Enlightened Absolutism

Enlightened Absolutism
Prussia, Austria, Russia
Absolutism vs Constitutionalism
Absolutism common
– Exceptions: England and Dutch Republic
Enlightenment…challenges to traditional
 “Enlightened Monarchs” or “Enlightened
Despots” emerged
Enlightened Monarchy
Most philosophes supported a monarch who
would protect the liberties of the people
– Religious toleration, freedom of speech, private
property, etc.
Monarchs had to be strong in order to impose
such reforms….hence the term Enlightened
– Frederick II of Prussia
– Joseph II of Austria
– Catherine the Great of Russia
Frederick II
Frederick the Great (ruled 1740-1786)
 Lover of French culture, poetry, music
– Fan of Voltaire
– His father, Frederick William I, disapproved
 Saw his son as a wimp and sissy
– Frederick William had strengthened the
Prussian government and improved the
Frederick II
Ruled with absolute power, but with some
enlightened reforms
– Religious toleration
– Outlawed torture except in cases of treason or
– Codified laws
– Limited freedom of speech and press
– Increased power of Prussian military
He did not, however, do much to improve the
lives of peasants
– Peasants carried the tax burden while nobles often
paid very little
Maria Theresa
1740, Charles VI died without a male heir
– Pragmatic Sanction allowed female to inherit
 Violated Salic Law, a tradition which prohibited
females from ruling
– His daughter, Maria Theresa, ascended to the
 Other rulers saw this as a weakness and
attempted to take land from Austria
Maria Theresa
War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748)
Prussia attacks Austria, attempting to take land
while Austria is “weak”
– France also attacks Austria (old rivals)
British allied with Austria to prevent French from
gaining in power
– France and Britain were fierce rivals and were on the
verge of war with each other
– Maria Theresa is recognized as the ruler of Austria
– Prussia keeps Silesia, which increases the power of
Maria Theresa
Ruled Austria from 1748-1780
 Centralized and strengthened the Austrian
– Enlarged the Austrian military
– More efficient tax collection
– NOT a fan of religious freedom
 Very Catholic
Famous children
– Joseph II and Marie Antionette
Joseph II
Co-ruler with his mother from 1765 until her
death. Implemented more reforms after her
– Freedom of speech and reduced censorship
– Religious toleration (Edict of Toleration)
– Banned torture, reduced death penalty, and applied
laws equally to all social classes
– Abolished serfdom
– Land reforms making it easier for peasants to buy
– Made land owners pay taxes
Joseph II
Although his reforms benefitted the people, he
was not a popular ruler
– Did not consult advisors before making policies
– Landowners and nobles disliked him
Dissent led him to tighten restrictions. He
began to increase censorship again and tighten
royal control
– After his death, many of his reforms were changed
back to original policies
Catherine the Great
Westernization in Russia (Peter the Great)
 Catherine continues his reforms
– Ruled from 1762-1796
Catherine was a German princess, married
Peter III
– Peter III died (or was killed) and she took
– Absolute ruler who supported some ideas of
the Enlightenment
Catherine the Great
Catherine’s reforms
– Encouraged westernization among boyars
– Expansion of territory
 Ex: Partitions of Poland (Prussia and Austria also
benefit from the partitions)
– Improved education
Brutally suppressed rebellion
– Ex: Pugachev’s Rebellion…Rugachev was
captured and quartered body publicly