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HIST201: History of Europe, 1000 to 1800

Unit 6: Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe   In the wake of the religious wars of the seventeenth century, monarchs in western Europe attempted to consolidate and increase their power.  Many sought to fashion themselves as “absolute” monarchs—sole leaders whose power exceeded that of the people, the government, and/or the Church.  However, these efforts were met with varied results.  In France, Louis XIV (known as the “Sun King”) successfully established himself as an absolutist ruler.  But the Netherlands, on the other hand, expulsed Catholic absolutist Spain in 1572 and created a Dutch Republic that supported religious toleration and republican government.  In England, a constitutional crisis centered on the question of whether sovereignty was vested in the king or Parliament resulted in the beheading of Charles I, a civil war, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
   
In this unit, we will examine why absolutism was successfully implemented in France and why it was challenged or defeated in the Dutch Republic and in England.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10.5 hours to complete:

☐    Subunit 6.1: 5.5 hours
☐    Subunit 6.1.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 6.1.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.1.3: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 6.1.4: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 6.1.5: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 6.1.6: 0.5 hour

☐    Subunit 6.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.4: 1 hour

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Define the major characteristics of absolutism.
  • Compare and contrast Absolute monarchy with English and Dutch theories of government.
  • Identify the importance of Louis XIV in centralizing the French state.

  • Reading: University of Idaho: Professor Tom Drake’s Literature of Western Civilization Homepage: “Pre-Enlightenment Europe” Link: University of Idaho: Professor Tom Drake’s Literature of Western Civilization Homepage:Pre-Enlightenment Europe” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entirety of “Pre-Enlightenment Europe.”  This reading provides an overview of European society and thought just before the Enlightenment.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1 Absolutism   6.1.1 Absolutism Defined   - Lecture: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Lecture 2: Absolutism and the State” Link: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Lecture 2: Absolutism and the State” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
HTML, Adobe Flash, Mp3 or QuickTime 
iTunes U

 Instructions: Please watch the entire 45-minute video lecture
linked above.  This video will help you to understand that
absolutism emerged in Europe as a result of the protracted religious
conflicts of the late 1500s and early 1600s.  
    
 Terms of Use: This video is released under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License.](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/)  It
is attributed to Yale University, and the original can be
found [here](http://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-202/lecture-2).
  • Reading: Gulf Coast Community College: Professor Richard Baldwin’s “Age of Absolutism” and Salem State College: Professor Thomas Page’s “Age of Absolutism” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

6.1.2 Foundations of French Absolutism   - Reading: Library of Congress’s “Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothéque Nationale de France:” “The Path to Royal Absolutism” and University of Wisconsin: J.P. Sommerville’s “Absolutism and the Divine Right of Kings” Links: Library of Congress’s “Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothéque Nationale de France:” “The Path to Royal Absolutism” (HTML) and University of Wisconsin: J.P. Sommerville’s “Absolutism and the Divine Right of Kings” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire Library of Congress webpage, and click on the images.  Then, please read all of “Absolutism and the Divine Right of Kings” linked above.
 
The images in “The Path to Royal Absolutism” will help illustrate the consolidation of power of the French monarchy in the 1600s.  The second reading  will give you a sense of the Jacques-Benigne Bossuet’s theory that monarchs were chosen by, and acted according to, God.  
 
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6.1.3 The Absolute Monarchy   - Reading: Library of Congress’s “Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothéque Nationale de France:” “The Rise and Fall of the Absolute Monarchy” Link: Library of Congress’s “Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothéque Nationale de France:” “The Rise and Fall of the Absolute Monarchy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage, and click on the images, which illustrate the reigns of the “absolute” monarchs Louis XIV, Louis, XV, and Louis XVI.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.4 Louis XIV   - Reading: Western New England College: Professor Gerhard Rempel’s “Louis XIV” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

6.1.5 The Wars of Louis XIV   - Reading: Nipissing University: Professor Steve Muhlberger’s “The Wars of Louis XIV” Link: Nipissing University: Professor Steve Muhlberger’s “The Wars of Louis XIV” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage linked above.  This reading discusses Louis XIV’s ambitious plan of military conquest.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.6 The Decline of Absolutist Spain   - Reading: University of Wisconsin: Professor J.P. Sommerville’s “The Decline of Spain” Link: University of Wisconsin: Professor J.P. Sommerville’s “The Decline of Spain
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article linked above.  This reading addresses the factors that contributed to the decline of Spain during the seventeenth century.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2 Constitutionalism in England   - Lecture: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Lecture 3: Dutch and British Exceptionalism” Link: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Lecture 3: Dutch and British Exceptionalism” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
HTML, Adobe Flash, Mp3 or QuickTime 
iTunes U
 
Instructions: Please watch the entire 45-minute video lecture linked above.  This video lecture will discuss how and why both England and Holland rejected absolutist rule.
 
Terms of Use: This video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.  It is attributed to Yale University, and the original can be found here.

6.2.1 Constitutionalism Defined   Note: This topic is covered by the resource below sub-subunit 6.2.3.

6.2.2 The Decline of Royal Absolutism in England   Note: This topic is covered by the resource below subunit 6.2.3.
                        

6.2.3 Religious Issues   - Reading: Union County College: Dr. Harold Damerow’s “England in the 17th Century” Link: Union County College: Dr. Harold Damerow’s “England in the 17th Century
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article, which discusses how constitutionalism—defined as the limitation of government through the rule of law—was embraced in England.  This reading covers the topics outlined in sub-subunits 6.2.1-6.2.3.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 The English Civil War   6.3.1 Sovereignty in the King or Parliament?   - Reading: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide: Lectures on Early Modern European History: “Lecture 7: The English Civil War” Link: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide: Lectures on Early Modern European History: “Lecture 7: The English Civil War” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire lecture linked above.  This
reading discusses the origins of the English civil war, the
abolition of the English monarchy, and the inauguration of the
English republic.    
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2 Cromwell and the Protectorate   - Reading: Western New England College: Professor Gerhard Rempel’s “Oliver Cromwell: Constitutional Crisis in England” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

6.3.3 The Interregnum, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution   - Reading: BBC’s British History In-depth: Dr. Edward Vallance’s “The Glorious Revolution” and Nipissing University: Steve Muhlberger’s “The Glorious Revolution” Links: BBC’s British History In-depth: Dr. Edward Vallance’s “The Glorious Revolution” (HTML) and Nipissing University: Steve Muhlberger’s “The Glorious Revolution” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read both articles titled “The Glorious Revolution” linked above.  The BBC reading, “The Glorious Revolution,” offers a good overview of the causes and effects of a revolution that established England as a constitutional monarchy.  Finally, Steve Muhlberger’s reading offers a good overview of the revolution of 1688, while also clearly articulating the reasons for the triumph of Parliament over king.
 
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6.4 The Dutch Republic   6.4.1 Independence from Spain   Note: This topic is covered by the readings in sub-subunit 6.4.4.

6.4.2 A Republic and Confederation   Note: This topic is covered by the readings in sub-subunit 6.4.4.

6.4.3 Trade in the West and East Indies   Note: This topic is covered by the readings in sub-subunit 6.4.4.

6.4.4 War with France and England   - Reading: University of Wisconsin: J.P. Sommerville’s “The Dutch in the 17th Century” and Authorama.com’s version of George Edmundson’s History of Holland: “Chapter VI: The Beginnings of the Dutch Republic”; Fordham University’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Dutch Declaration of Independence” Links: University of Wisconsin: J.P. Sommerville’s “The Dutch in the 17th Century” and Authorama.com’s version of George Edmundson’s History of Holland: “Chapter VI: The Beginnings of the Dutch Republic” (HTML); Fordham University’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “The Dutch Declaration of Independence, 1581” (HTML)
 
Also available in:
 
 ePub format
 
Instructions: Please note that these readings cover topics outlined in sub-subunits 6.4.1-6.4.4.  Please read the entire article, “The Dutch in the 17th Century,” linked above.  Then, read George Edmundson’s “Chapter VI” linked above.  Finally, read the Dutch Declaration of Independence linked above.
 
The first reading will give you a sense of the socio-economic landscape of the newly created Dutch Republic.  George Edmundson’s “Chapter VI” discusses the political, religious, and military turmoil from which an independent Dutch Republic emerged.  
 
The Act of Abjuration, signed into law in 1581, formally declared the Dutch Low Countries independent of Phillip II of Spain.  The Dutch had endured religious persecution, war and the tyrannical rule of Catholic Spain before they finally rebelled.  The Dutch Declaration of Independence (1581) asserts the Dutch’s people’s right to secede from an oppressive monarchy; it later inspired the American Declaration of Independence.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.