AP European History Notes

Chapter 17: Absolutism in Eastern Europe to 1740

  1.  Lord and Peasants in Eastern Europe
    1. Introduction
      1. Absolute monarchy was built on social and economic foundations (1400-1650)
      2. Princes and nobility of eastern Europe reimposed a harsh serfdom on the peasants
    2. The Medieval Background
      1. The period of time from 1050-1300 (“High Middle Ages”) was a period of general economic expansion characterized by the growth or trade, towns, and population
      2. After 1300, Europe’s population and economy dived because of the Black Death, and both east and west sought to solve their economic problems by exploiting peasantry
      3. East of the Elbe, lords used political and police power to exploit the peasantry
        1. Kings and princes issued laws that restricted/eliminated the peasant’s right of free movement and a peasant could no longer leave without the lord’s permission (In Prussian territories by 1500, runaway peasants were hunted down and returned)
        2. Lords took more and more of their peasants’ land and imposed heavier and heavier lab obligations (gradual erosion of the peasantry’s economic position was bound up with manipulation of the legal system)
    3. The Consolidation of Serfdom
      1. All the old privileges of the lords reappeared and peasants were also assumed to be in “hereditary subjugation” to their lords unless they could prove the contrary
      2. All this occurred in Poland, Prussia, and Russia and law cod set no limits on the lord
      3. The consolidation of serfdom accompanied the growth of estate agriculture (influx)
      4. Political, rather than economic, factors resulted in rise of serfdom in the east
        1. Eastern lords enjoyed much greater political power than the western counterparts
        2. The noble landlord class increased its political power at the expense of monarchy (weak kings were forced to grant political favors to win support of the nobility)
        3. The political power of the peasants were weaker in the eastern Europe and landlords systematically undermined the medieval privileges of the towns
  2. The Rise of Austria and Prussia
    1. Introduction
      1. Strong kings began to emerge in many lands and war and the threat of war aided rulers greatly in their attempts to build absolute monarchies
      2. The would-be absolutist monarchs of Eastern Europe monopolized political power
        1. By imposing and collecting permanent taxes without consent
        2. By maintaining permanent standing armies that policed the country
        3. By conducting relations with other states as they pleased
    2. ​​Austria and the Ottoman Turks
      1. ​Czech nobility, largely Protestant, dominated the Bohemian Estates, the represent-ative body of the different legal orders in Bohemia but at Battle of the White Mountain, Habsburg defeated Protestants and new nobility “enslaved” local peasants
      2. After the Thirty Years’ War, Ferdinand III, centralized the government in the hereditary German-speaking provinces (Austria, Styria, and Tyrol -- permanent army)
      3. Ottomans, from Anatolia (Turkey), reached their peak in the middle of the sixteenth century under Suleiman the Magnificent and their possessions stretched from western Persia across North Africa and up into the heart of central Europe
      4. Apostles of Islam, the Ottoman Turks were foes of the Catholic Habsburgs
      5. The Ottoman Empire was built on the conception of state and society where all the agricultural land of the empire was the personal hereditary property of the sultan
      6. The top ranks of the bureaucracy were staffed by the sultan’s slave corps (slave tax)
      7. Ottomans were more tolerant of other religions than the Europeans were
      8. Weak sultans failed to keep up with European military advances and finally with an alliance with Louis XIV of France, surrounded Vienna and laid siege to it in 1683, but the Habsburg defeated them, expanding into Hungary and Transylvania
      9. In 1713, Charles VI proclaimed the so-called Pragmatic Sanction, which state that the Habsburg possessions were never to be divided and passed to single heir intact
      10. The Hungarian nobility, despite its reduced strength, thwarted the full development of Habsburg absolutism as most of them being Protestants continued to insist on their traditional rights and rebelled under Prince Francis Rakoczy in 1703 (compromise)
    3. Prussia in the Seventeenth Century
      1. While local princes lost political power and influence, a revitalized landed nobility became the ruling class; the Hohenzollern family ruled the electorate of Brandenburg and Prussia (largest landowners in a landlord society)
        1. Brandenburg was completely cut off from the sea and the territory of the elector’s cousin, the duke of Prussia, was totally separated from Brandenburg
        2. In 1618 the junior branch of the Hohenzollern family died and Prussia reverted to the elector of Brandenburg who was a helpless spectator in the 30 Years’ War
      2. Devastation of Brandenburg and Prussia prepared the way for Hohenzollern absolutism because foreign armies weakened the political power of the Estates
      3. The weakening of the representative assemblies of the realm, allowed elector Frederick William (“Great Elector”) to take step towards royal absolutism
      4. The Great Elector was determined to unify Brandenburg (area around Berlin), Prussia (part of Poland), and scattered holdings along the Rhine in western Germany
      5. Taxes could be charged with their consent and the Estates of Brandenburg and Prussia were dominated by the nobility and landowning classes, known as “Junkers”
      6. To pay for the permanent standing army (1660) Frederick William forced the Estates to accept the introduction of permanent taxation without consent and the soldiers became the core of the rapidly expanding state bureaucracy (In 1688, the army contained thirty thousand, many French Huguenots welcomed as citizens)
      7. Two factors that appear central are war (invasion by the wild Tartars of southern Russia softened Estates and strengthen the urgency for more soldiers) and nobility having long dominated the government through the Estates for narrow self-interest
      8. The Great Elector reduced the political power of the Estates but accepted a compromise whereby the bulk of the new taxes fell on towns and royal authority stopped at the landlords’ gates (Konisberg leader arrested and imprisoned)
    4. The Consolidation of Prussian Absolutism
      1. The Great Elector’s successor Elector Frederick III (“the Ostentatious”), was focused on imitating the style of Louis XIV (crowned King Frederick I for aiding the Holy Roman emperor in the War of the Spanish Succession)
      2. Frederick William I, “the Soldiers’ King,” part of the Hohenzollern family, established Prussian absolutism creating the best army in Europe (size)
      3. Frederick William loved tall soldiers and his love of the army was based on a conception of the struggle for power and a dog-eat-dog view of international politics
      4. He created a strong centralized bureaucracy but he was always in conflict with the noble landowners, the Junkers (instead of destroying them, enlisted them in the army)
        1. A new compromise was worked out whereby the nobility imperiously commanded the peasantry in the army as well as on the estates
      5. Frederick William’s standing army reached eighty-three thousand, his bureaucracy administered the country, even trying to build economically, but the Prussian people still paid a heavy and lasting practice for the obsessions of their royal drillmaster
  3. The Development of Russia
    1. Introduction
      1. Both the conversion of the eastern Slavs to Christianity and the loose, real political unification of the eastern Slavic territories under a single ruling family were medieval (The typical feudal division of the land-based society into a boyard nobility and a commoner peasantry was also medieval)
      2. From the mid-thirteenth century to the late seventeenth century, the lands of the eastern Slavs followed a unique path of European development and when absolutism triumphed under Peter the Great, it was a different type of monarchy from anywhere
    2. The Mongol Yoke and the Rise of Moscow
      1. The eastern Slavs emerged from the Middle Ages intact because of Mongol conquest
        1. Mongols unified under Genghis Khan subdued all of China and turned westward but pulled back in 1242 because of uncertainties after the Great Khan died
        2. The Mongol army—the Golden Horde—devastated and conquered the eastern Slavs for more than two hundred years (built capital of Saray on lower Volga)
        3. Mongols forced all Slavic princes to submit to their rule and to give them tribute
      2. Although the Mongols conquered, they were willing to use local princes as obedient servants and tax collectors and beginning with Alexander Nevsky in 1252, the “great prince” loyally put down popular uprisings and collected the khan’s harsh taxes
      3. Ivan I (1328-1341) was known as Ivan the Moneybag and built up a large personal fortune enabling him to buy more property (most serious rival was prince of Tver)
        1. In 1327, the population of Tver revolted against Mongol oppression and the prince of Tver joined his people but Ivan when to the Mongol capital of Saray where he was appointed commander of a large Russian-Mongol army
        2. He laid waste to Tver and its lands and the Mongols made Ivan the general tax collector for all the Slavic lands and named him great prince
        3. Ivan I convinced the metropolitan of Kiev to settle in Moscow and thus he gained greater prestige and the church gained a powerful advocate before the khan
      4. After a hundred years of innumerable wars and intrigues, Ivan III (1462-1505) assumed the title and after purchasing Rostov, he conquered and annexed other principalities, of which Novgorod, was the most crucial (land extending to Baltic Sea)
      5. Ivan III was the absolute ruler, the tsar—the Slavic contraction for caesar—and the Muscovite idea of absolute authority was powerfully reinforced by two developments
        1. Around 1480, Ivan III stopped acknowledging the khan as supreme ruler
        2. After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, the tsars saw themselves as the heirs of both the caesars and Orthodox Christianity, the one true faith
    3. Tsar and People to 1689
      1. As peasants had begun losing their freedom of movement in the fifteenth century, the noble boyars begun losing power, were required to serve the leader and the rise of the new service nobility accelerated under Ivan IV, the famous Ivan the Terrible
      2. At age sixteen he suddenly pushed aside his hated boyar advisers, married Anastasia of the popular Romanov family, the tsar defeated the faltering khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan adding vast territories to Russia and waged an unsuccessful war against the large Polish-Lithuanian state, which joined Poland with much of Ukraine in the 1500s
      3. Ivan IV struck down the ancient Muscovite boyars executing in mass by secret police
      4. As service nobles demanded more from the remaining peasants, more and more fled toward the wild, recently conquered territories to the east and south, forming free groups and outlaw armies known as “Cossacks,” formed independence beyond reach
        1. In the time of Ivan the Terrible, not only were serfs bound to the land, urban traders and artisans were also bound to their jobs so that the tsar could tax them
        2. If a new commercial activity became profitable, it was often taken over by the tsar and made a royal monopoly and the tsar’s service obligations checked the growth
      5. The death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584 ushered in an era of confusion and violent struggles for power and when Ivan’s son, Theodore died in 1598 without an heir, event got worse (years between 1598 and 1613 were called the “Time of Troubles”)
      6. Cossack bands marched northward, rallying peasants and slaughtering nobles, calling for the “true tsar” who would restore their freedom of movement and in 1613, nobles elected Ivan’s sixteen-year-old grandnephew, Michael Romanov, the hereditary tsar
        1. Michael was kinder to supportive nobility than toward the sullen peasants and in the long reign of Michael’s successor, the pious Alexis, the nobility gained more exemptions from military service, while the peasants were further ground down
        2. The result was a second round of mass protest and later the unity of the Russian Orthodox church was torn apart by a great split started by Nikon, a dogmatic purist who wished to correct Russian practices towards the Greek Orthodox line
        3. Great numbers left eh church and formed illegal communities of “Old Believers”
      7. The Cossacks revolted against the state and under Stenka Razin, moved up the Volga River in 1670 but this rebellion to overthrow the established order was defeated
    4. The Reforms of Peter the Great
      1. Peter the Great, under his kind of monarchial absolutism, was interested primarily in military power and after gaining a large mass of Ukraine from Poland and completing the conquest of the tribes of all Siberia, Muscovy was three times larger than Europe
      2. Peter sought personal gain overturning the regency in 1689 and assumed personal rule
      3. To keep up with the professional standing armies in Europe, Peter required every nobleman was once again required to serve in the army or in the civil administration for life (required five years of compulsory education from home for every nobleman)
      4. Peter greatly increased the service requirements of the commoners by assigning serfs to work in the growing number of factories and mines
      5. He established a regular standing army of more than 200,000 soldiers, made up mainly of peasants commanded by officers from the nobility and constant warfare of Peter’s reign consumed 80 to 85 percent of all revenues
      6. Great Northern War with Sweden, lasting from 1700 to 1721 crowned Russia the victor and Peter’s army crushed the smaller army of Sweden’s Charles XII in Ukraine at Poltava in 1709, one of the most significant battles in Russian history; Sweden never regained the offensive and Russia annexed Estonia and much of Latvia
      7. For the first time, under Peter, a Russian tsar attached explanations to his decrees in an attempt to gain the confidence and enthusiastic support of the populace
  4. Absolutism and Baroque Architecture
    1. Introduction
      1. Royal absolutism interacted with baroque culture, art, baroque music and literature
      2. Inspired by Louis XIV of France, the great and not-so-great rulers called on the artistic talent of the age to glorify their power and magnificence
    2. Palaces and Power
      1. Dramatic baroque palaces symbolized the age of absolutist and baroque palaces were intended to overawe the people with monarch’s strength (modeled after Versailles)
      2. Emperor Leopold ordered the building of Schonbrunn, an enormous Viennese Versailles to celebrate Habsburg might, Charles XI of Sweden ordered construction of his Royal Palace in Stockholm, and Frederick I of Prussia built palace in Berlin
      3. Prince Eugene, under the service of Emperor Leopold I, led the Austrian army, and called architects J.B. Fischer (Winger Palace in Vienna) and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt (Summer Palace on the city’s outskirts)
      4. Palaces expressed the baroque delight in bold, sweeping statements, and to create this experience, masters dissolved the traditional artistic frontiers: the architect permitted the painter and the artisan to cover a building’s undulating surfaces with wildly colorful paintings, graceful sculptures, and fanciful carvings
    3. Royal Cities
      1. Broad, straight avenues radiated out from the palace (all roads were focused on ruler)
      2. The distinctive features of new additions were their broad avenues, their imposing government buildings, and their rigorous mathematical layout (speeding carriages)
    4. The Growth of St. Petersburg
      1. St. Petersburg demonstrates the close ties among politics, architecture, and urban development (small Swedish fortress on an island at the mouth of the Neva River)
      2. From a new city, his “window on Europe,” Peter believed it would be easier to reform the country militarily and administratively
      3. Peter wanted modernity, otherwise broad, straight, stone-paved avenues; houses built in a uniform line and not haphazardly set back from the street,; large parks; canals for drainage; stone bridges; and street lighting
        1. All building had to conform strictly to detailed architectural regulations set down by the government and each social group was to live in a certain part of the town
        2. To create St. Petersburg, the government drafted twenty-five to forty thousand men each summer to labor in St. Petersburg from three months without pay
      4. The building of St. Petersburg was an enormous direct tax levied on the wealthy, which in turn forced the peasantry to do most of the work
      5. The only immediate beneficiaries were the foreign architects and urban planners

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How to cite this note (MLA)

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Chapter 17: Absolutism in Eastern Europe to 1740" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 29 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 May. 2024. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/european-history/outlines/chapter-17-absolutism-in-eastern-europe/>.