Just as the fractures in the
authority of the church led to a new scientific worldview, so too
they opened the door to new ideas about the nature of human society
and how it should be organized, both politically and socially. As
the political structures of feudalism finally began to dissolve in
the 15th and 16th centuries, the church, in disarray due to the
Reformation, was unable to fill the void as it had before. Europeans
began to look for another source of legitimate political authority
that could restore their sense of order and security. Many turned to
the increasingly powerful monarchs. Arguing that monarchs were
chosen by God, some suggested that kings and the government, or
state, through which they ruled should have absolute authority and
control over the lives of their people. Others, rejecting
"divine right monarchy," argued instead that the true
source of political authority lay with the people themselves - but
also insisted that human nature was so selfish and violent that the
people must give up their rights and submit to the absolute rule of
the state as the only means of guaranteeing everyone's security.
These doctrines of political "absolutism” soon dominated
European political thought. Still other Europeans, however, rejected
absolutism. Although they too accepted the idea that the true source
of political authority lay with the people themselves, they also
suggested that those on whom the state depended for its survival and
well-being had a right to participate in its government, changing it
as they saw fit. This alternative political vision inspired the
emergence of a new kind of representative government.
Doctrines of Political Absolutism
As the unity of Christendom finally foundered in the religious wars that
attended the Reformation, a new form of political organization
emerged in Europe to fill the void, the national
kingdom. Although it had its roots in the old medieval
monarchies, the national kingdom was something new. The medieval
monarchies had been essentially feudal and personal in nature.
Monarchs only had the direct allegiance of the important nobles.
These nobles in turn had the direct allegiance of their own
subordinates, and so on down to the level of the local landlord and
the peasant. National kingdoms, on the other hand, centered
authority and power in the hands of the monarchs and their
government, and commanded the loyalties of all their citizens
directly. Moreover, such kingdoms were increasingly defined not
simply in terms of loyalty to a particular ruling dynasty, but also
culturally, through commonalities of language and religion, and even
The growing power of monarchs in Europe was due to many
factors. In part it was a function of the new technology of warfare
that had allowed kings to control their nobles. In part it was also
due to the breakdown of the church as a guiding moral authority for
all Christendom. Not least, the religious and political upheavals of
the Reformation, and the intellectual upheavals of the age of
exploration and the Scientific Revolution had left many Europeans
feeling unsure about themselves and the world in which they lived.
As they looked to the national kingdoms and their rulers for a new
sense of security and identity, many Europeans legitimized their
allegiance by creating a new conception of the state.
Jean Bodin. In 1576, for
example, Jean Bodin, a French lawyer, published his own solution to
the troubled times in a massive work, Six
Volumes on the Commonwealth. For the first time, Bodin put
forward a new theory of the complete sovereignty
of the state. By sovereignty, he meant the "absolute, and
perpetual power" of a government over all its subjects.
Assuming that such sovereignty came from God and rested in the
monarch, Bodin argued for such a total and absolute control of the
state that his political philosophy became known as absolutism.
Reacting to the conditions around him, Bodin insisted
that to allow any resistance to the sovereign power would unleash an
“anarchy, which is worse than the harshest tyranny in the
world." For Bodin, any idea of individual political liberty had
to be sacrificed to the more important principle of maintaining
peace and order. This in turn would allow the most important unit of
society, the family, to flourish. Such a doctrine appealed to
monarchs and others interested in increasing the power of the state
in order to restore security to peoples' lives.
The divine right of kings.
Before the Renaissance and Reformation most Europeans had accepted
the idea that all authority came from God. It was an authority,
however, that had been “distributed” and “limited” in the
hands of rulers, under the overall authority of the universal
church. After the Reformation devout Europeans needed a new theory
that could explain and legitimize the growing power of monarchs
without the need for a single unifying church to sanction it.
During the late 1500s, monarchs themselves began to formulate
religious explanations for their authority and power as they
strengthened their hold over their states. Since all that happened
must be by God's will, they argued, then they too ruled by the divine
right of kings established by God. “The State of Monarchie is
the supremest thing upon earth,” declared James VI of Scotland,
shortly after also ascending the English throne as James I,
"Kings are justly called Gods, for that they exercise a manner
or resemblance of Divine power upon earth.”
In France, Bishop Jacques Bossuet carried such arguments even
further. In 1670, he published a book, Politics
Drawn from Holy Scripture, a manual of instruction for the heir
to the throne. "The princes act as ministers of God,"
Bossuet wrote, "and his lieutenants on earth. It is through
them that he exercises his Empire." Resistance to the monarch
was the same as defiance of God. "The royal throne,"
Bossuet insisted, "is not the throne of a man, but the throne
of God Himself." Thus, kings answered not to their subjects but
to God alone.
Hobbes. Not all advocates of
absolutism appealed to religious authority, however. An Englishman
named Thomas Hobbes, for example, supported absolutism for more
practical reasons. In his work Leviathan,
Hobbes asserted that originally people had lived in a ruthless
"state of nature," with no laws, like animals. "I put
for a general inclination of all mankind," he wrote, "a
perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceases only
in death." Such an existence, Hobbes argued, was a constant
"war of every man against every man. . . . Solitary, nasty,
brutish, and short." Since people could not be counted on to
cooperate as a society of equals, Hobbes argued, they had developed
civilization as a kind of contract in which everyone agreed to give
up their own power to a higher authority. That authority would have
the overall and absolute power to restrain the selfishness and
aggression of individuals in the general interest.
"I authorize and give up my right
of governing myself, to this man, or to this assembly of men, on
this condition, that you give up your right to him, and authorize
all his actions in like manner. . . .This is the generation of that
great Leviathan . . . that Mortal God [the king] to which we owe
under the Immortal God, our peace and defence."
Like the Legalists of classical China, Hobbes insisted that
people must obey the ruler no matter what, or else their natural
selfishness would result in disaster for everyone. The ruler must
have total power:
"His power cannot, without his
consent, be transferred to another; he cannot forfeit it: he cannot
be accused by any of his subjects of injury: he cannot be punished
by them: he is judge of what is necessary for peace: and judge of
doctrines: he is sole legislator, and supreme judge of
controversies: and of the times, and occasions of war."
Only in this way, Hobbes believed, could security and order be returned to
Absolutism in France
By the end of the 1600s, France was the most powerful absolute state in
Europe, a model for others to follow. The French kings and their
advisers had achieved this position since the end of the civil wars
in the 1500s by establishing their overriding authority in two
areas—the administration of justice, and the use of force. Only by
establishing a royal monopoly over these two functions of government
could the state become truly sovereign.
Cardinal Richelieu. After Henry
IV, whose efforts to control the nobility and restore the power of
the central government were cut short by an assassin in 1610, the
most important architect of absolutism in France was Cardinal
Richelieu, chief adviser to Henry’s son, Louis XIII. Richelieu
desired nothing more than to make France a strong power. Determined
to bring the nobility under control, he increased their taxes and
replaced nobles in government with well-educated professionals.
Richelieu also attempted to break the power of the Huguenots, not
because they were Protestants but because they formed a “state
within the state” that was dangerous to the unity of France. In
1627 he led an army against Huguenot cities largely reducing their
power. Asked to explain his actions, Richelieu expressed his belief
in the government’s sovereign power with the simple answer:
“Reasons of State.”
Richelieu’s policies greatly strengthened the state’s
power but they also led to a major revolt under his successor,
Cardinal Mazarin, in the 1630s. The rebellion, known as the Fronde,
swept through Paris, forcing Louis XIII’s son to flee for his life
in terror. The revolt was crushed, but it made a lasting impression
on the future king. As Louis XIV, he became the supreme model of an
Louis XIV. Born in 1638, Louis
became king at age five, on the death of his father in 1643. From
that day on the boy was prepared by his mother and instructors for
his role as king. He learned to be a soldier, a statesman, and a
judge. In addition to geography, history, mathematics, French,
Spanish, and Italian, he also learned to fence, dance, ride, and
hunt. Most importantly, Louis was taught how to rule. While still a
child he learned to read state papers, participate in council
meetings, and interview foreign ambassadors. As Chief Minister,
Mazarin taught him the rules and secrets of high politics. Anne of
Austria, his mother the Queen Regent, taught him religion and
courtly manners.[xix][xix] Although Louis came of age in
1651, at age 13, his mother and Cardinal Mazarin continued to rule
according to Richelieu’s centralizing policies. Louis too
maintained these policies after taking over the reins of government
on Mazarin’s death in 1661.[xx][xx]
Perhaps still remembering the turmoil of the Fronde, Louis
systematically reduced the power of his nobles. To counteract the
power of the old nobility, he created a whole new set of nobles from
the middle classes to serve the government. He also built a new
capital at Versailles, a
few miles outside of Paris, and required that his nobles live in
constant attendance in the huge new palace-city. Instead of
fighting, nobles now gained prestige by becoming servants in the
king’s household. Nobles helped Louis dress in the morning and at
night with great ritual and ceremony. Louis chose the sun as his
personal symbol, signifying that the world revolved around him, and
became known as the Sun King.
Where Richelieu cited reasons of state for his actions, Louis could
say with complete accuracy, L'état c'est moi, "I am the state.”
Internal reforms under Louis XIV. To
further establish his authority, Louis also decided to destroy the
power of the Huguenots once and for all. Since the reign of Henry
IV, the Huguenots had been protected under the Edict of Nantes. Even
Richelieu had been unable to do away with this protection. In 1685,
however, Louis revoked the edict and outlawed Protestantism. Over
200,000 Huguenots fled France, taking their wealth and skills with
them. The king thus reasserted his sole authority and power
throughout France, but his policy proved disastrous for the French
economy and industry.
Always in need of funds, Louis also decided to reform the old
feudal tax structure. He appointed Jean Baptiste Colbert, a member
of the middle class, as finance minister. Colbert managed to bring
France out of debt, and even to simplify the tax system. He also
tried, though with limited success, to abolish all internal tariffs
which made it expensive to move goods from one region of France to
another. He too remained firmly under the king’s personal
authority, however. Colbert prudently warned his son, whom he
expected to succeed him as finance minister, “Never as long as you
live send out anything in the king’s name without his express
Louis' greatest ambition, however, was to expand French
territory to France’s “natural boundaries”: the Rhine River
and the Alps in the east, the sea in the north and west, and the
Pyrenees in the south. Louis' minister of war rebuilt the army,
expanding it from only 20,000 poorly trained troops, to over 400,000
disciplined and well-equipped soldiers. With this force behind him,
Louis became the most powerful ruler in Europe. He plunged France
into four wars between 1667 and 1713.
By the end of the third war in 1697, France was under
tremendous financial strain. Louis even melted down the royal silver
to help pay for army supplies. His most costly war, however, was
part of an effort to place his grandson, Philip, duc d'Anjou, on the Spanish
In 1701, the Spanish king, Charles II, died. In his will he named Philip
of Anjou as his heir and successor. The will was contested, however,
by Charles's cousin, the Holy Roman emperor, Leopold I, who was
determined that The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was a
major European armed conflict that arose in 1701 after the death of
the last Spanish Habsburg king, Charles II. Charles had bequeathed
all of his possessions to Philip, duc d'Anjou (Philip V), a grandson
of the French King Louis XIV. The war began slowly, as the Holy
Roman Emperor Leopold I fought to protect his own dynasty's claim to
the Spanish inheritance. As Louis XIV began to expand his
territories more aggressively, however, other European nations
(chiefly England and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands)
entered on the Holy Roman Empire's side to check French expansion
(and, in the English case, to safeguard the Protestant succession).
Other states joined the coalition opposing France and Spain in an
attempt to acquire new territories, or to protect existing
dominions. The war was fought not only in Europe, but also in North
America, where the conflict became known to the English colonists as
Queen Anne's War.
The war proceeded for over a decade, and was marked by the military
leadership of notable generals such as the Duc de Villars and the
Duke of Berwick for France, the Duke of Marlborough for England, and
Prince Eugene of Savoy for the Austrians. The war was concluded by
the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). As a result,
Philip V remained King of Spain but was removed from the French line
of succession, thereby averting a union of France and Spain. The
Austrians gained most of the Spanish territories in Italy and the
Netherlands. As a result, France's hegemony over continental Europe
was ended, and the idea of a balance of power became a part of the
international order due to its mention in the Treaty of Utrecht.
In this War of the
Spanish Succession, the other nations of Europe fought the
French all over the world on land and sea. After many defeats, Louis
accepted the Treaty of
Utrecht in 1713. Although Philip got the Spanish throne, he had
to agree that France and Spain would never be ruled by the same
monarch. Louis also had to give up most of the territory he had
taken. Despite these setbacks, Louis XIV remained a model for
absolute monarchs all over Europe.
Absolutism in Russia
While France moved steadily toward absolutism under the Bourbons, on the
other side of Europe Russian rulers had been consolidating their
absolute rule since the mid-1400s. After being dominated by the
Mongols for over a hundred years, Russia had finally gained its
independence in 1480 under the leadership of the Grand Dukes of
Moscow. As they recovered their independence, the Muscovite princes
eventually took the title of czar, Russian for “caesar,” and
claimed that they had inherited the old imperial tradition of the
fallen Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Christian Church.
Ivan the Terrible. The power
and absolute authority of the Grand Dukes of Moscow was consolidated
in the 16th century under Ivan IV, the first to assume
the title of czar. A strange, moody, even mystical man, Ivan was
also emotionally unstable. Ascending the throne in 1533 at the age
of three, on the death of his father Vasily III, Ivan’s childhood
was fraught with insecurity. Although his mother had been named
regent, within five years she too was dead – probably poisoned by
one of the boyar, or noble, families at court. For the next eight
years the young Ivan was left at the mercy of rival boyars anxious
to control the throne. Finally, in 1547, at the age of sixteen, Ivan
was crowned czar and began to rule in his own right.
At first, Ivan’s reign promised to be one of general
improvement and reform. He revised the law code, for example, and
tried to establish the security of the state by creating Russia’s
first standing army, the streltsy, whom he armed with
gunpowder weapons called arquebuses or hackbuts, early forerunners
of the musket. He moved to consolidate state authority by
reorganizing the church and subordinating it to the crown. He also
looked to expand Russia’s contacts with the outside world,
especially Western Europe, and opened trade relations with England
through the London-based Muscovy Company.
Conditioned by the fears of his childhood, Ivan
apparently decided early in his reign to check the power of the
boyars. At first he attempted to do this by tying them to his
government through the boyar duma, or advisory council of nobles.
Soon, however, he also began to create a new kind of nobility that
would be based not on simple heredity, but on service to the state,
meaning himself. He hoped that this “service nobility” would act
as a counterweight to the older hereditary nobles. Not least, he
tried to expand his own authority by appealing for support to other
groups in Russian society. In 1549, for example, he established the Zemsky
Sobor, or “Assembly of the land,” a consultative body
that included not only representatives of the great nobility,
princes and Court officials, but also representatives from the
Church and leading merchants and townsmen.
As time went on, however, Ivan’s personality showed
more and more of the effects of his traumatized childhood. After the
death of his beloved first wife Anastasia in 1560, whom he believed
to have been poisoned (like his mother) by the boyars, he became
increasingly violent and cruel. Eventually, in 1565, he tried to
undermine the hereditary nobility completely through the creation of
the oprichnina, a kind of state within the state that the
czar ruled personally and autocratically, free from all restraints
by the boyars. He exercised this autocratic rule through the oprichniki,
the first secret police in Russia, a particularly brutal private
army that murdered and tortured thousands whom Ivan suspected of
Although eventually Ivan was forced to dissolve the
oprichnina, which proved to be a disaster economically, he continued
to do his best to reduce the nobility to the status of royal
servants, dependent for everything on the personal favor of the
czar. He required them to serve in his armies and to live under his
eye at court. He also kept their sons as hostages to insure their
good behavior. Despite these efforts, however, the boyars remained a
force to be reckoned with until the next century.
At the same time Ivan was trying to strengthen his own
control over the Russian state, he also determined to expand his
domains. His first campaigns were against the last remnants of the
Mongols in southern Russia, the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan,
which he incorporated into the Russian Empire. (Ivan built St.
Basil’s Cathedral in what is now known as Red Square to
commemorate the conquest of Kazan.) When he turned west in 1558,
however, and invaded the present-day Baltic states of Latvia and
Estonia in search of an outlet to the Baltic Sea, he soon found
himself involved in long and costly wars with Poland, Lithuania,
Sweden and Denmark that only ended in 1582 and accomplished
virtually none of his aims.
In his later years, Ivan, who justly became known as
"the Terrible," was a tormented man. The bouts of
uncontrollable rage increased. In 1581, in a fit of anger, he beat
his pregnant daughter-in-law for dressing “immodestly” and
inadvertently caused her to miscarry. Confronted by his outraged son
and heir over the incident, once again Ivan lost control. In his
anger he struck his son with his staff. It proved to be a mortal
blow. Instantly horrified at what he had done, Ivan could do little
more than hold his son in his arms as he died.
When Ivan himself died in 1584, he left behind a weak and
mentally challenged younger son, Feodor I. In 1598, Feodor too died
without an heir and the Rurik dynasty that had ruled first Kievan
Rus, then Novgorod and finally Muscovy since 862, came to an end. As
various factions struggled for power, civil war wracked the empire
in what became known as the Time
of Troubles. Finally, in 1613, the exhausted nobles agreed to
elect Michael Romanov, one of Ivan IV's nephews, as Czar of all the
Russias. Michael and his successors revived and continued the
absolutist rule of Ivan the Terrible for the next four hundred
Peter the Great. In 1682,
Michael’s grandson, Peter I, who would become known as Peter the
Great, ascended the Russian throne. Peter was determined to make
Russia more powerful by introducing new techniques and ideas from
Western Europe. Believing that the best way to learn was by doing,
Peter himself traveled west, where, for example, he worked in a
Dutch shipyard to learn shipbuilding. In England he talked to many
common people to find out how their tax system worked. Returning
home with many western artisans and experts, he began a program of westernization,
deliberately copying western methods and culture. For example, he
ordered his nobles to cut off their traditional long beards, and to
wear western clothing.
Peter strengthened his army by adopting many new military
reforms from the west. After reforming his armies, in 1709 he
defeated the Swedish army and won access to the Baltic Sea. On the
Baltic coast, he built a new capital city, St. Petersburg,
nicknaming it his "window to the West." Meanwhile, in the
south he defeated the Turks and gained full access to the Black Sea.
Peter's reforms alarmed many of his people. His efforts at
westernization particularly upset the Russian Orthodox Church. When
the czar began to tinker with church practices too, for many it was
the last straw. Although Peter was able to put down the revolt that
broke out with great bloodshed, he could not command the hearts of
all his people. A group of religious conservatives, the Old Believers, refused to follow his new instructions. Soon a split
occurred in Russian society as the nobility and upper classes
dependent on the czar adopted western European habits, and ordinary
people remained rooted in traditions of the past. Nevertheless,
Peter’s reforms continued in the 1700s, especially under his
daughter, the Empress Elizabeth the Great, and her German-born
daughter-in-law, Catherine the Great.
Absolutism in Germany and Central
While rulers in Western and Eastern Europe were generally able to use
absolutism to consolidate and expand their states, in Central Europe
the adoption of absolutism had rather different consequences. There,
due to the elective nature of succession in the Holy Roman Empire
and the on-going rivalry between emperors and popes for political
power in Italy, the Holy Roman emperors of the Habsburg family had
never been able to establish any real authority over the
semi-independent German territorial princes. The efforts of the most
powerful Habsburg emperor, Charles the V, to enforce such imperial
authority in the 16th century had only further fueled the
Protestant Reformation – leading many of the northern German
princes to adopt Lutheranism as a religious justification for
resisting the imposition of both papal and imperial authority in
their domains. Culminating in the disastrous Thirty Years War, the
eventual success of the German princes’ resistance demonstrated
and reinforced the weakness of the Holy Roman Empire.
As the vision of a strong, centralized Empire faded, the
Habsburgs concentrated on building up their power in their own
hereditary domains centered in Austria and Bohemia, where they too
adopted the doctrines and methods of absolutism. As their power and
wealth grew, they even extended their rule to the east into Hungary
and the territories of the Ottoman sultan. Despite their growing
power in their own hereditary lands, however, they were never able
to restore any kind of centralized government in the
still-fragmented Empire. Consequently, instead of a large
centralized government in Germany, hundreds of small and medium
sized independent and semi-independent states emerged. During the 17th
and 18th centuries, the rulers of these states began to
use the same techniques of absolutism as Louis XIV and Peter the
Great to maintain control in their domains – such as collecting
high taxes, ruthlessly suppressing revolts and all dissent, and
enforcing strict obedience to the state in all aspects of life,
including religion and even intellectual endeavors. Taking full
advantage of the organizational efficiency of such absolutism, new
dynasties like the Hohenzollerns of Prussia began to emerge that
would eventually challenge Habsburg influence, particularly in the
northern German states. Thus, by bolstering the power of many
smaller states, absolutism in Germany actually worked against the
emergence of a single, large state on the model of France or even
The English Challenge to Absolutism
Not all nations of Europe developed absolute forms of government. England
in particular took a different course. Although England had gone far
towards absolutism under Henry VIII, who had proclaimed himself head
of the Church of England as well as king, Henry’s successors,
especially his daughter Elizabeth I, were less heavy handed.
Elizabethan England. During her
long reign in the last half of the 1500s, Elizabeth was able to
enact most of her policies by skillfully managing parliament. As the
daughter of Henry VIII by his second wife, Ann Boleyn, Elizabeth was
considered illegitimate by Catholics, and therefore ineligible for
the throne. Consequently, she could only rule as a Protestant queen.
Yet Elizabeth had seen the consequences of instability in the state.
She herself had barely escaped the headsman’s ax during the reign
of her sister Mary, who had briefly returned England to Catholicism.
After her own accession Elizabeth adopted a policy of national
Elizabeth did not appear to rule as an absolute monarch.
Instead she wooed her people, and made them believe that she valued
their advice and help. She called parliament into session 10 times
during her reign. Although she rarely allowed its members to
influence her decisions, she gave many the impression that she did.
Some came to expect that all monarchs would rule, as Elizabeth
seemed to do, by consulting the people’s representatives in
parliament. When Elizabeth died without children, however, the
throne passed to a new dynasty, the Stuarts of Scotland. Her
successors, James I and Charles I, were not as clever at keeping the
power of parliament in check without appearing to do so.
The Stuarts and the English civil
war. James strongly believed in the divine right of kings. He
not only wrote books defending the doctrine, but even lectured
parliament on it. His plan was to ignore parliament and run England
as he saw fit. After parliament refused to grant him the taxes he
wanted to run the government, James began selling titles of nobility
for cash and raising customs duties. These actions greatly angered
the members of parliament.
Tension grew between the Crown and parliament after James
died in 1625 and his son, Charles I came to the throne. When Charles
was unable to persuade parliament to give him money, he began
imposing taxes and fines on the English people on his own.
Parliament protested and he disbanded the body, hoping never to call
it into session again. However, Charles's religious policy soon
caused trouble. He tried to enforce a uniform religious practice on
all his subjects. He particularly feared that the Puritans, extreme
Protestants who had very strict moral beliefs, threatened the unity
of the nation. He also tried to extend his control over religion to
Scotland, where John Knox, one of Calvin’s disciples, had
established Presbyterianism as the Scottish state religion.
Outraged, the Scots raised an army and defied the king. Needing
money to fight, Charles had to summon parliament in 1640.
Parliament was in no mood to satisfy the king’s demands
without major concessions. When he tried once again to dismiss them,
England erupted into civil war. Eventually, parliamentary forces led
by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell overwhelmed the royalists and in
1646, Charles surrendered. In 1649 he was condemned to death and
publicly beheaded. Cromwell abolished the monarchy and ran England
as a “Commonwealth” along strict Puritanical lines. Ironically,
the Commonwealth established under Cromwell proved even more
absolutist in its assumption of power over every aspect of
peoples’ lives than even King Charles might have envisioned.
Morality and religious conformity, for example, were strictly
prescribed for everyone – and enforced ruthlessly. By the time
Cromwell died in 1660, people had grown heartily sick of Calvinist
rule. Parliament restored the monarchy under Charles II, Charles I's
son who returned from exile to assume the throne.
The Glorious Revolution. Charles
II had learned the lesson that his father never did. He must work
with parliament rather than oppose it. His brother James II,
however, who succeeded him, had learned nothing. Like his namesake
grandfather, James believed strongly in the divine right of kings.
He had little use for parliament. He was also Catholic and married
to a Catholic. Many feared he would be the first of a long line of
Catholic rulers. The danger became real in 1688 when the queen bore
him a son.
Fearful of a Catholic dynasty, in the Glorious
Revolution of 1688, a group of nobles and parliamentary leaders
deposed James. They offered the crown jointly to his daughter Mary
and her husband, the Protestant Dutch prince, William of Orange.
Before ascending the throne, William and Mary had to accept the English
Bill of Rights, which guaranteed certain fundamental freedoms,
such as not being held indefinitely without trial. The Bill of
Rights thus established the principle of parliamentary supremacy,
meaning that parliament could overrule the monarch in England, and
was a major step toward constitutional
As parliamentary leaders later tried to legitimize their
overthrow of James II, they turned to the ideas of one of their
supporters, John Locke. In his Two Treatises of Government, eight years before the revolution,
Locke had argued that human beings had certain natural rights that could not be taken away, even by a king:
"The State of Nature has a Law of
Nature to govern it, which obliges every one: And Reason, which is
that Law, teaches all Mankind, who will but consult it, that being
all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his Life,
Health, Liberty, or Possessions."
Such arguments would soon have powerful effects not only in England but
around the world.
Section 3 Review
IDENTIFY and explain the
significance of the following:
divine right of kings
L 'etat c'est moi
War of the Spanish Succession
Treaty of Utrecht
Ivan the Terrible
Time of Troubles
Peter the Great
Charles I of England
English Bill of Rights
The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, pp. 226--7.
The Italian Renaissance, p. 9.
[vii][vii]Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York,
1984, p. 23 from the "Journal," October 21, 1492.
[viii][viii]Howard Zinn, A People's
History of the United States, Harper & Row Publishers, New
[x][x]PHW, p. 511 (only a vague
[xi][xi]PHW, pp. 518--19.
Witch-Hunt In Early Modern Europe, p. 1.
in Europe, p. 223.
[xv][xv]Use as photo caption: The
French astrologer, Nostradamus, served as physician to the court
of France, and advocated the use of drugs to
disease rather than such things as "bleeding" a
patient to get rid of fever.
[xvi][xvi]Pageant of Europe, pp.
[xvii][xvii]Pageant of Europe, pp.
[xix][xix]John B. Wolf, ed., Louis XIV: A Profile, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 13–19.
[xx][xx]Larousse, p. 553.