The Thirty Years* War/ Absolutism in Austria & Prussia

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I. Warfare and Social Change
Serfdom in Central/Eastern
Europe
 1050-1300 – Economic expansion in Europe
 14thC – Black Death = New economic problems

Lords exploited peasantry
 Eradication of serfdom in W. Europe, Re-entrenchment in E. Europe
 Restricted or eliminated freedom of movement for peasants
 Lords took over more peasant land
 Heavy labor obligations – work w/o pay
 Local lords – control of local legal system
Consolidation of Serfdom
 1500-1650 – social, legal, and economic conditions of
peasants declined in E. Europe
 Poland 1574 – Lords could inflict death penalty on peasants
 Prussia 1653 – Hereditary subjugation
 Russia 1603 – Eliminated freedom of movement
 Growth of estate agriculture
 Pop. growth of 16thC – increased demand for commodities
 Lords seized peasant lands – increase profits
 Poor East helped feed wealthier West.
 Lords had more power in E.
Europe
 Warfare created more
power for local lords
 Weak kings had to
compromise with nobility
 Weakened
urban/merchant class in
towns – sold directly to
foreigners
 Eastern monarchs did not
oppose growth of serfdom
II. Rise of Austria and
Prussia
 Atmosphere of wartime emergency allowed monarchs
to increase power of central state
 Gained political power in three areas
 Imposed permanent taxes w/o consent
 Maintained permanent standing armies
 Conducted relations with other states for their benefit
The Austrian Habsburgs
 Habsburg territory full of different languages, ethnicities, religions


Some in HRE, some not
Lots of little political jurisdictions
 Abandon imperial dominance, focus on consolidation of current
territory
 Crushed Protestant Bohemian nobility – Ferdinand II


Sold their land to new Catholic nobility (new loyalty)
Accomplished direct control over Bohemia
 Centralized gov’t in German-speaking provinces
 Created permanent standing army
Austrian Rule in Hungary
 After Battle of Mohacs (1526), Hungary divided between Ottomans
and Habsburgs
 Warfare between the Habsburgs and Ottomans devastated Hungary
 1683 – Habsburgs succeeded in gaining control of most of Hungary
and Transylvania

1718 – Complete recovery of Hungary
 Hungarian nobility resisted the full development of Habsburg
absolutism



Protestants
Ottomans were nicer
Sense of nationalism
 Habsburgs advanced the cause of state building in Hungary by
forging a consensus with the church and nobility
 Allowed nobility to keep aristocratic privileges
 Creation of standing army under Emperor Leopold
 Funded by provincial estates
 German language and Catholicism helped form collective
identity
 Vienna became political and cultural center of empire
 Pragmatic Sanction, 1713
 Habsburg lands should never be divided
 Women could inherit throne
 Maria Theresa crowned in 1740
Prussia in the
th
17
Century
 The Hohenzollern family ruled the electorate of
Brandenburg and Prussia
 The Thirty Years’ War weakened representative
assemblies and allowed the Hohenzollerns to
consolidate their rule
 Frederick William, the Great Elector (r. 1640-1688)
 Used military power to consolidate Prussia,
Brandenburg, and Rhine territories into one state
 Struggle between Frederick and provincial estates
 Instated permanent tax w/o permission of estates to
strengthen military
 Warfare atmosphere created sense of urgency
 Created large, centralized bureaucracy
 Like Louis XIV, the Great Elector built his absolutist state
on collaboration with traditional elites, reaffirming their
privileges in return for loyal service and revenue
The Consolidation of Prussian
Absolutism
 Frederick William I knows as “the Soldier’s King” (r.17131740)
 Created best army in Europe
 Transformed Prussia into model military state
 Believed that welfare of king and state depended on army
 Ironically, Prussia at peace for most of his reign
 Created rigid civil society, obedience – “Sparta of the
North”
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