• Absolutism

    Throughout the 1500s and 1600s, absolutism, when kings or queens have complete control over government and the lives of their subjects, was the most widespread political system in use in Europe and parts of Asia. These absolute rulers claimed their ruling authority was derived from God's power, known as the Divine Right of Kings. Ruling with divine right allowed these monarchs to act as God's representative on Earth.

    In the 1500s, Spain emerged as the first modern European power.  Spain's king, Charles V, was involved in almost constant warfare.  His son, Philip II, expanded Spanish influence, strengthened the Catholic Church, and, believing he ruled by divine right, made his own power absolute.   Under him, Spain became the most powerful state in Europe.

     Religious wars between Catholics and Protestants tore France apart in the late 1500s.  In the 1640s, under Louis XIV, who assumed absolute power in France, which eventually became the most powerful state in Europe. Louis, known as "The Sun King," ruled for 72 years. He is known for the building of his opulent Palace of Versailles and for claiming "l'etat, c'est moi," or "I am the State."  
     In Russia, Peter the Great used autocratic methods to modernize Russia, pushing through social and economic reforms and importing western technology.  Later, Catherine the Great achieved the Russian dream of a warm-water port on the Black Sea by waging war against the Ottoman Empire.
    The Response to Absolutism in England

    Beginning in 1603 in England, the Stuart kings James I and Charles I, clashed with Parliament over royal authority, money, foreign policy, and religion.  Civil war broke out in 1642 when Charles I tried to arrest the radical leaders of the House of Commons.  In the end, a victorious Parliament executed Charles, abolished the monarchy and created a republic headed by Oliver Cromwell.  

    The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which established the English Bill of Rights, ensured the supremacy of Parliament over the monarchy.  Under the Bill of Rights, England became a constitutional monarchy.  The king or queen would now be only a symbol for the country.

    The Islamic World
    There are also several examples of absolute monarchy in the Muslim world.  In Islamic history, the Ottoman sultan Suleiman is considered to be the perfect ruler.  He is said to have had all of the most important qualities of an Islamic ruler, especially knowledge of justice.  In addition, he is viewed by many as a law giver, a great soldier, and a magnificent poet.

    A contemporary of Suleiman, Akbar the Great, ascended the throne in 1556, at the age of thirteen.  The third Mughal emperor of India, Akbar won the support of Hindus and Muslims.



    Unit Materials:




    September 5, 2012

    Absolutism Notes

    Unit Notes - Notebook File


    Letter to Louis Homework



    Absolutism Regents Questions


    Overview provided by Oswego regentsprep.org