Enlightened Absolutism

Enlightened Absolutism
Late 18th century
Enlightened Absolutism
Enlightened Despot/Absolutist: rulers who
tried to justify their absolute rule by
claiming to rule in the people’s interest
by making good laws, promoting human
happiness, and improving society
They were instructed by the philosophes
Typically didn’t argue “Divine Right”
Late 18th century
A bit of an oxymoron
Why Respect the Philosophe?
• The philosophes were considered
intellectuals and had elevated status,
therefore were well respected by
monarchies throughout Europe.
• Philosophes were not the voice of the
common people (“people”).
• Most influential Enlightened Absolutists:
– Catherine the Great, Russia
– Frederick the Great, Prussia
– Joseph II, Austria (Hapsburg)
Catherine the Great (r.1762-1796)
German princess who led Russia (was married
to Peter III, plotted to have him murdered)
-created hospitals
-codified Russian law
-brought “culture” to Russia
-allowed some religious toleration
-improved education, local govt.
-sought territorial expansion
-Pugachev serf uprising (1773) led her to
reverse some reforms
Catherine the Great & Peter III
Frederick II, Prussia (r. 1740-1786)
Nicknamed “The Great” for his enlightened
-improved educational system
-eliminated torture of accused criminals
-allowed freedom of religion and press
-Didn’t end serfdom, kept noble privileges in
Frederick the Great
Maria Theresa & Joseph II,
Austria (Hapsburgs)
Maria Theresa (Austria)
-est. national army
-limited the power of
the Catholic
-revised the tax
-improved ed. system
-limited the power of
the lord over serfs
Joseph II (Austria)
-abolished serfdom
-tolerance of
Calvinists and
restrictions placed on
-abolished capital
Maria Theresa & Joseph II
War of Austrian Succession
• Frederick II (Great) invaded Austrian controlled Silesia.
– This broke the Pragmatic Sanction of Charles VI allowing
Maria Theresa to rule in peace.
– Maria wanted Silesia back and fought with various
alliances (mainly Britain, and Prussia fought with France).
She lost Silesia to Prussia in 1748 in the Treaty of Aix-laChapelle.
– Maria soon determined that Britain was a bigger enemy to
her than France. She allied herself with France and Prussia
allied with Britain (they switched allies).
– The war that subsequently took place (because Frederick
attacked Austrian ally Saxony) was called the Seven Years
War in Europe (1756-1763), and French and Indian War in
North America.
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