and Francis Bacon. Although England was inferior to Holland in shipping, it had a larger and more versatile economy and a more productive homeland.
I.2.2 Background to the Civil War: Parliament and the Stuart Kings
Stuart James I had a major conflict with the Parliament for several reasons:
he believed in royal absolutism;
he supported the Anglican Archbishop Laud that asked religious conformity at the time that the Parliament was Puritan;
his Scottish origin;
his pedantic ways;
his constant need of money for the war with Spain and his spending-money-habit.
The English Parliament was unified without any provincial units such as in the Netherlands. The House of Lords was dominated by aristocratic landowners, the House of Commons by nobility plus representatives of the merchants and the cities. Still the Parliament was generally unanimous in social interest and wealth.
Charles I Stuart decided to govern without Parliament in 1629. This would probably succeeded, if there weren’t some major problems. First of all his reforms in Ireland were blocked by English landlords. Secondly his support to the High Anglicans antagonized the Puritans. At last his idea of a tax for the navy, the ‘Ship Money Act’, to be paid by every Englishmen, made everyone angry. The Parliament was not willing to pay for the navy unless it could decide how to use the navy.
This crisis in England came to a peak in 1637 when the Scots rebelled against the establishment of the Anglican Church in Scotland. Charles needed an army to fight the Scots, so he had to call in the Parliament. They didn’t want to help him, so Charles made new elections for the Parliament.
The same persons were elected and they became rebellious against the king under the lead of John Hampden, John Pym, Oliver Cromwell and Puritans who were supported by merchants. This Parliament would be active till after the civil war and was therefore called the Long Parliament. They fought an open war with the Royalists.
I.2.3 The Emergence of Cromwell
Olivier Cromwell made a new regiment in the army, the Ironsides, based on extreme Calvinism for morale, discipline and the will to fight. He defeated Charles I and killed him to prevent counter-revolutions. Colonel Pride drove out opponents of the execution in the Parliament, which was called Pride’s Purge.
Cromwell declared England a republic or Commonwealth. There was religious violence in the Commonwealth. Scotland was pro-royalist again after the execution of the king (the Stuarts were a Scottish monarchy) and rebelled against Cromwell, but were crushed. The Puritan and Protestant fury moves now to Catholic Ireland. All rights of the Catholics are repealed and the population is forced to servitude the English nobles. Cromwell introduces in 1651 the ‘Act of Navigation’ which leads to several English-Dutch wars (conquest of New Amsterdam) and a war with Spain (conquest of Jamaica).
Beside the victories abroad, Cromwell’s domestic politics weren’t going that well. He could never overrule the conservatives, and even his own supporters divided over radical issues. The Levellers over universal manhood suffrage, a written constitution and equality of representation in the Parliament; the Diggers, who rejected the idea of private property; the Fifth Monarchy Men, a group that believed that the end of the world was coming; and the Quakers, who opposed violence and upset social conventions.
In 1653 Cromwell abolished the Parliament and ruled as Lord Protector. England was so placed under a Puritan military rule. He died in 1658 and was succeeded by Charles II, the son of the killed Charles I, because his son was unable to maintain the Protectorate. Royalty was restored. Political consciousness of lower classes ceased and democratic ideas were repudiated as ‘leveling’.
I.3.1 The Restoration, 1660-1688: The Later Stuarts
Not only the monarchy, but also the Church of England and the Parliament were restored. Charles II was careful not to provoke the Parliament and vice versa the Parliament made a new legislation, including the abolishment of feudal payments to the king and sharing the governing of England. Puritans and other dissenters were disenfranchised.
The Englishmen and their Parliament were anti-Catholic, instead of the European continent that wanted to return to Catholicism. However, Charles II admired the French king Louis XIV. Charles suggested help against the Dutch Republic, all in exchange for money. The Parliament reacts with the Test Act: all public officials have to prove that they’re Anglican.
A large group of the Parliament, the Whigs, sought to prevent James Stuart from becoming King since he was a Catholic. The Whigs were mainly the higher nobles and the middle class of London. The Parliamentary allies of the king, the Tories, were loyal to king and Church.
I.3.2 The Revolution of 1688
However, James II becomes King of England in 1685. He ignores the Test Act and gave the good positions back to the Catholics and dissenters. Even the Tories lost their confidence in the monarchy. The situation is getting worse as James II baptize his first son Catholic. The English felt the threat of a Catholic throne again. Both Whigs and Tories chose the Protestant Mary, daughter of James I, as the new queen.
She was married to the Dutch William of Orange, a thoroughly Protestant and opponent to Louis XIV. William invaded England, James fled, and was defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, 1690. James II fled to Louis XIV, who continued to support the Stuarts as rulers of France. The results were the following:
Bill of Rights (1689): the king couldn’t suspend any law, no army without Parliament’s permission and nobody could be arrested without a legal process;
Toleration Act (1689): religious freedom for dissenters;
Act of Settlement (1701): the King of England can’t be a Catholic;
Toleration Act (1707): establishment of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, with the Scots keeping their legal system and religion;
(Catholic) Ireland was feared by the English and therefore they had no political rights, couldn’t buy land, the international trade was stopped and so on.
Two reasons can be given why the Glorious Revolution was called “glorious”:
The rule of the gentlemen of England was within the limits of political liberty;
It stood for the principles of parliamentary government, the rule of law, and the right of revolt against tyranny.
I.4.1 French Civilization in the Seventeenth Century
Louis XIV’s France owed it ascendancy to the quantity and quality of its people. With 19 million inhabitants, the self-sufficient nation France was twice as big as England and even triple Spain. It had the biggest navy of that time. The fertile soil gave a lot of wealth. This wealth was unevenly distributed: millions lived in poverty, while the haut culture (gentry, officials, bureaucrats and grand seigneurs) lived in luxury.
The French had a dominant culture. French paintings and architecture were an example for the rest of Europe, as well as their military defenses and mechanical engineering. Even more famous was the French literature, philosophy and science: Moliere (satirical comedies), La Fointaine (fables), and Descartes (mathematics and philosophy).
Louis XIV realized the importance of the cultural dominance in the international community, so he supported artists and writers. The official movement was called classicism that emphasized order, harmony, and the ancient times.
I.4.2 The Development of Absolutism in France
Traditionally, France had a tradition of political freedom in the feudal sense: the Estates General and the Provincial States with control over taxation. In addition, there were different courts around the country with together some 300 different legal systems. A patchwork quilt as Germany, you could say. In France, the medieval local freedom was identified with disorder.
After the Peace of Westphalia, a rebellion broke out among the nobles (the Fronde). The rebellion was against the power of Cardinal Mazarin, regent for the young Louis XIV. The nobles demanded an assembly of the Estates General. Meanwhile, unemployed soldiers made the countryside unsafe, and the nobles ask Spain for help. Remember that France was at war with Spain at that time, so the nobles lost all the support of the bourgeoisie. And their hope of victory.
In 1661, Louis XIV announced that he would be king. He turned out to be a good ruler, as he was able to see and stick to definite lines of policy and he was very methodical and industrious in his daily habits. He also had a tremendous need for self-admiration. Louis XIV claimed the sovereignty of the state: “L’état, c’est moi” (the state, is me). That’s the core of absolutism. He proclaimed that royal power was absolute, but not arbitrary. He served the will of God. Absolutism became the prevailing form of government on the continent.
I.4.3 Government and Administration
army: the most important step that Louis XIV took, was that he secured his control over the army. Until then, armies had been private armies under independence colonels with their own interests. Under Louis XIV all armed men fought for him alone. This brought peace and order in France and increased the combat power against other states. It created the first organized war ministry.
Palace of Versailles: Louis XIV overwhelmed the Frenchmen with his new palace of worldly splendor, the Palace of Versailles. In his personal life he added a lot of unprecedented ceremonial splendor.
advisers: the Sun King used its own Councils of State, using “intendants”, and ignored the Estates General. These intendants were in every district and took care of the tax collection, recruitment of combatants, supervision of the local nobles, negotiating with the cities and so on. Many cases were honestly treated by those local bureaucrats.
I.4.4 Economic and Financial Policies: Colbert
Funding the state had always been the weakest point of the French monarchy. The king couldn’t raise taxes for the nobles, so the taxes for the peasantry became higher and higher. Louis XIV tried everything to earn money: raising the rates, devaluation of the currency, and sales of posts and functions in court and army. He even abolished the privileges of the cities, to sell these privileges again to the cities afterwards. Disastrous consequences for the morale, as a result. The fundamental weakness of absolutism –the inability to tax the rich– corrupted society and politics.
On both financial and economic fields there was the famous minister Colbert, who tried to make France completely self-sufficient by the strict application of mercantilism. He succeeded to create a great free trade area, called the Five Great Farms. For the purpose of trade he created the Commercial Code, replacing local customary law with business practices and regulation. He provided road and canals, worked on standardization of units and quality, helped establishing colonies (French East India Company) and helped building up the navy. Everything to increase the revenue of the state.
I.4.5 Religion: The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 1685
Louis XIV started with religious tolerance. Little by little he began to hate heretics. He saw religious unity as a necessary given for the strength and dignity of France. He suppressed Jansenism, a left-wing Catholic off-shoot, he began with the systematic conversion of Huguenots, and revoked the Edict of Nantes: the prosecution of heretics started. Hundreds of thousands Huguenots fled the country. Their loss hurt the commercial and industrial classes.
To conclude: the reign of Louis XIV brought significant benefits for France’s middle and lower classes. Colbert’s approach to the economy was indeed an obstacle for the free private enterprise, but did enlarge the French economy. Although France remained a state full of jurisdictions and privileges, it still was the best and largest monarchy on the continent. Louis XIV remained popular until the wars became a too heavy burden.
Mid 17th century, three old empires are in decline in Eastern Europe: the Holy Roman Empire, the Republic of Poland, and the Ottoman Empire. Newer, stronger powers are rising to replace them: Prussia, Austria, and Russia.
I.5.1 The Holy Roman Empire after 1648
After the Peace of Westphalia, the Holy Roman Empire had no income, no army, and not longer a functioning administration. It covered roughly all German speaking areas, except the Baltic coast, the Dutch Republic and Swiss.
The German reconstruction was difficult after the Thirty Years War and the Protestant Reformation. There was a weak bourgeoisie and a lack of colonies. Besides, it was divided in 300 sovereign states and 200 “free knights”, knights without land.
Each state was anxious to maintain their “German liberties”, freedom from control by the emperor. France was happy with this, since they saw a unification of the German states as a threat.
I.5.2 The Republic of Poland about 1650
Poland had a huge area, stretching from present-day Poland to Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. They had a chosen king and was therefore called a republic. This gave also expression to the constitutional freedoms that the states had acquired. The population of Poland was heterogeneous: peasants in the east, ruled by Polish and Lithuanian gentry, Germans and Jews (gradually forced to live in the ghettos) in the cities and the Polish themselves in the countryside. There was a huge difference between the peoples. There was no middle class, so there was gentry and the peasants were almost serfs.
Aristocrats, 8% of the population, held sufficient power to prevent either absolutism or a parliamentary government. Royal elections were centers of foreign interference and bribery. Under most conditions the people were too split up to accept a Polish king. Therefore almost always a foreigner as king, who had no army, no law courts, no officials, and no income. The nobles were highly cultured and cosmopolitan. Some aristocrats had their own army and foreign policy. The push against the Polish border became stronger and stronger. Talks about the partitioning of Poland started.
I.5.3 The Ottoman Empire about 1650
The Ottoman Empire was larger, stronger, and better organized than the other two empires. The empire was based on a high degree of military knowledge. Long before the Europeans had a standing state army, the Turks had already their army with janissaries. Within the empire were many subject peoples, but there was no assimilation (only in Albania). The law was religious, but only applied to Muslims. Non-Muslims were left to solve their problems in their own religious groups, thus tolerance of non-Muslims subjects. Around 1663, Turkey began to modernize and the janissaries went on the warpath. The Ottoman threat was felt all over Europe, especially for Austria.
I.6.1 The Recovery and Growth of Habsburg Power, 1648-1740
Although the outcome of the Peace of Westphalia was disastrous for the Austrian Habsburgs, it managed to ensure successful transition towards the construction of an own empire. They possessed a large part of today’s Austria, including Slovenia, the Kingdom of Bohemia (Czech Republic and Silesia), and the Kingdom of Hungary (including Transylvania and Croatia). The Austrian Habsburg dynasty was the only thing that kept these areas together.
In the first half of the 16th century, Hungary was the scene of constant fighting between Turks and Habsburgs. The struggle flared up again in 1663, but the large Christian army made the Sultan accept a twenty-year truce. At the end of that twenty-year period, Louis XIV of France incited the Turks to continue their attacks.
In 1683 the Turkish army stood before the gates of Vienna. A Christian army, composed of Polish, Austrian, and German troops and financed by Pope Pius XI, finally managed to oust the Turks. Prince Eugene of Savoy made military reforms in the Austrian army and achieved great successes on the battlefield. After he conquered the lost Hungarian territories, he began to point on the Spanish Succession War. This didn’t brought the Spanish crown, but nevertheless the Southern Netherlands, Milan, and Naples. He focused again on the Turks: the new border was made at Belgrade.
I.6.2 The Austrian Monarchy by 1740
Despite the Belgian and Italian possessions, the Austrian Monarchy still had a strong German influence. Italians, Czechs, Hungarians and Croatians were commonly seen at the Viennese court. An international, cosmopolitan aristocracy of landowners, who felt more connected that the peasantry in the empire.
The landowners had complete control. There were just a few cities that could provide resistance, the peasant population was enslaved. Thus the Austrian monarchy stayed a collection of territories, only held together by name. Each country kept its own laws, Diet and political affairs.
The empire could only exist if the crowns were always inherited by the same person. Archduke Charles VI announced the Pragmatic Sanction: every diet and all Habsburg archdukes had to agree that the Habsburg territories were indivisible with only one line of heirs. Charles VI made also all major foreign powers such a guarantee.
It’s striking to see how small states were capable to play a significant role in European relations of the 17th century. They had a well-trained, equipped, and disciplined army, which was used very efficiently. Sweden and Prussia are two examples of such states.
I.7.1 Sweden’s Short-Lived Empire
With some good rulers as Gustavus Adolphus (1611-1632), Christina (1632-1654), and Charles XII (1697-1718), and a modern army, Sweden built a great empire. Through the Peace of Westphalia, and a few wars with Poland, Sweden gained control over almost the entire Baltic coast. Thus, Sweden made a lot of territorial victories. King of Sweden, Charles XII, defeated the Danes, Poles, and Russians, and refused to make a peace agreement. He continued with fighting deep in Eastern Europe, and was eventually defeated by the Russians. Sweden retained only Finland and a few, small German states.
I.7.2 The Territorial Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia
Prussia started dominating Eastern Europe, and was famous for its small, but very effective army. It was ruled by Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg. Modern Prussia began to emerge when the Elector of Brandenburg inherited the duchy of Prussia, and some other areas.
In the middle of the Thirty Years War, Frederick William got different positions in the Prussian politics. He realized that a relatively small open area should be defended by using a capable army that could play a significant role in maintaining the balance of power. He became known as the Great Elector and designed the modern Prussia.
I.7.3 The Prussian Military State
The uniqueness of Prussia was the difference between the size of the army and the amount of resources on which the army was based. Prussia was not the one that founded a standing state army. Most governments saw the army of Louis XIV as an example: try to keep the army away from nobles’ influence, and under control of the government. But the Prussian army was unique. The army developed a life of its own and was almost independent of the life of the state. When Prussia fell for Napoleon in 1806, the spirit and morale of the Prussian army maintained. Even in 1918, when the Hohenzollern Empire collapsed, the Prussian army traditions continued in the Weimar Republic.
The economy grew more through government sponsorship than the entrepreneurial spirit of businessmen. Technical skills were imported from the West. The government helped to develop various industries, like Colbert did in France. The army had a profound effect on the social class structure and the development of Prussia. These developments were mainly driven by King Frederick William I (1713-1740). He admired the army and enlarged it from 40,000 men to 83,000. A fifth of the Berliner population served the army. Frederick II succeeded him, and became known as Frederick the Great. Charles VI of Austria just died and his daughter Maria Theresa succeeded him. All of Europe covered themselves under the Pragmatic Sanction, but Frederick II conquered Silesia. With this conquest, the population doubled and valuable industries were added. Prussia became a superpower, with an army of 200,000 at a population of 600,000.
Like Austria and Prussia, Russia copied a lot of ideas, technical expertise and administrative systems, to be a modern 18th century state. The old tsardom of Muscovy became the modern Russia in the second half of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century. Especially under Peter the Great (1628-1725) Russia began to Europeanize. From the 12th to the 17th century, Russia had been far behind in developments compared to the rest of Europe. Three reasons why:
Russia was sentenced to the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity, therefore, the influence of Constantinople, not Rome, was dominant;
The invasion of the Mongols held Russia under Asian dominance;
The Russian geography, particularly the lack of ice-free ports, impeded the relations with the West.
Russia had parallels with Prussia. Both states:
had large, flat, hard defensible land masses;
had a condition which mainly consisted in maintaining the army;
developed an autocracy;
couldn’t develop without the knowledge from the West;
lacked to establish a middle class that had any political significance.
Yet Prussia was more European than Russia, since they were Protestant and had universities. The Europeanization of Russia can be better compared to that of Japan. Both countries focused on gaining scientific, technical, and military knowledge from the West to defend their own territory.
I.8.1 Russia before Peter the Great
There were a lot of different peoples in Russia. The Great Russians of Muscovy, Tartars of the Volga regions, Cossacks between the Volga and the Black Sea, Byelorussians south and west of Moscow, with Ukrainians under Polish rule. In 1650, the Swedes controlled the Baltic Coast, and the Turks the Black Sea.
Russia had little contact with Europe. The most trade routes went from north to south. England had some trading companies through Archangel on the White Sea before the 17th century. Russian culture was essentially crude. Religion played a big role, but lacked charitable or educational institutions.
The first tsar, Ivan IV “The Terrible” (tsar from 1533 to 1584), called Moscow the Third Rome. Russia entered a period that was known as the Time of Troubles in which nobles asserted their power. A result was the start of the Romanov Dynasty, who were able to suppress the Duma and create an autocracy. Peasants became hereditary serfs, fully chattels, able to be bought and sold. The Russian Orthodox Church separated into an upper class church and peasant sects like the fanatic and ignorant Old Believers.
I.8.2 Peter the Great: Foreign Affairs and Territorial Expansion
The Russia in which Peter the Great became the ruler was already a bit Europeanized. Without him it would have been a slower process. As a younger, Peter the Great was already fascinated by the West. He spent some time working, talking and observing in England and Holland. Later, in Russia, he recruited 1000 foreign experts for service in Russia, and many experts followed later. He wanted to create a powerful army and state. Partly defensive, partly expansionist, since he believed that Russia needed warm water ports.
While Poland was in anarchy, Peter managed to conquest the cities of Kiev and Smolensk. He discovered that his army wasn’t that good, when he lost both battles against the Turks and the Swedes. He rebuilt his army with western advisers and weaponry. This time he defeated Charles XII of Sweden, and thus won the Baltic coast, “its window on the West.”
He built the new Russian capital city of St. Petersburg and forced the nobles to live there. Moscow, the center of opposition to his Europeanizing ideals, was left behind.
I.8.3 Internal Changes under Peter the Great
On economical field, Peter the Great raised money by multiplying taxes, mainly on the peasantry, and by making serfdom more universal. Commercial companies were formed, provided with governmental capital and serfs, because he encouraged mercantilism.
On governmental field, he created a new administrative system. The rule of hereditarily succession, the Duma and the national assembly were abolished, and replaced by a “senate” controlled by the tsar himself. He also appointed the Procurator of the Holy Synod, who controlled the Church. All aristocrats had to serve in the army or civil administration. People had the opportunity to rise in rank by talent. These changes made de population unwilling to serve the country. The empire was sometimes called a state without a people.
Peter the Great, a secular, was also working on a social revolution against the “old Russia”. He required schooling and insisted on manners.
I.8.4 The Results of Peter’s Revolution
Peter’s revolution evoked much resistance. His son Alexis proclaimed that he, after his father’s dead, would restore the old Russia. Peter the Great commanded to kill Alexis. After his own death, it was clear that his reforms could take a beating. Autocracy, bureaucracy, and slavery were rooted in the country. The elite regarded themselves as Western Europeans, although the peasantry didn’t see anything of the modernization. Undeniably, Russia was pulled up out of its isolation by Peter the Great and became one of the major players in the European politics.
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