What is Absolutism?



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Name: ____________________ Beard – World History

Date: __________



Absolutism in France

What is Absolutism?

    Absolutism is a type of monarchy (a government run by a king or queen) in which the monarch has great power and tends to be looked up to with awe and reverence.http://skepticism-images.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images/jreviews/louis_xiv_of_france.jpg


Louis XIV, absolute monarch of France 1643-1715
   In spite of the name, the power of the monarch is limited by the need to have some measure of support by the landed aristocracy (noblemen who owned land). The aristocracy is subordinate to the monarchy, provides political and military support for the monarchy, yet may also, from time to time, challenge its authority.

    France is the prime example of absolutism in the early modern era.



Reading Comprehension

  1. What is absolutism?



  1. Who is in charge in an absolutist government?



  1. Who does the leader of an absolute government depend on, and why?




     Absolute government involved centralizing political power in the hands of a monarch, who allied with and exercised control over the traditional landed aristocracy, gained loyalty and support from the merchant rulers of cities, and exercised power through a bureaucracy and a standing army. 

The degree of control was not comparable to twentieth century totalitarianism (think the governments of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini…). The absolute monarch’s power was dependent upon the aristocracy which, though subordinate, still retained independent sources of power and wealth.

France is the principal example of absolute government. King Henry IV and his financial minister, Sully, laid the foundations of support for the monarchy through enlightened policies which benefited the people. Cardinal Richelieu, as minister under King Louis XIII, established dominance over the landed aristocracy, and improved the central administration of the realm. The Huguenots (French Protestants), were subordinated to the power of the central government, and fortified cities were abolished.

Reading Comprehension

  1. Who did the absolute monarch ally himself with, and how did he exercise his power?



  1. List the three methods King Henry IV and Cardinal Richelieu used to create an absolute monarch in France.




Although Cardinal Richelieu, and King Louis XIV after him, managed to raise income through cooperation with local elites who taxed the people, they failed to establish a secure, independent source of revenue. This would plague France throughout the eighteenth century, and limit the power of the monarchy. Under Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu's successor as minister to the king, new revenue raising efforts led to a rebellion by elements of the aristocracy. The outcome of the civil war was a compromise with the social elites, who, in return for their cooperation, were given special privileges and exemption from taxation.

      The long reign of King Louis XIV (1643-1715) represents the pinnacle of absolute monarchy in France. He received a practical education in handling the affairs of state under the guidance of Mazarin. He surrounded himself with all the "trappings of majesty", playing the role of a superior all-powerful monarch, and he worked long and hard at the job. Although, supposedly absolute in power, he succeeded by collaborating with the aristocracy. Although more centralized and efficient than any previous French monarchy, absolutism was in reality "the last phase of a historical feudal society."



Reading Comprehension

  1. How did King Louis XIV learn to become an all-powerful monarch?



  1. What did Louis XIV so as absolute monarch that made him successful?




Aristocratic power was weakened and by-passed through pre-occupation with the grandiose life at court, and employment of non-elite (middle class) people in the royal bureaucracy. Royal patronage was an important source of social mobility (the ability to move up in social class) as well as increasing royal power. However, the greatest weakness in the system was financial and economic: tax collectors kept large shares of the taxes they collected while the prosperous elite groups were exempt. The French economy was primarily dependent upon agriculture and French farmers were so heavily taxed that the agricultural sector was continually in crisis. Furthermore, costly wars burdened the government and the economy.

     King Louis XIV led France into imperialist wars which aroused fear and concern among the other European nations, drained French resources, and brought widespread misery to the French peasantry -- all this for the  acquisition of the Strasbourg area and a few provinces bordering the Spanish Netherlands. At his death in 1715, France was on the brink (edge) of financial bankruptcy and the country exhausted and war weary.



Reading Comprehension

  1. Discuss the financial difficulties during King Louis XIV’s reign as absolute monarch.



  1. How did Louis XIV bring France to the brink of financial bankruptcy?



  1. In your opinion, what was the biggest problem with absolute monarchy in France? Why?





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