Early Modern Politics in Europe
16th century- Age of Spain
17th century- Age of France
18th century- Rise of England
Rise of New Monarchies
The 16th century saw the development of “new
monarchies.” In general, monarchies in Europe were
moving towards absolutism wherein the monarch was limited only by divine or
natural law. Absolutist claims were, in fact, most often based on the claim to
rule by Divine Right. These rulers monopolized political power and justice
within their kingdoms. Their sovereignty was characterized by the right to make
law, something which earlier monarchs had been unable to do. The new monarchs
were moving away from the old feudal basis for their rule with its concept of
mutual obligations and rights. Feudal rulers possessed monopolies of neither
justice nor military power, both of which the “new monarchs” of the early
modern period largely achieved. The three main characteristics of the new
monarchies: 1) Rule through councils and ministers. Government bureaucracy
built up in order to establish effective royal control at local levels. In many
areas old representative institutions faded; 2) Monopoly of military power,
especially gunpowder technologies; and 3) Taxation and the Kings’ right to
create taxes in order to raise money were major themes of political life in
Other Themes or Developments
Growing battle between Absolutism and
Continued conflict between kings and the
aristocracy. Kings look to middle class for political and economic support.
Slow rise of middle class political influence.
European aristocracy continued to dominate
governmental and military offices. Other classes still largely excluded.
Increasing discussion of the nature and origins
of political sovereignty.
Reorganization of states in central and eastern Europe.
All ruled by absolute rulers in conjunction with a service aristocracy whose
loyalty was purchased with virtually complete control over the serfs.
17th and 18th century-
various models of international relations developed to maintain a balance of
power in Europe. This became a key idea in European
Continued development of the Nation-State.
Religious wars to 1648. Ideology not important