17th Century Europe
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The 17th century can be viewed as a time of great crisis. Although some of the 16th century carried over into the 17th, the 17th century highly contrasted from the 18th in numerous ways. Not only that, but also numerous new models of governance were coming into play, many being highly successful and others failing terribly. Although this age of crisis was dominating every aspect of life, one area it left untouched was culture, which actually advanced.
Although the 16th century contained some conflicts, there are not many similarities between the 16th and 17th century. One similarity can be seen in the religious tensions that took place. In the sixteenth century, religious wars were dominating the scene as Protestantism became a threat to Catholicism. As a result of this, religious passions led to religious divisions, which led to a series of religious wars, such as the French Wars of Religion. Although this occurred in the 16th century, the concept of religious fervor carried over into the 17th century in the form of witchcraft. Witchcraft can be viewed as a result to the religious turmoil of the period. Although it was already present as a traditional village culture, it was viewed as sinister as the medieval church associated it with the devil. Therefore, numerous witches were persecuted or threatened until they confessed to engaging in actions with the devil. As a result, a similarity that can be seen is the religious dissension.
One more similarity that was prominent was rebellion. Rebellion was a recurring motif in 16th and 17th history, and continuing even towards today. In the 16th century, one very important rebellion was that of the Netherlands against Philip II when he tried to strengthen his control in the Netherladns and tried to crush Calvinism. In the 17th century, there is a similar theme of rebellion that occurs. In fact, the rebellions become more prominent and more violent as nobles and commoners expressed discontent for their governments. Between 1590 and 1640, there were revolts in France, Austria and Hungery. Russia experienced uprisings in 1641, 1648, and 1645. Furthermore, nobles in France rebelled from 1648-1652. The most important, however, was the English Revolution that occurred. Therefore, the presence of rebellions was a similarity between both centuries.
Differences: decline in religious passions (talk about Thirty Years War)
Although some similarities are present, there are also great deviations between the centuries. The first major difference was the decline in religious passions and a growing secularization that affected both the political and intellectuals worlds. Although religion was still present in numerous aspects of European life, eventually, it began to dwindle to, pretty much, nothingness. For example, in the 16th century, religion occupied every aspect of European life. In fact, it was a period of religious wars. However, in the 17th century, Europe experienced it’s last religious war—the Thirty Years’ War. While it initially began because of conflicts that the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 failed to solve, i.e., Lutherans and Catholicism in Germany, eventually, it became an issue regarding power. The first phase, the Bohemian Phase, was based largely on religion as it was the Protestant Union led by Frederick IV against the Catholic League established by Duke Maximilian. Protestants rebelled against the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand after discovering his adherence to Catholicism. Their revolt was so extensive that they threw two governors out of the window. When Ferdinand is deposed as emperor and replaced by Protestant Frederick V, the religiosity dwindles a bit as Ferdinand refuses to accept his deposition because he knows Frederick V’s coming to power would upset the political power in central Europe. Here, we begin to see a shift from religion to secularization. By the fourth phase, religion is no longer an issue as the Catholic French side with the Protestant Swedes against the Catholic Habsburgs of Germany and Spain. At the end of the war, the Treaty of Westphalia officially severs any ties the papacy has on secular aspects of life. For example, the pope was completely ignored in all decisions at Westphalia, and politiacll motives became the guiding forces in public affairs as religion became an individual choice. Not only that, but the Peace of Westphalia ensured that all german states were free to determine their own religion. It also freed the more than three hundred states that made up the Holy Roman Emprie. The Habsburg emperor was no longer powerful as he functioned as solely a figurehead.
Differences: fall of spain
Another difference in centuries was the rise and fall of Spain. The 16th century was a century characterized with voyages and the rise of Spain, Portugal, England, the Dutch Republic, and France to power. Through their expansion overseas and into the New World, they were able to expand, find very good revenues, and make important discoveries. This was the 16th century, however. In the 17th century, these voyages of exploration were no longer in play. In fact, some of the risen powers began to once again experience their decline. An example of this is Spain. Spain, in the 16th century, was very successful in establishing themselves in Latin America, as well as the Philippines. In fact, at the beginning of the 17th century, they had the most populous empire in the world. However, this empire just masked the horrible truth about Spain. Spain’s leaders were incompetent and contributed to the decline of Spain in the 17th century. Philip II, for example, went bankrupt from excessive expenditures on war. His successor, Philip III, was no less different as he spent a fourtune on his court. Because they were more interested in money, their army was out-of-date, the government was inefficient, and the commercial class was weak in the midst of a suppressed peasantry, a luxury-loving class of nobles, and an oversupply of priests and monks. This greatly contrasts with the Spain seen in the 16th century, characterized with their fearlessness in the New World. By the 1700s, France was the most powerful; and it was Louis XIV’s court that influenced Western culture throughout.
Difference: Henry IV and Louis XIV
Speaking of the French, there was also a great difference between the 16th century ruler, Henry IV, and the 17th century, Louis XIV. For example, Henry IV, although he resolved the issue of St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, his means of uniting the nation was to change who he was and converting to Catholicism to unite the country. However, Louis XIV simply expelled the Huguenots by issuing the Edict of Fontainebleau, which destroyed numerous Huguenot churches and buildings and caused them to flee.
- Another great difference was the formation of absolute monarchies. Unlike the 16th century, where rule was an agreement between the monarch and Parliament, there was a development of absolutism. Furthermore, it is also a period of people taking the power through representative assemblies. Another difference was, in 1500s, the Habsburg dominated. However, after the 30 Years War, there was no more of the Habsburg power. It was merely a figurehead.
- The last difference between the two centuries was the development of new forms of government. There were two: absolutism (power in hands of king who claimed divine right) and constitutional monarchies. Although they were the two basic structures of government, there were countries able to exercise one or the other successfully, and there were some that were wholly unsuccessful in all aspects.
Difference: Population Trend
Other minute differences were population trends. The 16th century was dominated by expanding populations due to warmer climate and an abundance of food. However, it began to slow down, level off, and eventually decline (1650) as people were experiencing war, famine, and plague. Not only that, but a little ice age occurred. These problems contributed to the problems that were occurring in the 17th century.
Difference: Changes in Warfare
Another aspect that highlights the contrasting centuries was the changes in warfare. Rather than it being a contrasting point, it was actually a process that occurred between 1560 and 1660. Replacing the Renaissance infantry armed with pikes and arranged in squadrons or battalions with the first standing army of conscripts, Gustavus Adolphus creaeted a more flexible and efficient military. His infantry brigades were composed of equal numbers of musketeers and pikesmen. They employed the salvo, in which all rows of the infantry fired at once instead of row by row. He also used the cavalry in a more mobile fashion, where the soldiers charged with their swords. Standing armies became an area of great expense but necessity as rulers relied on then for their protection. Furthermore, they were more disciplined. There was also a naval arms race occurring where many empires desired to create the greatest empire.
One more difference was in relation to women. In the 16th century, women were at a more advantageous position because they found opportunities in the New World. Not only were they able to escape into the nunneries for some freedom, but there were some women who acquired land upon the death of hteir husbands in the New World. In this era, women were viewed as inferior, especially when it came to witchcraft. Nicholas Remy, for example, a judge in the witchcraft cases stated that it came as no surprise that women would be involved with the devil. However, in some areas of Europe, women were able to advance in life. For example, Peter the Great of Russia allowed women to interact with men and remove their veils after visiting England. Therefore, this provides both a contrasting and comparing view of women.
One more difference was life in the Dutch Republic. In The 17th century was considered the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic. While in the 16th century, they were’t experiencing much population increase, by the seventeeth century, they grew so much that the government had to institute an “urban expansion plan” to increase the city’s territory and prepare houses and canals for merchants and artisans. In 1660, their population was 200,000, over six times as high as their 30,000 inhabitants in 1610. Their expansion was a result of their role as the commercial and financial center of Europe. For example, they had fleets, were important carriers for products of other countries, was a great crossroads and chief port for the East/ West Indian companies and had many gun foundlings.
Louis XIV and Predecessors
In terms of absolutism, the best example of a successful absolutist monarchy is through the reign of Louis XIV of France. Although he influenced European society with his reforms, it was not a rapid advancement toward absolutism. It was his predecessors who attempted to introduce absolutism. Because Louis XIII was young when he got the throne, Cardinal Richelieu had to rule from 1624 to 1642. Richelieu was a very able minister as he curtailed the powers that opposed the king, such as the Huguenots. He excluded them politically and military, while allowing them to pursue their religious interests, making them more able citizens. Furthermore, to combat the trouble of the nobles, he sent out spies to find out the conspiracies of the nobles, allowing him to crush them before they even began. Lastly, he sent out intendants to execute the orders of the central government. With the growth of the intendants power came the growth of the monarchical power. Richelieu was unsuccessful in his financial reforms as well as his foreign policy goal. However, this was not as bad as his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, who was largely disliked. Not only did the nobles resent his attempts at centralization dn the members of Parlemant of Paris opposed his new taxes, but the masses were angry at additional taxes on them. As a result, they led Frondes.
Louis XIV rule
Although Mazarin caused instability, Louis XIV managed to create a highly absolutist state. First, he reformed the administrative aspects of France through reconstructing the central policy making machinery of France. Furthermore, he curtailed the power of the nobles by removing htem from the royal council and bringing them to his court, where he could keep a close eye on them. Not only that, but also, he relied on ministers ot carry out his duties. Although he was not entirely absolute, for example, he had to engage in bribery to get his way at times, his domination of his minsters and secretaries allowed him to control the central policy-making machinery, and as a result, the making of war and peace, the ability to levy taxes, etc. In terms of his religious policy, he issued the Edict of Fontainebleau because he believed in a unified religion. Any other religions would only undermine his power. This edictdestroyed Huguenot churches and closed Protestant schools, leading Huguenots to flee. In terms of finance, Louis’ construction of Versailles costs much money and he had to rely on Jean- Baptiste Colbert to seek ways of revenue. Some of his means were bringing in Venetian glassmakers and Flemish clothesmakers, overseeing the training of workers, and granting special privileges to individuals who established new industries. One last aspect of Louis’ rule that ensured his success was his allowing the nobles to be companions of the king, therby excluding them from real power. Because such simple things as holding the can when the king used the bathroom were seen as honorable, Louis XIV kept the nobles in check, as they aspired to higher positions only through their homage to the king. Louis also proved militarily inspired. Desirable of land and military glory, he waged four wars. However, they were unsuccessful; and, on his deathbed, he warned his successor not to follow him. Although Louis did in fact leave France with numerous enemies and in great debt, he was an ideal absolutist monarch.
Success in absolutism: Prussia
Another successful absolutist ruler was the monarchy of Brandenburg-Prussia, which was the work of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The foundation for the Prussian state was laid by Frederick William the Great Elector, who built an efficient standing army that although useful, was quite expensive. His means of dealing was this was through the formation of the General War Commissariat to levy taxes and oversee training and growth. This commissariat became his chief instrument for governing the state. Frederick dealt with opposition by making a deal with the Junkers, the Prussian nobles. In order to eliminate the power that the members of the nobility could exercise in their provincial Estates-General, he made this: in return for a free hand in running government, they have complete control over their peasants, were exempt from taxes, and awarded the highest ranking offices. In terms of economy, he followed mercantilist policies, constructing roads and canals and using high tariffs, etc. to stimulate domestic industry. While he laid the groundwork for the Prussian state, his son gained the title king-in-Prussia, making him a King.
Absolutist Peter the Great
Another able absolutist was Peter the Great was another able ruler. He enforced his will greatly. He sought a solution through Westernization. Indeed, through his westernization, he was able to centralize his rule. First, he fixed the army and formed a navy, making Russians and Europeans officers and peasants soldiers for a standing army with 25 year stints. He also created a Senate to rule in his absence; but, when that proved incapable, he used the idea of colleges. Through this, it is obvious to see that when something went wrong, Peter did not give up on it; he sought another rway. He also dividied Russia into 8, and later 50 provinces, to facilitate his rule. Each province was to be ruled by law, but it wasn’t a shared concept. To deal with the nobility, he initiated the Table of Ranks, hoping to create a new nobility. This was not practiced after his rule. In terms of finance, he was unable to get much of the money to fund his army and navy and relied on raising taxes. In terms of religion, he abolished the patriarch and instituted a new position, the Holy Synod, with procurator at the head, representing the interests of the tsars. Not only that, but he also introduced etiquette to the men and gave women opportunities as well. Externally, he tried to make Russia into a great state by expanding it. Although it led to wars and some defeats, essentially, through the Peace of Nystadt, he got formal recognition for his achievements-acquisition of Estonia, Livonia and Karelia. Sweden became a second rate capital, while Russia was a great European state. Lastly, he constructed a new city that remained the Russian capital until 1917—St. Petersburg.
Government and DR
As opposed to monarchical power, there were also attempts at constitutional monarchies. One such one was the Dutch Republic. The Dutch were greatly decentralized. When the 7 northern Provinces separated and received recognition as a state from the Peace of Westphalia, it led to internal dissension. Power belonged to the stadholderate who favored the development of a centralized government with themselves as hereditary monarchs. The States General, however, opposed this, causing confliction between the Orangist men and the States General. In fact, the republican forces were in control for a while. Hwoever, when burdened with war, they religed on William III of the hosue of Orange to establish a monarchical regime. After his death without an heir, the republicans once again gained control.
In England, the cry for a constitutional monarchy was very loud. Absolutist practices were resisted greatly, especially when James I came to power. After the death of the last of the Tudors, Elizabeth, next in line was James I. He was a very incapable ruler. First, he knew nothing of English laws, customs, and institutions. Therefore, he simply established himself as absolute ruler, which was greatly objected by Parliament, who was used to ruling side-by-side with the previous Tudor dynasty. This led Parliament to refuse any requests for monies that would fund his expensive monarch. As a result, James I was financially strapped. Not only that, but he managed to get even more hatred in terms of religion. Looking out for himself rather than listening to the masses, he refused the Puritans’ request to remove the Episcopal model of the church in favor for a Presbyterian model. He refused because the bishops were supportive of him. However, this little support was nothing compared to the Puritan mass. Because they made up a large amount of the landed gentry, they were greatly represented in the House of Commons and also held high positions. Excluding them was a big mistake.
James I managed to escape his fate, however, through his death; the troubles were passed on to his son, Charles I. His rule was even more inefficient. Not only did his father leave him with England in great turmoil, but Charles also furthered hatred for the monarchy. Initially, Parliament attempted to regain authority by forcing the King to sign a Petition of Right, giving Parliament power since, if the king did not accept it, he would not be granted any tax revenues. The Petition of Right prohibited issuance of any taxes without their consent, quartering of soldiers is not allowed, arbitrary imprisonment, and the declaration of martial law in times of peace. Already financially strapped, Charles I at first assented until he realized how limited he was. Therefore, he dismissed the Parliament. This was a big mistake because it was only through parliament he was able to receive revenues. Attempting to find a steady source of income, he began to issue his own taxes, such as the ship money tax, which forced coastal cities to pay for the defense of the coast. First, these taxes were not even used for their intended uses. Second, the fact that the king was issuing taxes that were not approved by Parliament, who was supposed to represent the masses, deeply angered people. Not only was the king hated by Parliament, but he was also effectively getting the rest of Britain to hate him.
Charles and Religion in England
Religiously, he tried to gain some supporters; but his actions only added fuel to the fire. For example, his marriage to a Catholic, Henrietta Maria, led people to question his own religious preferences. Secondly, he and William Laud, the archbishop of Canterbury, attempted to introduce ritual into the Anglican Church, leading to numerous grievances. All of the hatred led Charles I to have to call Parliament, especially after he tried to introduce the Anglican Book of Commons to the Scottish Presbyterian Church, causing a revolt. Parliament pounced on his vulnerability the moment he called them, putting severe limitations on royal authority and removing his arbitrary courts and taxes. They also passed the Triennial Act, which allowed parliament to meet at least once every three years. However, some Parliamentarians disagreed with the other Parliamentarians, and King Charles I tried to take advantage of this situation by arresting some of the more radical Parliamentarians, it led to civil war, with Parliament being successful due to their New Model Army and the capture of King Charles. When some parliamentarians opposed further action by the army parliamentarians, there was a split once again, to which Charles tried to take advantage of. This, led to more fighting led by Oliver Cromwell and the beheading of Charles I.
Cromwell and England
After the death of Charles I, Cromwell proclaimed England a republic and established himself as commander in chief. However, upheavals and radical ideas led him to use force to suppress opposition. Furthermore, he could not work with the old Parliament, instituted a new one, couldn’t work with that one either, and resorted to using coercion to maintain his power. His policies were worse than that of the king; and as a result, England brought Charles II to England, where he conflicted with the new Cavalier Parliament over religious issues. When Parliament passed laws forcing people to become Anglican, Charles II countered it with his Declaration of Indulgence, which was countered by Parliament’s Test Act, which stated only Anglicans could hold military and civil offices. Essentially, religious preferences became dominant, causing not only the split in politics between the Whigs and Tories. This led to conflicts, especially when Catholic James II entered the throne. At this point, Englishmen took it into their own hands to change rule and invted William of Orange and James’ daughter, Mary to enter England. They raised an army and invaded England while James, his wife, and son fled. The Glorioius Revolution, by the Revolution Settlement established William and Mary as the monarchs, along with a Bill of Rights.
In the end... absolutism...
In the end, absolutism was impossible because of the powerful nature of the Parliament. They were opposed by all of the rulers because of their ability to fight back. Although they didn’t get all the power they wished for, they did show that they had a say in who becomes king and who gets booted out.
terms of culture, art changed drastically from balance, harmony, and moderation to mannerism, which imitated the instability of the time through distortion of principles and conveying that sense of suffering that dominated this era. Mannerism was replaced by Baroque however, which emphasized the union of Classical ideals of the Renaissance art with spiritual feelings of the 16th century religious revival. It was very dramatic with a search for power depicted in them. Baroque architecture was present in churches and palaces. One great figure of the Baroque era was Bernini (1598-1680), who designed Saitn Peter’s Basilica and the vast colonnade enclosing the piazza in fromt of it, as well as other pieces. One female that dominated the art wourld in Italy was Artesmisia Gentileschi who was the first woman to be elected to the Florentine Academy of Design and gained fame through her religious art of heroines from the Old Testament.
French and Classicism
Although Baroque dominated Europe, the French remained loyal to Classicism with its emphasis on clarity, simplicity, and balance. One man, Peter Paul Reubens, was famous for his opulence and extravagance, especially his voluptuous paintings of females. (late 1500s-early 17th). Nicolas Poussin exemplified these values in his paintings. Similarly, the Dutch were interested in realism and portraits of themselves and their military, etec. Rembrandt occupied this time period, where he was known for his great emotional and secular realism. His one painting is “The Scholar in His Study.”
Not only was art furthered, but theatre became very popular as writing reached new heights. William Shakespeare was a very popular writer who understood emotions and created numerous plays that appealed to the human psychology. In Spain, Lope de Vega dominated the scene where he wrote witty, charming, action packed plays written to please his audience. Unlike Spain and England, France focused on the prestigious nature of plays, which were utilized only to attract people. Racine, for example, wrote works following the plots of Euripides
Music was also evident to have transformed. For example, there was Handel, whose intensity, emotion, sincere religious conviction led to his most famous work, Messiah. Furtheermore, Claudio Monteverdi was known for his glorious and complex oratorical pieces. He wrote the first opera, Orpheo in c. 1618. Lastly, Bach, who may be classified as enlihhtened as well, occupied this time period. His classical muscia is what he is most known for due its great prolificness.
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