Unit 7: Absolutism in Eastern Europe The Thirty Years’ War left Central and Eastern Europe far less economically advanced than their counterparts in western Europe. In the wake of the war, monarchs in Prussia, Austria, and Russia attempted to centralize their authority and strengthen their respective states. The Austrian Habsburgs recognized the weaknesses of the Holy Roman Empire and began to consolidate their power outside of Germany. In Russia, Peter the Great attempted to implement political reform, forge alliances with Western Europe, and deflect attacks from the powerful Ottoman Empire. In addition, serfdom revived in Eastern Europe, giving rulers more power over land and peasants.
In this unit, we will see how absolutist rule in Prussia, Austria, and Russia united fragmented kingdoms and safeguarded them against internal division and foreign invasion.
Unit 7 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 3.5 hours to complete.
☐ Subunit 7.1: 1 hour
☐ Subunit 7.2: 1 hour
☐ Subunit 7.3: 1.5 hours
Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Identify the nature of serfdom in Eastern Europe.
- Compare and contrasts the monarchies of Russia, Austria, and Prussia.
- Describe the nature of Peter the Great’s reforms and his importance in Russian history.
7.1 Lords and Peasants in Eastern Europe
- Reading: Yale: Maxime Kovalesky’s “The Origin, Growth and
Abolition of Personal Servitude in Russia”
Link: Yale: Maxime Kovalesky’s “The Origin, Growth and Abolition of
Personal Servitude in
Instructions: Please read the entire article linked above. This reading will provide you with a sense of the widespread—and oppressive—system of serfdom in Eastern Europe. The topics in sub-subunits 7.1.1-7.1.3 are covered in this reading.
7.1.1 Restricting Peasants’ Rights Note: This topic is covered by the reading in subunit 7.1.
7.1.2 Consolidation of Serfdom Note: This topic is covered by the reading in subunit 7.1.
7.1.3 Growth of Estate Agriculture Note: This topic is covered by the reading in subunit 7.1.
7.2 Absolutism in Prussia and Austria 7.2.1 Austria 7.2.2 Prussia - Reading: Library of Congress: Eric Solsten (ed.)’s Austria: A Country Study: “The Reforms of Maria Theresa and Josef II” and Nipissing University: Steve Muhlberger’s “Absolutist Government in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Prussia” Links: Library of Congress: Eric Solsten (ed.)’s Austria: A Country Study: “The Reforms of Maria Theresa and Josef II" (HTML) and Nipissing University: Steve Muhlberger’s “Absolutist Government in the Eighteenth Century: The Case of Prussia” (HTML)
7.3 The Development of Russia
7.3.1 Mongol Invasions and the Rise of Moscow
- Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Russian State”
Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Russian
Instructions: Please read “The Russian State.” This reading discusses the effects of the Mongol invasions and the rise of the princes of Moscow.
7.3.2 Peter the Great
- Lecture: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Lecture 4:
Peter the Great”
Link: Yale University: Professor John Merriman’s “Lecture 4: Peter
the Great” (YouTube)
Also available in:
HTML, Adobe Flash, Mp3 or QuickTime
Instructions: Please watch the entire 45-minute video lecture linked here. This video lecture talks about Peter the Great’s reform initiative in Russia—military expansion, territorial expansion, as well as the introduction of Western customs and culture into Russia.
Reading: Western New England College: Professor Gerhard Rempel’s “Peter’s Russia” 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.