Monarchical States to Napoleon: c. 1648–c. 1815
Until his assassination in 1610, Henry IV worked to revitalize his kingdom. With his finance minister, the Duke of Sully, Henry established government monopolies over a number of key commodities (such as salt) to restore the finances of the monarchy. He also limited the power of the French nobility by reining in its influence over regional parliaments. Despite this strengthening of monarchical power, Henry’s assassination in 1610 and the ensuing ascension of his nine-year-old son, Louis XIII, made France once again vulnerable to aristocratic rebellion and the potential religious wars. Louis needed a strong minister and he found one in Cardinal Richelieu. Richelieu defeated the Huguenots and took away many of the military and political privileges granted them by the Edict of Nantes. He brought France into the Thirty Years’ War, not as the defender of Catholic interests, but on the side of the Protestants in order to counter the traditional French enemy, the Spanish Habsburgs.
The death of Louis XIII in 1643 once again left France with a minor on the throne; the five-year-old Louis XIV was unable to benefit from Richelieu’s guidance because the great minister had predeceased Louis XIII by one year. Louis XIV’s mother, Ann of Austria, selected Cardinal Mazarin to be the regent during the king’s childhood. Mazarin had a less sure political hand than Richelieu, and once again, France had to grapple with a series of rebellions known as the Fronde in the period between 1649 and 1652. These events scarred the young Louis XIV, who at one point during the rebellion had to flee from Paris. Following the death of Mazarin in 1661, Louis decided to rule without a chief minister and to finally grapple with the central issue that had dominated France for more than a hundred years—how to deal with an aristocracy that resented the ever-increasing powers of the French monarchy.
One way that Louis achieved this goal was to advocate a political philosophy that had been developing in France since the 16th century—the notion that the monarch enjoyed certain divine rights. Using Old Testament examples of divinely appointed monarchs, Louis’s chief political philosopher, Bishop Bossuet, wrote that because the king was chosen by God, only God was fit to judge the behavior of the king, not parliamentary bodies or angry nobles.
Louis built the palace of Versailles twelve miles outside of Paris as another way to dominate the French nobility and the Parisian mob. Although his grandfather had converted to Catholicism to appease the people of Paris, Louis felt he could safely ignore the people from the confines of his palace. Eventually, 10,000 noblemen and officials lived at Versailles, a palace so immense that its facade was a third of a mile long, with grounds boasting 1,400 fountains. While it cost a huge amount of money to maintain Versailles, Louis thought it was worth it. Instead of plotting against the king, the aristocrats were distracted by court intrigue and gossip and by ceremonial issues such as who got to hold the king’s sleeve as he got dressed. Those members of the aristocracy who did not live at Versailles were pleased with their tax exemptions as well as their high social standing.
To administer his monarchy, Louis made use of the upper bourgeoisie. No member of the high aristocracy attended the daily council sessions at Versailles. Instead, his most important minister was Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the son of a draper. Colbert centralized the French economy by instituting a system known as mercantilism. The central goal of mercantilism was to build up the nation’s supply of gold by exporting goods to other lands and earning gold from their sale. To do this, Colbert organized factories to produce porcelains and other luxury items. He also tried to abolish internal tariffs, ultimately creating the Five Great Farms, which were large, custom-free regions.
Part of mercantilism was a reliance on foreign colonies to buy the mother country’s exports. To that end, Colbert succeeded in helping to create France’s vast overseas empire. By the 1680s, Louis controlled trading posts in India, slave- trading centers on the west coast of Africa, and several islands in the Caribbean, while the largest colonial possession was New France, the territory we know today as Quebec. Colbert particularly wanted to strike at the rich commercial empire of the Dutch, so he organized the French East India Company to compete with the Dutch. It enjoyed only limited success as a result in part of excessive government control and a lack of interest in such ventures by the French elite.
Louis XIV touted religious unity in France as a means of enhancing royal absolutism. While during the reign of his father the rights of Huguenots had declined due to the hostility of Richelieu, the Edict of Nantes was still in effect. Louis decided that the time had come to eradicate Calvinism in France. In 1685, he revoked the Edict of Nantes, a fateful decision that would greatly weaken the French state. He demolished Huguenot churches and schools and took away their civil rights. Some remained underground, but as many as 200,000 were exiled to England and the Netherlands. The Huguenots were an important part of the French economy; by fleeing to enemy lands, they aided the two countries that were at war with Louis. For Louis, however, such economic considerations meant little in comparison to what he thought was the more important goal and the one most pleasing to God—the elimination of religious heresy from France.
During the reign of Louis XIV, France was involved in a series of wars as a means to satiate Louis’s desire for territorial expansion. In the early part of his reign, this policy was quite successful, as France conquered territories in Germany and Flanders. This success lasted until 1688, when the English—in a move that marked the Glorious Revolution—replaced James II, the king who had received subsidies from the French, with a new monarch, William of Orange, who as leader of the Netherlands was committed to waging total war against Louis. After 1688, another series of wars erupted that lasted for twenty-five years, including the War of Spanish Succession between the French and the English and Dutch allies. This war lasted from 1702 to 1713 and concluded with the Treaty of Utrecht, which left a Bourbon (Louis’s grandson) on the throne of Spain but forbade the same monarch from ruling both Spain and France. These wars ultimately resulted in the containment of Louis XIV’s France but left the French peasantry hard pressed to pay the taxes to support Louis’s constant desire for glory.
When Elizabeth died childless in 1603, as promised, her cousin King James VI of Scotland inherited the throne. To a certain extent, James was ill-suited for the role of English king. The Scottish Parliament was a weak institution that did not inhibit the power of the monarch. James’s interest lay in asserting his divine notion of kingship, which he had been exposed to by reading French writings on the subject. He told the English Parliament the following during the first session with them:
The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon Earth: for Kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon Earth and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God Himself they are called gods. As to dispute what God may do is blasphemy, so it is sedition in subjects to dispute what a King may do in height of his power. I will not be content that my power be disputed on.
Such words could not have pleased his audience. In the relationship between the king and Parliament at the start of the 17th century, the monarch held the upper hand—only the king could summon a parliament and he could dismiss it at will. James did, however, have to consult the two-house English Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, when he needed to raise additional revenue beyond his ordinary expenses. This parliamentary control over the financial purse strings in an age when the cost of governing was dramatically increasing played a crucial role in Parliament’s eventual triumph over royal absolutism.
Religious issues further complicated James’s reign (He was always suspected of being a closet Catholic.). The religious settlement worked out by Elizabeth in 1559 was no longer adequate in an age in which English religious passions grew increasingly intense. It failed to satisfy the radical Calvinist Protestants, known as Puritans, who emerged during the Stuart period. In 1603, most Puritans still belonged to the Church of England, although they were a minority within the Church. For the most part, what distinguished the Puritans was that they wanted to see the Church “purified” of all traces of Catholicism. Although raised in Calvinist Scotland, James, on his arrival in England, found the Church of England with its hierarchical clergy and ornate rituals more to his taste. He believed its Episcopal structure was particularly well suited to his idea of the divine right of kings. In 1604, when a group of Puritans petitioned the new king to reform the Church of England, James met them with the declaration: “I will have one doctrine, one discipline, one religion, both in substance and in ceremony.” He added words that would prove to be rather prophetic for his son: “No Bishop, No King,” meaning that by weakening the Church, the monarchy in turn weakens. James’s opposition to the Puritan proposal drove the more moderate of the Puritans—individuals who just wanted to rid the Church of England of its last traces of Catholic ritual—onto a more extreme track. Some Puritans even decided to leave England; one such group founded the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620.
James’s three-part program—to unite England with Scotland, to create a continental-style standing army, and to set up a new system of royal finance—met with little support from Parliament. James’s son, Charles I (r. 1625–1641), did not possess even the somewhat limited political acumen of his father. Like his father, Charles felt that the Anglican Church provided the greatest stability for his state, and he further enflamed passions by lending his support to the so-called Arminian wing of the Anglican Church. Arminius was a Dutch theologian of the early 17th century who argued in favor of free will as opposed to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. In 1633, Charles named William Laud, a follower of this doctrine, his Archbishop of Canterbury. The Arminians, although certainly not pro-Catholic, refused to deny that Catholics were Christians; this philosophy greatly angered the Puritans. The Arminians further antagonized Puritan sentiment by advocating a more ornate church service.
The relationship between Charles and Parliament got off to a bad start when Parliament granted him tonnage and poundage (custom duties) for a one-year period rather than for the life of the monarch, as had been the custom since the 15th century. Charles, however, was committed to the war against Spain, so he cashed in his wife’s dowry and sent an expedition to the Spanish port of Cadiz. The mission was a complete failure. To pay for these military disasters, Charles requested a forced loan from his wealthier subjects. Several Members of Parliament refused to pay this loan and were thrown in jail. Parliament was called in again in 1628, at which time it put forward a Petition of Rights, which Charles felt forced to sign. It included provisions that the king could not demand a loan without the consent of Parliament and that Parliament must be called frequently. The petition also prohibited individuals from being imprisoned without published cause and the government from housing soldiers and sailors in private homes without the owner’s permission. Finally, it outlawed using martial law against civilians, which Charles had used to collect his forced loan.
In August 1628, Charles’s chief minister, the dashing but incompetent Duke of Buckingham, was murdered by an embittered sailor who blamed him for England’s recent military disasters. Charles, on the other hand, blamed the leaders of the House of Commons, most notably John Eliot, for inflaming passions against Buckingham. When Parliament was again called in January 1629, both sides felt that the issue of exclusive rights would lead to a conflict between Parliament and the king. In March 1629, the issue came to the foreground when Eliot proposed three resolutions.
1. High churchmen and anyone suspected of popery (practicing Catholicism) should be branded as capital enemies of the state.
2. Any of the king’s advisors who recommended that he raise funds without Parliament’s approval should be tried as capital enemies of the state.
3. Anyone who paid tonnage and poundage, which the King was still illegally collecting, would be betraying the “liberties of England.”
After hearing these demands, which he thought outrageous, the king summoned the Speaker of the House of Commons and ordered him to dissolve Parliament. Two Members of Parliament held the Speaker in his chair, a treasonable act because it disputes the right of the king to dissolve Parliament. Once Eliot’s resolutions were passed, the king’s messengers announced that he had dissolved Parliament.
For the next eleven years, what is known as the Personal Rule of Charles was the law of the land. Charles decided to govern England without calling a Parliament. Charles could have carried this off successfully and brought about the end of Parliament, as occurred in France during the same period of time. The major problem of how to raise enough revenue was solved by extending the collection of ship money throughout the kingdom, a politically explosive decision. Traditionally, certain coastal cities were responsible for raising funds for naval defense during times of national emergency. In 1634, Charles declared an emergency (although England was at peace), and two years later he extended this tax to inland cities and counties, areas that had never before paid ship money. This was such a substantial source of income that it could possibly have freed the king from ever having to call a Parliament.
The Case of John Hampden
The collection of ship money led to a famous legal case involving John Hampden, a Puritan Member of Parliament, who, having already challenged the legality of the forced loan, now questioned Charles’s raising of ship money. While the judges found against Hampden by a vote of seven to five, he was viewed as having achieved a moral victory.
By 1637, Charles was at the height of his power. He had a balanced budget, and his government policies and restructuring appeared to be effective. Yet within four years of this peak, the country would be embroiled in a civil war. Charles ultimately ruined his powerful position by insisting that Calvinist Scotland adopt not only the Episcopal structure of the Church of England, but also follow a prayer book based on the English Book of Common Prayer. The Scots rioted and signed a national covenant that pledged their allegiance to the king but also vowed to resist all changes to their Church.
In 1640, Charles called an English Parliament for the first time in eleven years, because he believed it would be willing to grant money to put down the Scottish rebellion. This became known as the Short Parliament because it met for only three weeks and was dissolved after it refused to grant funds prior to Charles addressing their own grievances. Charles was still determined to punish the Scots; after he dissolved Parliament, he patched together an army with the resources he could muster. The Scots were the victors on the battlefield and invaded northern England. They refused to leave England until Charles signed a settlement and, in the meantime, forced him to pay £850 per day for their support.
To pay this large sum, Charles was forced to call another Parliament. This became known as the Long Parliament, because it met for an unprecedented 20 years. The House of Commons launched the Long Parliament by impeaching Charles’s two chief ministers, the Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud (Strafford was executed in 1641 and Laud in 1645). Parliament abolished the king’s prerogative courts, like Henry VIII’s Court of Star Chamber, which had become tools of royal absolutism. Tensions grew even higher when a rebellion broke out in Ireland, which had been ruled with a strong hand since the time of the Tudors.
Parliament took the momentous step of limiting some of the king’s prerogative rights. They supported what was known as the Grand Remonstrance, a list of 204 parliamentary grievances from the past decade. They also made two additional demands: that the king name ministers whom Parliament could trust and that a synod of the Church of England be called to reform the Church of England. In response Charles tried to seize five of the leaders of the House of Commons, an attempt that failed, resulting in Charles leaving London in January 1642 to raise his royal standard at Nottingham. This marked the beginning of the English Revolution.
The English Revolution
During the initial stage of the English Revolution, things went poorly for Parliament. Their military commander, the Earl of Manchester, pointed out the dilemma when he noted: “If we beat the King 99 times, he is still the King, but if the King defeats us, we shall be hanged and our property confiscated.” Individuals, such as Oliver Cromwell, who were far more dedicated to creating a winning war policy, soon replaced the early aristocratic leaders. It was Cromwell who created what became known as the New Model Army, a regularly paid, disciplined force with extremely dedicated Puritan soldiers. By 1648, the king was defeated, and in the following year, Cromwell made the momentous decision to execute the king, a move that horrified most of the nation.
From 1649 to 1660 England was officially a republic, known as The Commonwealth, but essentially it was a military dictatorship governed by Cromwell. Cromwell had to deal with conflicts among his own supporters, such as the clash between the Independents and the Presbyterians. The Independents, who counted Cromwell among their ranks, wanted a state church, but were also willing to grant a measure of religious freedom for others (Although Catholics were to be excluded from this tolerant policy.). On the other side of the divide were the Presbyterians, who wanted a state church that would not allow dissent. Cromwell also had to deal with the rise of radical factions within his army, groups like the Levellers and Diggers, who combined their radical religious beliefs with a call for a complete overhaul of English society. They touted a philosophy that included such radical ideas as allowing all men, not just those who owned land, to vote for members of the House of Commons.
Cromwell destroyed the Leveller elements in his army in 1649 after several regiments with large Leveller contingents revolted against his rule. In the following year, Cromwell led an army to Ireland, where he displayed incredible brutality in putting down resistance by supporters of the Stuarts.
Cromwell would find, as Charles I had earlier, that Parliament was a difficult institution to control. In 1652, he brought his army into London to disperse a Parliament that dared to challenge him only to replace them with hand-selected individuals who still earned his displeasure within a matter of months. Over the next year, a group of army officers wrote the “Instrument of Government,” the only written constitution in English history and a document that provided for republican government (the Protectorate) with a head of state holding the title Lord Protector and a parliament based on a fairly wide male suffrage. Cromwell stepped into the position of Lord Protector, but still found Parliament difficult to control. Finally in 1655, Cromwell gave up all hope of ruling in conjunction with a legislature and divided England into 12 military districts, each to be governed by a major general.
By the time Cromwell died, an exhausted England wanted to bring back the Stuart dynasty. In 1660, the eldest son of the executed monarch became Charles II. The return of the Stuarts turned back the clock to 1642 as the same issues that had led to the revolution against Charles’s father remained unresolved: What is the proper relationship between king and Parliament? What should be the religious direction of the Church of England? These issues were not fully addressed during Charles’s reign, although they came to the forefront during the reign of his younger brother, James II, who succeeded Charles on the throne in 1685.
Suspected of being a Catholic, like all previous Stuarts, James immediately antagonized Parliament by demanding the repeal of the Test Act, an act passed during Charles II’s reign that effectively barred Catholics from serving as royal officials or in the military (There was no law at this time barring Catholics from the monarchy.). James also issued a Declaration of Indulgence, which suspended all religious tests for office holders and allowed for freedom of worship. On the surface, James appeared to have been a champion of religious freedom; this was deceptive. What James really wished to achieve in England was royal absolutism; however, the steps that he took to achieve this goal were illegal. The final stages of this conflict took place in 1688. Early in the year, James imprisoned seven Anglican bishops for refusing to read James’s suspension of the laws against Catholics from their church pulpits, the usual way of informing the community of royal edicts in an age before modern communications. James also unexpectedly fathered a child in June 1688 and now had a male heir who would be raised as a Catholic, in contrast to his previous heir, his daughter Mary, who was a Protestant. These moves to create a Catholic England created unity among previously contentious Protestant factions within England. One faction of this political and religious elite invited William, the Stadholder of the Netherlands and the husband of Mary, to invade England. When his troops landed, James’s forces collapsed in what was basically a bloodless struggle (except for in Ireland, where there was tremendous violence over the next several years), known as the “Glorious Revolution.” James was overthrown, and William and Mary jointly took the throne.
What followed was a constitutional settlement that finally attempted to address the pervasive issues of this century of revolution.
The settlement consisted of the following acts:
• The Bill of Rights (1689) forbade the use of royal prerogative rights as Charles and James had exercised in the past. The power to suspend and dispense with laws was declared illegal. Armies could not be raised without parliamentary consent. Elections to Parliament were to be free of royal interference. The monarchs also had to swear to uphold the Protestant faith, and it was declared that the monarchy could not pass into the hands of a Catholic. Most importantly, Parliament’s approval was now officially required for all taxation.
• The Act of Toleration (1689) was in many ways a compromise bill. To get nonconformists’ (Protestants who were not members of the Church of England) support in the crucial months of 1688, Whigs and Tories (Whigs being the more liberal parliamentary faction than the Tories) promised that an act of toleration would be granted when William became king. The nonconformists could have achieved liberty of worship from James II’s act of toleration, but an act from a popular Protestant monarch would prove to be a better safeguard to their liberties. The Act of Toleration granted the right of public worship to Protestant nonconformists but did not extend it to Unitarians or to Catholics (Those two groups were also left alone, although legally they had no right to assemble to pray.). The Test Act remained, which meant nonconformists, Jews, and Catholics could not sit in Parliament, until the law was changed in the 19th century.
• The Mutiny Act (1689) authorized the use of civil law to govern the army, which previously had been governed only by royal decree. It also made desertion and mutiny civil crimes, for which soliders could be punished during peacetime. But the act was only in effect on a year-by-year basis, which meant that a Parliament had to be summoned annually if for no other reason than to pass this act. Along with the Bill of Rights’ provision against standing armies in peacetime, the Mutiny Act brought the army under effective parliamentary control.
• The Act of Settlement (1701) was passed to prevent the Catholic Stuart line from occupying the English throne. In 1714, when Queen Anne, the second Protestant daughter of James II, died childless, the throne passed to George I, the Elector of Hanover, a Protestant prince and a distant kinsman of the Stuarts.
• The Act of Union (1707) marked the political reunification of England and Scotland, forming the entity known as Great Britain. This union was by no means a love match and, in fact, primarily occurred because relations between the two previously independent states were so bad that on his deathbed, William III urged that union take place to forestall Scotland from going to war with England as an ally of France. As part of the agreement, Scotland gave up its parliament but was allowed to maintain the state-sponsored Presbyterian Church and its Roman-based legal system.
A Center of Commerce and Trade
The relative decline of Spain as an economic power was in part due to the growing competition from the Netherlands. The Netherlands had already achieved a central role in inter-European trade due to its geographic position and large merchant marine fleet. For example, it was the Netherlands that provided a connection between the raw material producers in the Baltic region and the rest of Europe. Beyond Europe, control over the lucrative spice trade in Asia was wrested out of the hands of the Portuguese, a situation which was made worse when Spain took control over Portugal in 1580 and found itself without the resources to rival the Dutch in Asia.
Increasingly, it was the city of Amsterdam (the capital of the Netherlands), rather than the Spanish-controlled city of Antwerp, that became the center of commerce in northern Europe. The city of Antwerp further declined after it was sacked in 1576 during the Dutch War for Independence. Part of the Peace of Westphalia that followed the war included the permanent closing of the Scheldt River that led to Antwerp’s harbor, which also aided Amsterdam replacing Antwerp as an economic center.
Dutch dominance in part came from technological achievements such as the development of less expensive but ocean-worthy cargo ships, but the Dutch also proved to be creative in their establishment of financial and commercial institutions. The Bank of Amsterdam, founded in the early part of the 17th century, issued its own currency and increased the amount of available capital, while also making Amsterdam the banking center of Europe. In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was established. The company operated under quasi-governmental control and was funded by both public and private investment. This kind of investment, used in the past but most successfully in the Netherlands, gave rise to the popularity of joint-stock companies. Such companies allowed risks and profits to be shared among many individuals. The large capitalization behind the Dutch East India Company allowed for the purchasing of more ships and warehouses. The Dutch also proved to be very nimble businessmen, so that when the prices of spices decreased due to oversupply, they quickly turned to other commodities such as coffee, tea, and fabrics. However, by the beginning of the 18th century, Dutch commercial power, although continuing down to this day, would lose its preeminent place in Europe to the English.
This “Golden Age” in the Netherlands produced a high standard of living, with wealth being more equally distributed than any other place in Europe. The Netherlands also stood out from the rest of Europe for its tolerant attitude toward religious minorities, with Jews fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition and Anabaptists as well as Catholics finding a place among the majority Calvinist population.
Dutch exceptionalism also extended to the political realm because politically, the Netherlands didn’t look like any other state in Europe. For most of the 17th century, it was politically decentralized, with each of the seven provinces retaining extensive autonomy. Wealthy merchants dominated the provincial Estates, which retained powers far more extensive than those of national Estates General, particularly in the area of taxation. Executive power, such as it was, came from the noble House of Orange, whose family members had achieved prominence for leading the revolt against Spain. The male head of this family held the title of stadholder, an office with primarily a military function, no mere formality as the Netherlands switched from fighting for its independence from Spain to economic wars against the English and a long-term struggle for survival against France. During the struggle with Louis XIV’s France, the power of the provincial Estates went into decline, while the authority of William of Nassau, the head of the House of Orange, increased tremendously, particularly when William became King of England after the Revolution of 1688.
A Golden Age of Art
Culturally, the 17th century proved to be a golden age as well. Dutch artists, reflecting the fact that the majority of the population was Calvinist, didn’t receive large commissions to be placed in churches, although the Baroque style of painting penetrated the Netherlands through Catholic Flanders. Instead, Dutch artists painted for private collectors, who supported an incredibly large number of painters and a wide range of styles, including the production of a large number of landscapes. Like so much else in the Netherlands, pictures were treated as commodities, with prices at times reaching speculative rates.
The art market didn’t just flourish in Amsterdam, as shown by the thriving career of Franz Hals (c. 1580–1666), the great portrait painter from Haarlem. Another gifted Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer (1632–1675), had initially thought of being a painter of historical scenes, but when he received no commissions, he turned to the carefully composed genre scenes of everyday Dutch life, for which he has become justifiably famous. The greatest genius of the Dutch golden age was Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), whose paintings, which were initially influenced by the High Baroque style and were later in his career more subtly painted, are fraught with a deep emotional complexity. One of his masterpieces, The Night Watch (1642), transforms a standard group portrait of a military company into a revealing psychological study.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL LIFE IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE
It’s a little difficult to generalize about life in early modern Europe because conditions varied from region to region, but general trends do emerge for the period.
Economic Expansion and Population Growth
By the end of the 15th century, Europe was ushering in an age of economic expansion that sharply contrasted with the decline that had taken root in the 14th century with its disastrous famines and plagues. The key development in the period was the growth in population. To use France as a typical example, the population doubled from 10 million to 20 million from 1450 to 1550. This significant population expansion was very important for economic productivity, in an age in which manpower was still far more important than labor-saving technology. The expansion of Europe’s population also provided for additional consumers, which meant that there was greater incentive to bring more food and other essentials to market.
The growth of population also had an impact on another important development: the significant increase in prices in the early modern period, which has become known as the Price Revolution. Initially, historians thought that this increase came from the influx of precious metals from the New World and the debasement of their coinage by money-hungry monarchs, but it is now apparent that it was population growth that put pressure on the prices of basic commodities such as wheat. This inflation did not increase at a rate that would impress a modern consumer, with grain prices increasing 500 percent—which sounds much more impressive until you take into account that this increase took place in the 150-year period from 1500 to 1650. Nevertheless, for a society that was accustomed to stable prices, a price increase of this magnitude came as a shock. Historians have even tried to find ways of connecting the Price Revolution to the political and religious struggles of the age, based on the theory that periods of high inflation can be an important factor behind the development of social tensions.
Rural Life and the Emergence of Economic Classes
One way in which rural life was transformed in this period, in part due to the Price Revolution, was the emergence of a class of wealthy individuals, located socially below the aristocracy, who began to buy significant amounts of newly valuable landholdings. In England, this class of individuals, who often had their economic roots in fortunes made in towns and cities, were known as the gentry, and would play a major role in the political struggles that the English Parliament would wage against the monarchy in the 17th century. The land-buying habits of the gentry forced up the price of land. In addition, the gentry were able to use their social connections to get local authorities to accept the enclosure of lands for their own personal use, land that had previously been available for the grazing of animals by the entire community.
The problem of rural poverty became significantly worse in the early modern period, with many small farmers reduced to the role of beggars, spending their days tramping from one locale to another. Increasingly, the problem of poverty weighed on the political elite; in Catholic lands, the Church remained the major provider of social services, while in Protestant countries it became the task of the state to provide for the destitute, such as the first English Poor Law during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Although rural overpopulation was a problem throughout most of western Europe, in eastern Europe, low population density was a much more serious problem, leading wealthy landowners to solve their labor shortages by binding the formerly free peasantry to the land in a process of enserfment.
For the majority of individuals in Europe, who lived in rural areas as small-scale farmers, life was fairly dismal and revolved around a constant struggle to find the resources to survive. Life centered on the small village, often fewer than fifty households, with most people never traveling a few miles beyond the location of their birth. Housing in rural villages offered little protection from the cold and wet winters. Homes were generally made of wood, had packed mud on the walls and straw on the floor, and lacked windows and adequate ventilation. For the most part, typical houses consisted of one main room with a stone hearth providing heat. The possessions that went into these houses were as simple as their surroundings. The worldly possessions of most rural households could fit in a single chest, which could double as a table and could be carried away by the family in case they had to flee during an emergency, such as the arrival of mercenaries looking for plunder.
The workdays were long during the summer harvests and shorter in the winter. Late winter offered the rural household the terrifying prospect of not having enough resources to tide them over until the coming of spring. Farming began to change by the end of the 17th century in the Netherlands and in England with the introduction of what we may refer to as scientific methods. However, for the most part, Europeans were farming in 1800 the same way they had farmed going back to the High Middle Ages (c. 1001–1300). The three-field system (where crops were rotated across three pieces of land) was used in the north of Europe, while the two-field system (crops rotated on two pieces of land) predominated in the Mediterranean region. Farmland in most rural areas was set out in long strips, with individual peasant families owning a portion of land in each of the strips. Because animals such as cows or sheep needed copious amounts of food, common lands in each village were shared, although the wealthy rural elite was increasingly coveting this common land. Most of what was grown was used by the farmers for their own households, leaving very little to be brought to market. The diet of the average European peasant farmer was incredibly monotonous, with most calories coming from grain in various forms, ranging from dark bread to gruels and beer.
Life in the Cities and Towns
Although towns and cities held scarcely more than 10 percent of the overall popula-tion, they provided for some variation from what Karl Marx would call “the idiocy of rural life.” Townspeople in general lived better than their rural counterparts, with better housing and a more varied diet, although urban poverty was also increasing in this period.
There was also a much greater variety of occupations, with a much greater emphasis on specialization, with specific tasks such as baking or brewing taking place in specific quarters of the town. Guilds, which began to dominate the urban economy during the High Middle Ages, continued to play a role in the production of commodities down to the time of the French Revolution.
However, the guild method of production was being supplanted by a new means of production that was in part directed by the expansion of population and the growth of markets. Cloth was now produced on a much larger scale by a new group of capitalist entrepreneurs and required a large outlay of money to get started. These individuals would provide the money and the organizational skills, which they used to direct every stage of the production of broadcloth, beginning with the cleaning of the wool and ending with the weaving. This work provided a benefit in some rural households (where the various stages of production would now take place), adding an important source of revenue particularly during the long winter months.
For guild members, however, this new competition created great hardships. Also, for apprentices and journeymen the dream of becoming a full-fledged guild master was becoming an increasingly rare occurence. These men essentially became wage earners with little hope of rising up the economic and social ranks. Dissatisfied journeymen and apprentices would play an important role in the urban revolts of the period.
Family Life and Structure
Although we tend to assume that some notion of the extended family existed in the past, with several generations living under one roof, the family in the Early Modern period would not look significantly different from today’s nuclear family. Family size was smaller than what one might have imagined for the period, with the average family consisting of no more than three or four children. The relatively small number of children was partly the result of fewer childbearing years resulting from later marriages, with women on average marrying around age 25 and men two years later. Traditionally, marriages were either arranged by the parents or at least formally approved, in part because even in the poorest of rural communities, marriage involved some transfer of property. Weddings were important community events, because the married husband and wife were now considered to be full-fledged members of society, and in general, single adults were looked on as potential thieves or troublemakers if they were male and as prostitutes if they were female.
The Role of Men in the Family
In many ways, the family with the father as the patriarchal head served as a reflection in miniature of the larger hierarchical ordering of early modern society. In wealthier families, the father had to ensure that the family’s wealth remained intact, which meant that the oldest male child inherited most of the estate (primogeniture), with younger sons being guided toward careers in the Church, military, or in the increased opportunities offered by the burgeoning administration of the early modern state.
The Role of Women
The only claim that daughters would have on the parental estate would come with the dowry that they would receive upon marriage. Wives could usually determine who should receive their dowry upon their death, although during their own lifetimes their husbands would manage the dowry. Among the poor, arrangements would be different, with boys apprenticed off to a trade or as servants at the age of seven, and domestic service being the only opportunities for girls, who in the poorest of families were left with the difficult task of trying to raise their own dowries.
The Family as Economic Unit
Early modern families, whether rich or poor, can be seen as economic units. Before the late Industrial Revolution, child labor was accepted and commonplace. To some extent, jobs were gendered: Men played a larger role in the “public” sphere, such as plowing, planting, and commerce, while women had responsibility over the home. However, in agricultural communities, everyone was expected to work in the fields; and among merchant classes, the “private” sphere might include bookkeeping and other administration of the family business while the men went on purchasing tours. In some cases, the main difference between women’s work and men’s work was that women’s work included all the men’s work, plus taking care of the house and the cooking. The strongest division between men’s and women’s roles was in the upper classes and the nobility. Only these very wealthy people could afford the luxury of an idle woman. This, combined with better diet, wet-nursing, and more sanitary conditions, was why wealthier families might see annual pregnancies (as opposed to every two or three years for poorer women), as well as why the wealthy had a much lower childhood mortality rate.
How the Protestant Reformation Changed Family Life
Although one can scarcely talk about a revolution taking place in family life in this period, the Protestant Reformation did usher in some changes. In Protestant lands, the household became the center of Christian life, rather than the church or monastery. Arguably, paternalism increased, as the father now assumed a spiritual role as the chief intermediary between the family and God, while also more strictly enforcing moral standards and the value of hard work. For women who wanted to avoid marriage and constant childrearing, the option of convent life came to an end, and frugal fathers lost the opportunity to save dowry money. In some places, divorce was allowed, something that was anathema to the Catholic Church.
Women in Protestant lands were conceivably freer in the sense that they were able, like any man, to directly communicate with God without relying on a male priest as an intermediary. However, those women who wanted to take a more active role by leading congregations and preaching—as seen in some of the more radical Protestant sects such as the Anabaptists—were brutally persecuted.
EVENTS LEADING TO THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
In 1611, the English poet John Donne wrote An Anatomy of the World, in which he reflected on the multitude of ways that his world had changed as a result of the new discoveries in science.
New philosophy calls all in doubt
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and th’ Earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to looke for it.
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the Planets, and the new firmament
They seeke so many new; then see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his Atomies
Tis all in peeces, all coherance gone;
All just supply, and all Relation.
As Donne understood, the scientific discoveries of the 16th and 17th centuries brought about a fundamental change in the way Europeans viewed the natural world. To call this change a revolution may be misleading in light of the length of time over which it occurred, but the implications from these discoveries were truly revolutionary. Not only did it change the way Europeans viewed the world around them, but it also had significant implications in such areas as religion, political thought, and how they fought wars.
Why was it that 17th-century thinkers challenged the medieval view of the natural world? What possibly occurred in that age that led them to question ideas that previously had been readily accepted? The following are some possibilities.
Discovery of the New World
The period of exploration and conquest led to the discovery of new plant and animal life and possibly encouraged greater interest in the natural sciences. Also, the traditional link between navigation and astronomy and the great advances made by Portuguese navigators in the 15th century helped fuel an interest in learning more about the stars.
Invention of the Printing Press
Scientific knowledge could spread much more rapidly because of the printing press. By the second half of the 17th century, there were numerous books and newsletters keeping people informed about the most recent scientific discoveries. It is because of the printing press that Thomas Hobbes, sitting in England, was cognizant of scientific discoveries coming out of Italy.
Rivalry Among Nation-States
The constant warfare between the various nation-states may have pushed scientific development by placing an increasing importance on technology, or applied science. Further, Europe was a region with many powerful leaders who could fund scientific development. Columbus, an Italian, could find funding for his voyages from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain after being turned down by John of Portugal. Compare this to the situation in China; with few technological competitors and a single ruler capable of canceling major projects, Chinese technological development slowed relative to that of Europe.
The historian Robert K. Merton suggested a number of years ago that the English who professed Calvinist beliefs were somehow linked to those who were active in the new science. Even earlier than Merton, one of the fathers of sociology, Max Weber, argued that the worldly asceticism found in Protestantism helped create capitalism, which in turn helped propel the Scientific Revolution. These theories, however, ignore the fact that much of the Scientific Revolution came from Catholic Italy. The telescope and microscope, for example, were Italian in origin, as was the new botany. Nevertheless, the Protestant Reformation, by encouraging people to read the Bible, did help create a larger reading public. And although Luther, Calvin, and the like were not interested in challenging the traditional scientific worldview, their opposition to the religious hegemony of Rome did provide a powerful example of challenging established authority.
Humanist interest in the writings of the classical world also extended to the scientific texts of the ancient Greeks. Certain texts, such as Archimedes’s writings on mathematics and Galen’s anatomical studies, were rediscovered in the Renaissance. Although the Scientific Revolution ultimately rejected the ideas contained in such works, this basic familiarity with the past was a necessary stage in order for modern scientific thought to mature.
The medieval worldview was based on scholasticism, a synthesis of Christian theology with the scientific beliefs of the ancient authors. The great architect of this synthesis was Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), who took the works of Aristotle and harmonized them with the teachings of the church. Knowledge of God remained the supreme act of learning and was to be attained through both reason and revelation. The value of science, for those living in the Middle Ages, was that it offered the possibility of a better understanding of the mysterious workings of God. To view science without this religious framework was simply inconceivable in the Middle Ages. Influenced by the work of Aristotle, medieval people thought that the material world was made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Earth was the heaviest and the basest of the elements and therefore tended toward the center of the universe. Water was also heavy but lighter than earth, so its natural place was covering the Earth. Air was above water, with fire as the lightest element of all. It was this notion of the four elements that gave rise to the idea of alchemy, or the perfect compound of the four elements in their perfect proportions. Less perfect metals such as lead might be transformed by changing the proportion of their elements. The four-element approach also dominated the practice of medicine. The four elements combined in the human body to create what were known as the four humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. An excess of any one of the humours produced one’s essential personal characteristics.
People in the Middle Ages did not have a great interest in astronomy; the popular work of the Greek astronomer Ptolemy (c. 85–165 A.D.) was not questioned. The Ptolemaic, or Geocentric, system placed the Earth as a stationary object around which heavenly bodies moved, while the stars were fixed in their orbits. One problem with this system was addressed rather early: How does one explain the unusual motion of the planets in relation to the fixed stars? At times planets even appeared to be moving backward. To cope with these problems, epicycles—planetary orbits within an orbit—were added to the system.
THE COPERNICAN REVOLUTION
In 1543, Nicholas Copernicus (1473–1543), a Polish mathematician and astronomer, wrote Concerning the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. Copernicus was a cleric, and because he was afraid of the implications of the ideas contained in the work, he waited many years before he finally decided to publish. When he finally took that step, Copernicus cautiously dedicated the book to Pope Paul III and included a preface that claimed that the ideas contained in it were just mathematical hypotheses. Even the language of the work was moderate as Copernicus merely suggested that should the Earth revolve around the sun, it would solve at least some of the problematic epicycles of the Ptolemaic system. However, since the Copernican, or Heliocentric, system explains that the planets move in a circular motion around the sun, it did not completely eliminate all the epicycles. Despite his book’s famous reputation, Copernicus’s ideas did not stir a revolution in the way in which people viewed the planets and the stars.
The Earth-centered system would not go away that quickly. The Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) tried to come up with a different Earth-centered system rather than just relying on the Ptolemaic system. Brahe had plenty of time on his hands to construct the best astronomical tables of the age, as his social life was nonexistent after he lost part of his nose in a duel and rebuilt it with a prosthetic made of silver and gold alloy. Brahe proposed a system in which the moon and the sun revolved around the Earth, while the other planets revolved around the sun.
Brahe’s student, Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), disagreed with his teacher concerning Copernicus’s findings. Kepler ended up using Brahe’s own data to search for ways to support Copernicus and eventually dropped Copernicus’s “planets move in a circular motion” theory, instead proposing that their orbits were elliptical. However, it would take the greatest mind of the next age, Isaac Newton, to explain why this elliptical motion was in fact possible.
The first scientist to build on the work of Copernicus was a Florentine by the name of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642). In 1609, he heard about a Dutchman who had invented a spyglass that allowed distant objects to be seen as if close up. Galileo then designed his own telescope that magnified far-away objects thirty times the naked eye’s capacity. Using this instrument, he noticed that the moon had a mountainous surface very much like the Earth. For Galileo, this provided evidence that it was composed of material similar to that on Earth and not some purer substance as Aristotle had argued. Galileo also realized that the stars were much farther away than the planets. He saw that Jupiter had four moons of her own. This challenged the traditional notion of the unique relationship between Earth and her moon. Sunspots and rings around Saturn also put the whole Ptolemaic construct into doubt.
Galileo was also interested in the question of motion. He may not have really thrown a ten-pound weight and a one-pound weight from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but he did notice that heavier weights do not fall any faster than lighter ones. He also noticed that under ideal conditions a body in motion would tend to stay in motion. It was therefore relatively easy for him to deduce from this the possibility that Earth is in perpetual motion.
Following the publication of his Dialogues on the Two Chief Systems of the World (1632), the Catholic Church began to condemn Galileo’s work. The church authorities warned Galileo not to publish any more writings on astronomy. Throwing caution to the wind, he wrote a book that compared the new science with the old; an ignorant clown Simplicio represented the old science. Pope Urban VIII thought the book was making fun of him, and he put Galileo under house arrest for the remainder of his life. This did not stop Galileo from writing, although he was forced to send his manuscripts to Holland where the mood was more tolerant.
Sir Isaac Newton
The greatest figure of the Scientific Revolution was Isaac Newton (1642–1727). Newton wanted to solve the problem posed by the work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo: How do you explain the orderly manner in which the planets revolve around the sun? Newton worked for almost two decades on the problem before he published his masterpiece, Principia, in 1687. Galileo’s work on motion influenced Newton, a sign of the intellectual link between southern and northern scientists. Newton wondered what force kept the planets in an elliptical orbit around the sun, when theoretically they should be moving in a straight line. Supposedly Newton saw an apple drop from a tree and deduced that the same force that drew the apple to the ground may explain planetary motion. Newton finally posited that all planets and objects in the universe operated under the effects of gravity.
It is important to remember that Newton was an extremely religious man and often wondered why, when he delivered public talks, his audiences were more interested in his scientific discoveries than in theology. He spent a great deal of time making silly calculations of biblical dates and practicing alchemy.
More importantly, he began to experiment with optics, thus making the study of light a new scientific endeavor. It was Newton who showed that white light was a heterogeneous mixture of colors rather than the pure light many believed it to be. Newton is also the father of differential calculus (much to the regret of those of you who have to take it in high school). Finally, Newton also eventually became head of the British Royal Society, an organization committed to spreading the new spirit of experimentation.
THE IMPACT OF THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION ON PHILOSOPHY
Among the philosophers affected by the new science was Francis Bacon (1561–1626). Bacon led an extraordinarily varied life. He was a lawyer, an official in the government of James I, a historian, and an essayist. The one thing he did not do in his life, it seems, was perform scientific experiments. What he did contribute to science was the experimental methodology. In his three major works, The Advancement of Learning (1605), Novum Organum (1620), and New Atlantis (1627), Bacon attacked medieval scholasticism with its belief that the body of knowledge was basically complete and that the only task left to scholars was to elaborate on existing knowledge. Instead, Bacon argued that rather than rely on tradition, it was necessary to examine evidence from nature. Bacon’s system became known as inductive reasoning, or empiricism. In France, this debate over the new learning became known as the conflict between the ancients and the moderns, while in England it was known as the “Battle of the Books.”
The French philosopher Descartes (1596–1650) can in some ways be seen as the anti-Bacon. For Descartes, deductive thought (also referred to as Rationalism)—using reason to go from a general principle to the specific principle—provided for a better understanding of the universe than did relying on the experimental method. However, like Bacon, Descartes believed that the ideas of the past were so suffocating that they all must be doubted. In his famous quote, “I think, therefore I am,” Descartes stripped away his belief in everything except his own existence. Another way that Descartes broke with the past was by writing in French rather than Latin, which had been the language of intellectual discourse in the Middle Ages. Descartes was also a highly gifted mathematician who invented analytical mathematics.
Descartes’s system can be found in his Discourse on Method (1637). In the work, he reduced nature to two distinct elements: mind and matter. The world of the mind involved the soul and the spirit, and Descartes left that world to the theologians. The world of matter, however, was made up of an infinite number of particles. He viewed this world as operating in a mechanistic manner, as if in a constant whirlpool that provided contact among the various particles.
Pascal (1623–1662) saw his life as a balancing act. He wanted to balance what he saw as the dogmatic thinking of the Jesuits with those who were complete religious skeptics. His life’s attempt to achieve this balance is found in his Pensées, particularly in the idea that became known as Pascal’s Wager, in which Pascal concluded that it was better to wager on the existence of God than on the obverse, because the expected value that comes from believing is always greater than the expected value of not believing. Pascal became involved with the Jansenists, a Catholic faction that saw truth in St. Augustine’s idea of the total sinfulness of mankind and the need for salvation to be achieved through faith because we are predestined—ideas that were also followed by the Calvinists.
Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) personally knew Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes and was also friends with William Harvey (1578–1657), who, rather than relying on the writings of the Ancient Greeks, used dissections to show the role the heart plays in the circulation of blood through the body. His contact with the leading figures in the world of science influenced Hobbes to apply the experimental methods they used in the study of nature to the study of politics. Hobbes was horrified by the turmoil of the English Revolution and was convinced of the depravity of human nature; humans were like animals in that they were stimulated by appetites rather than by noble ideas. Hobbes wrote in his classic work, Leviathan, that life without government was “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Hobbes’s view of the depravity of human nature led him to propose the necessity for absolutism. Man formed states, or what Hobbes called the great Leviathan, because they were necessary constructs that worked to restrain the human urges to destroy one another. Out of necessity, the sovereign has complete and total power over his subjects. The subjects are obliged never to rebel, and the sovereign must put down rebellion by any means possible. When the parliamentary side won the civil war, Hobbes went back to England and quietly went on with his life. He readily accepted any established power, and could therefore live under Cromwell’s firm rule. His theories did not please traditional English royalists, because his brand of absolutism was not based on the divine right theory of kingship.
Like Hobbes, John Locke (1632–1704) was interested in the world of science. His Two Treatises on Government, written before the Revolution of 1688, was published after William and Mary came to the throne and served as a defense of the revolution as well as a basis for the English Bill of Rights. It also proved critical for the intellectual development of the founders of the United States. Locke argued that man is born free in nature, although as society gets more advanced, government is needed to organize this society. Because humans are free and rational entities, when they enter into a social contract with the state, they do not give up their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. Should an oppressive government challenge those rights, people have a right to rebel.
Locke was an opponent of religious enthusiasm. In his Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke attacked the idea that Christianity could be spread by force. His influential Essay on Human Understanding contained the idea that children enter the world with no set ideas. At birth, the mind is a blank slate or tabula rasa, and infants do not possess the Christian concept of predestination or original sin. Instead, Locke subscribed to the theory that all knowledge was empirical in that it comes from experience.
Scientists and Philosophers of the Scientific Revolution, 1450–1700
THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ENLIGHTENMENT
Although his response has become a bit of a cliché, there is no better answer to the question “What is the Enlightenment?” than that offered by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). For Kant, the answer was clear: “Dare to know.” By this, he meant that it was necessary for individuals to cast off those ideas of the past that had been accepted simply because of tradition or intellectual laziness and instead use one’s reason to probe for answers to questions on the nature of mankind. The ultimate reward, stated Kant, would be something that all previous generations had so woefully lacked—freedom. This freedom would extend to the political and religious realms and would also lead the writers of the Enlightenment to cast doubt on such ancient human practices as slavery.
Traditionally, the Enlightenment has been associated with France, where they use the term philosophes to describe the thinkers of the age. These philosophes were not organized in any formal group, although many of the most prominent displayed their erudition at salons, which were informal discussion groups organized by wealthy women. Others would hang around the print shop putting the final touches on their pamphlets. No matter where their ideas were produced, French thinkers helped produce the so-called “Republic of Letters,” an international community of writers who communicated in French. This Republic of Letters extended throughout much of western Europe and, of course, to the American colonies, where the ideas of the Enlightenment would play a significant role in the founding of the United States.
The direction of the Enlightenment changed over the course of the 18th century. The early Enlightenment was deeply rooted in the Scientific Revolution and was profoundly influenced by Great Britain, which appeared to continental writers as a bastion of freedom and economic expansion, while also providing the world with such inestimable thinkers as John Locke. Locke’s idea, expressed in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, that the individual is a blank slate at birth provided a powerful argument for the potential impact of education as well as for the inherent equality among all people. Locke also greatly influenced 18th- century thought through his contention that every person has the right to life, liberty, and property and that there is a contractual relationship between the ruler and the subjects.
As the age of Enlightenment continued, it moved beyond the influence of Locke, who had refused to see how freedom could be granted to slaves in the Americas. Writers such as Voltaire and David Hume would offer a powerful challenge to established religion. By the end of the century, people such as Adam Smith had veered into other areas such as economic thought. Jean-Jacques Rousseau inspired people of the age to seek to find truth not through the cold application of reason, but rather through a thorough examination of their inner emotions. Meanwhile, in places such as Russia, Prussia, and Austria, rulers sought to find ways to blend their royal absolutism with some of the ideas of the Enlightenment, although little would come out of this attempt except perhaps a further enhancement of their absolute authority.
Perhaps the greatest of the philosophes was Voltaire (1694–1778). After writing a number of rather forgettable volumes of poetry and drama, Voltaire went to England, a trip that would forever change his life. He was struck by the relative religious tolerance practiced there as well as the freedom to express one’s ideas in print—far greater than that which existed in France. Voltaire was also struck by the honor the English showed Newton when the scientist was buried with great pomp at a state funeral. To Voltaire, England seemed to offer those things that allowed for the happiness of the individual, which seemed so desperately lacking in his own land of France.
Although educated by the Jesuits, Voltaire hated the Catholic Church and despised what he thought was the narrowness and bigotry that was at the heart of all religious traditions. Voltaire, like many of his contemporaries, was a deist, one who believes that God created the universe and then stepped back from creation to allow it to operate under the laws of science. Voltaire felt that religion crushed the human spirit and that to be free, man needed to Écrasez l’infame! (Crush the horrible thing!)—his famous anti-religious slogan.
Voltaire’s Famous Candide
Voltaire’s most famous work is Candide (1759), which he was inspired to write following an earthquake that completely leveled the city of Lisbon in 1755. Voltaire was particularly struck by the story of a group of parishioners who, following the earthquake, went back into their church to give thanks to God for sparing their lives, only to have the weakened foundations of the church collapse on them. One of the false stereotypes concerning the Enlightenment is that it was fundamentally optimistic. Candide is a deeply pessimistic work, as young Candide and his traveling companions meet with one disaster after another. The book basically touts the idea that humans cannot expect to find contentment by connecting themselves with a specific philosophical system. Instead, the best one can hope for is a sort of private, inner solace, or as Voltaire put it, “one must cultivate one’s own garden.”
Voltaire became an intellectual celebrity across Europe following his involvement in the case of Jean Calas, a French Protestant who was falsely accused of murdering his son after learning that the son was planning to convert to Catholicism. In 1762, the Parlement of Toulouse ordered Calas’s execution, and he was brutally tortured to death. In the following year, Voltaire published his Treatise on Toleration and pushed for a reexamination of the evidence. By 1765, the authorities reversed their decision, and while it was obviously too late to aid the unfortunate Calas, Voltaire was able to use the case as a lynchpin in his fight against religious dogmatism and intolerance, one of the greatest legacies of the Enlightenment.
Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689–1755), wrote what was perhaps the most influential work of the Enlightenment, Spirit of the Laws (1748). Montesquieu, who became president of the Parlement of Bordeaux, a body of nobles that functioned as the province’s law court, was, like Voltaire, inspired by the political system found in Great Britain. He incorrectly interpreted the British constitution, and in the Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu wrote of the English separation of powers among the various branches of government providing for the possibility of checks and balances, something that did not exist in the British system. In many ways Montesquieu was a political conservative who did not believe in a republic—which he associated with anarchy—but rather wanted France to reestablish aristocratic authority as a means of placing limits on royal absolutism.
In an earlier work, Persian Letters (1721), Montesquieu critiques his native France through a series of letters between two Persians traveling in Europe. To avoid royal and church censorship, Montesquieu executed a deeply satirical work that attacked religious zealotry, while also implying that despite the differences between the Islamic East and the Christian West, a universal system of justice was necessary. Another aspect of Montesquieu’s universal ideals was his anti-slavery sentiment; he deplored slavery as being against natural law.
Diderot and the Encyclopedia
The Encyclopédie, the brainchild of Denis Diderot (1713–1784), was one of the greatest collaborative achievements of the Enlightenment and was executed by the community of scholars known as the Republic of Letters. The Encyclopédie exemplifies the 18th-century belief that all knowledge could be organized and presented in a scientific manner. The first of 28 volumes appeared in 1751, with such luminaries as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau contributing articles. Diderot, the son of an artisan, also had a great deal of respect for those who worked with their hands and included articles on various tools and the ways in which they made people more productive.
The Encyclopédie was also important for spreading Enlightenment ideas beyond the borders of France; copies were sent to places as far away as Russia, Scandinavia, and American shores, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin purchased their own sets. In various parts of Europe, the work was attacked by the censors, particularly in places like Italy where the Catholic Church was highly critical of what it viewed as thinly veiled attacks on its religious practices. In France, the work was at various times placed under the censor’s ban, because it was highly critical of monarchical authority. Ironically, Diderot had to turn to the throne for protection of his copyright when printers published pirated copies.
Enlightenment thought did not consist of a single intellectual strand. The work of Rousseau (1712–1778) provides one of the best examples of this fact. He lived a deeply troubled and solitary existence. At one point or another antagonized many of the other leading philosophes, including Voltaire, who hated Rousseau’s championing of emotion over reason. Rousseau was perhaps the most radical of the philosophes. Unlike many of the philosophes who believed in a constitutional monarchy as the best form of government, Rousseau believed in the creation of a direct democracy. Although during his lifetime his works were not widely read, following Rousseau’s death, his ideas became far more influential, and many of the leading participants in the more radical stages of the French Revolution studied his work.
His greatest achievement, The Social Contract (1762), begins with the classic line: “All men are born free, but everywhere they are in chains.” He once again differed from many of the other philosophes, however, in that he had little faith in the individual’s potential to use reason as a means of leading a more satisfactory life. Instead, Rousseau explained that the focus needed to be placed on reforming the overall community, because only through the individual’s attachment to a larger society could the powerless people hope to achieve much of anything. Sovereignty would be expressed in this ideal society not through the will of the king but rather via the general will of the populace; only by surrendering to this general will could the individual hope to find genuine freedom.
Rousseau and Romanticism
Rousseau helped set the stage for the Romantic Movement of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His pedagogical novel Émile (1762) deals with a young man who receives an education that places higher regard on developing his emotions over his reason. To achieve this, the character Émile is encouraged to explore nature as a means of heightening his emotional sensitivity. Rousseau was also important for emphasizing the differences between children and adults. He argued that there were stages of development during which the child needed to be allowed to grow freely without undue influence from the adult world.
THE SPREAD OF ENLIGHTENMENT THOUGHT
Although originally rooted in France, over the course of the 18th century, the Enlightenment spread to other parts of Europe.
The greatest figure of the German Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), argued in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) against the idea that all knowledge was empirical, since the mind shapes the world through its unique experiences. Like Rousseau, Kant emphasized that other, possibly hidden, layers of knowledge exist beyond the knowledge that could be achieved through the use of reason. This idea served to inspire a generation of Romantic artists who felt stifled by the application of pure reason.
In Italy, Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794), in his work On Crimes and Punishment (1764), called for a complete overhaul in the area of jurisprudence. For Beccaria, it was clear that those who were accused of perpetrating crimes should also be allowed certain basic rights, and he argued against such common practices of the day as the use of torture to gain admissions of guilt as well as the application of capital punishment. Beccaria’s work can be seen as part of the overall theme of humanitarianism found in the Enlightenment, which extended from such areas as the push to end flogging in the British navy to the call for better treatment of animals.
One of the most vibrant intellectual centers of the 18th century was Scotland, a place that hitherto had not been at the center of European intellectual life. The philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) pushed his thinking further than French deists and delved directly into the world of atheism. In Inquiry into Human Nature, Hume cast complete doubt on revealed religion, arguing that no empirical evidence supported the existence of those miracles that stood at the heart of Christian tradition.
Another Scottish author, Edward Gibbon (1737–1794), reflected the growing interest in history that was first seen during the Enlightenment with his monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His work criticized Christianity in that he viewed its rise within the Roman Empire as a social phenomenon rather than a divine interference. He also asserted that Christianity weakened the vibrancy of the Empire and contributed to its fall.
The Scottish Enlightenment also made a huge impact on economic thought through the work of Adam Smith (1723–1790), a professor at the University of Glasgow. In 1776, Smith published Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, in which he argued against mercantilism, a term that refers to the system of navigation acts, tariffs, and monopolies that stood as the economic underpinnings for most of the nations of Europe. Smith became associated with the concept of laissez-faire, literally to “leave alone,” as he argued that individuals should be free to pursue economic gain without being restricted by the state. Rather than producing economic anarchy, such a system would be self-regulating, as if controlled by an invisible hand, which would lead to the meeting of supply and demand. Smith’s thinking proved influential for both the Manchester School of economists in England and the Physiocrats in France.
WOMEN AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT
Women figured prominently in the Enlightenment; most of the Parisian salons were organized by women. At times, these wealthy and aristocratic individuals would use their social and political connections to help the philosophes avoid trouble with the authorities or perhaps aid them in receiving some sort of government sinecure to allow them greater freedom to work. Perhaps surprisingly, given the great help that women proffered to the philosophes, these male thinkers for the most part were not tremendous advocates of the rights and abilities of women. The Encyclopédie barely bothered to address the condition of women, although the work may never have reached the reading public without the aid of the Marquise de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress, who played a critical role in helping Diderot avoid censorship.
Some writers were more sympathetic to women’s issues than others. Montesquieu, in his Persian Letters, included a discussion of the restrictive nature of the Eastern harem, which by implication, was a criticism of the treatment of women in western Europe. Rousseau, on the other hand, while a radical on many issues, was an advocate of the idea that men and women occupied separate spheres and that women should not be granted an equal education to men. By the end of the century, inspired partially by the French Revolution and partially by the Enlightenment, the Englishwoman Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) wrote in her Vindication of the Rights of Women that women should enjoy the right to vote as well as to hold political office, the first openly published statement of such ideas.
THAT’S A LOT OF NAMES, HUH?
Many AP European History students struggle with the sheer volume of ideas and thinkers during the Age of Enlightenment. Check out this handy graphic to help you review who said what and hailed from where.
EUROPEAN POWERS IN THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT
The 18th century witnessed a number of significant developments for the European nation-states. Two major powers, Prussia and Russia, emerged over the course of the century, while Austria, France, and Great Britain adjusted to changing political, economic, and social circumstances.
The century would also be noteworthy for the monarchs who sought to govern using ideas taken from the writings of the French philosophes. Rulers such as Catherine the Great of Russia, Joseph II of Austria, and Frederick II of Prussia are generally referred to as “Enlightened Absolutists.” They could safely toy with the ideas of the philosophes without threatening their own power because most of the philosophes were not republicans but were believers in monarchical authority (although they felt that the power of the monarchy should be wielded in a more rational manner). These monarchs found that the writings of the philosophes on economics and education could mesh with their own desires to enhance the power of their states within the community of European nations and their personal authority within the state. What made this even more appealing for these Enlightened Absolutists was that this would be achieved at the expense of those elements in society, such as the nobility or the Church, that had previously stood in the way of this centralizing tendency.
Prussia and Austria
It is perhaps rather surprising that Prussia emerged in the 18th century as one of the dominant European powers and a rival to Austria for hegemony in Germany. In the 17th century, Prussia was a poor German state that was devastated by various marauding armies during the Thirty Years’ War, although in the Peace of Westphalia, which marked the end of the conflict, Prussia did receive some minor territorial gains. Relatively poor agricultural land and labor shortages led to the establishment of serfdom by the 16th century. This led to the state receiving some badly needed support from the Prussian nobility, the Junkers, who looked to the ruler to ensure control over their serfs.
The first ruler to tap into whatever potential the Prussian state possessed was Frederick William (r. 1640–1688), often referred to as the “Great Elector” because in his capacity as ruler of Brandenburg, he served as one of the electors of the Holy Roman Emperor. Because his state consisted of three noncontiguous chunks of land without natural borders, Frederick William wanted to build an army. As he was without significant resources of his own, he worked out an agreement with the Junkers, according to which they would provide him with revenue in exchange for his acceptance of their control over the serfs. This was the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship between the Prussian monarchy and the Junkers, who found that Frederick’s expanded army offered them the opportunity to leave their poor agricultural lands and engage in more appealing careers as officers. The Great Elector left his son Frederick III (r. 1688–1713) a well-organized army, an expanded territorial base, and arguably the most efficient civil service in all of Europe. Frederick III was to take this inheritance and make Prussia into a kingdom in 1701, gaining the title of King Frederick I.
Prussian power would reach its zenith in the 18th century with the reign of Frederick the Great (r. 1740–1786). Frederick is often cited as an example of an enlightened absolutist because he was fascinated by the intellectual current from France. At his palace of Sans Souci, Frederick established a glittering intellectual center, where Voltaire would live for a time and where the king himself participated by writing philosophical tracts, which may have led Voltaire to make an early exit from the court. Frederick freed the serfs on the royal estates, though to ensure the continual support of the Junker class he refused to emancipate the serfs living on private estates. He also brought an end to capital punishment and limited the use of corporal punishment on serfs, though he did not emancipate the Jews living within his kingdom. Like his royal colleagues who have received the label of enlightened absolutists, Frederick used the rational thought of the age as a tool for greater royal centralization and absolutism, rather than as a means of ensuring individual rights or establishing participatory political institutions.
A more thoroughgoing series of reforms inspired by the Enlightenment took place in Austria, where the Empress Maria Theresa pushed a series of reforms that removed some of the hardships that had been placed on the serf population. Her son Joseph II (r. 1765–1790) was impressed with the idea of religious toleration, mainly because he wished to reduce the power of the Catholic Church within his own domains. He viewed the Church as hostile to his plan for greater centralized authority. In 1781, he issued the first of a series of Edicts of Toleration granting Jews, Lutherans, and Calvinists freedom of worship. Civil liabilities were still left in place for Jews—while Protestants could enter into the Habsburg civil service, Jews were still barred and were forced to pay special taxes for the right to worship. Joseph antagonized his aristocracy by making them responsible for taxes and by abolishing serfdom. Following his death in 1790, his brother and heir, Leopold II (r. 1790–1792), was forced to back away from some of Joseph’s enlightened policies in order to put an end to a series of aristocratic and peasant revolts.
Unfortunately, when they were not perusing the writings of the philosophes, the rulers of Prussia and Austria were often engaged in violent conflict. The roots of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748) began during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI (r. 1711–1740). Because he lacked a male heir, Charles IV pushed the other European states to accept what was known as the Pragmatic Sanction, allowing for the assorted Habsburg lands under his control to remain intact under one ruler and granting the right of a female to succeed to the throne of Austria if there was no direct male heir.
When Charles died without leaving a son, his daughter Maria Theresa came to the throne. While both France and Prussia had promised to respect the Pragmatic Sanction, both nations viewed the death of Charles as an opportunity to gain territory at the expense of the Austrians. Frederick immediately launched an attack to seize Silesia, the richest part of the Austrian empire at the northeastern border of Bohemia. Regaining Silesia was to prove impossible for Maria Theresa, but with the help of Hungarian nobility, which had agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction in exchange for recognition of Hungary as an independent kingdom, she was able to put down a dangerous revolt in Bohemia and remain on the throne.
The conflict became a general European war. Austria gainied support from Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and eventually Great Britain, which feared French territorial gains in the Austrian Netherlands. Opposing them was an alliance made up of Prussia, France, and Spain. By the time the war came to a close in 1748 with the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the Austrian throne was ultimately saved for the Habsburgs. (Because women remained ineligible to head the Holy Roman Empire, Maria Theresa’s husband was to hold that position as Emperor Francis I.)
One result of the war was that Prussia emerged as a German state and a major rival to Austria. Understanding that Prussia, under its aggressive King Frederick, would continue to be a threat, in 1756, Maria Theresa’s able foreign minister, Count Kaunitz, brought about what became known as the Diplomatic Revolution (or reversal of alliances) by working out an alliance with France, the traditional enemy of the Austrian Habsburgs and a state that was increasingly wary of growing Prussian power. France also demanded the Austrian Netherlands as their price for this alliance. Sweden and Russia signed on as part of an alliance that increasingly looked as if it would result in significant territorial gains at the expense of the Prussians.
The other side of this Diplomatic Revolution was that Great Britain broke off its ties with Austria and became allies with Prussia, and while the British did not contribute men to the war on the continent, their financial subsidies were vital in enabling Frederick to continue fighting. The Diplomatic Revolution led directly to the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), which started when Frederick launched an attack in 1756 in order to quickly put down his enemies before they had an opportunity to form a cohesive military plan to defeat Prussia. Initially, the bold Prussian plan paid off as Frederick first defeated a French and then an Austrian army, but disaster struck when a massive Russian army arrived from the east and took Frederick’s capital of Berlin. Only the crowning of a new Russian tsar, Peter III, in 1762 staved off the complete destruction of the Prussian state, because Peter, an admirer of Frederick, wanted no part in the conflict and brought his army home. So Frederick, by preserving the Prussian state, was the clear winner on the continent, while his British allies had won a series of tremendous victories overseas against the French, particularly in the French and Indian War, resulting in the confiscation of French colonies in India and Canada.
Until the 18th century, Russia remained largely closed off to western Europe as a result of the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Some trade did exist; for instance, Elizabethan England imported Russian timber for the building of ships, but for the most part Russia was not affected by developments in the West, most notably missing out on the humanistic culture of the Italian Renaissance.
By the 16th century, the Duchy of Muscovy would emerge as the dominant state within the Russian steppe, an area that had absorbed a number of other rival states while pushing the Mongols back to the east. During the reign of the appropriately named Ivan the Terrible (r. 1533–1584), there was a significant expansion of the territory under the control of Muscovy, while Ivan also sought, often through staggeringly violent means, to gain control over a recalcitrant nobility. Following his death in 1584, Russia entered into the period known as the “Time of Troubles,” which lasted until the selection of a tsar from the Romanov family in 1603, the dynasty that would continue to rule Russia until the Revolution of 1917.
The individual who did the most to transform the Russian state into a major European power was Peter the Great (r. 1682–1725). As a young man, Peter traveled to the West where he became fascinated by the work done in Dutch shipyards and other examples of Western technology. Upon his return to Russia, Peter was determined to Westernize his backward state. Peter expanded the revenue available to the monarchy by imposing head taxes on Russian serfs while also establishing monopolies on essential commodities such as salt. Peter used this expanded revenue to follow the lead of the absolutist states in Europe and establish a centralized bureaucracy. In order to ensure the loyalty of his nobility as well as use them for governance, Peter established a Table of Ranks, in which all positions in the state had graduated rankings, which also provided an opportunity for commoners to rise up the ranks and reach a coveted position as a noble. Just as in Prussia, the nobility were to be used as an essential tool of royal absolutism. In keeping with his desire to keep a “window to the West,” Peter established the eponymous city of St. Petersburg in 1703. The city was built on what seemed to be unpromising marsh land, and thousands of serf laborers would lose their lives in the building of a grand city with architecture that mimicked the newest styles from France.
At the start of World War I, many of the Russian officers had German names, the descendents of the Western military experts that Peter invited to Russia to help him establish a standing army. To ensure that he had enough soldiers, Peter conscripted serfs to serve in his force for the interminable period of twenty years. Peter also built the first Russian navy. Peter used his army to greatly expand Russian territory, and in achieving this goal, he was fortunate that his state was becoming more powerful at the same time that the major states on his borders, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania, were in relative decline. Most notably, he defeated the Swedes in the Great Northern War (1700–1721), which marked the end of the brief period going back to the age of Gustavus Adolphus in the 17th century when Sweden was a great European power.
The westward outlook of Russia during the reign of Peter would continue under his successors. Western thought, particularly the writings of the French philosophes, would play a role in inspiring the reign of Catherine the Great (r. 1762–1796). While the story of Catherine and the horse is most likely the stuff of legend, she was a robust, sexually active woman who read Montesquieu and Voltaire and toyed with ways to apply their ideas to her still semi-barbaric state. Catherine began the process of revising and codifying Russian law, but for the most part, she only dabbled with bringing about actual reform. Once she became convinced later on in her reign that enlightened thought could pose a challenge to her monarchy, she dropped the idea entirely. While few practical results stemmed from Catherine’s infatuation with Enlightenment thought, it did help establish the primacy of French culture and ideas among the Russian aristocracy.
Before he ascended to the throne of Spain, Charles III (r. 1759-1788) was the well-regarded King of Naples. Having studied the essays of Benito Feijóo, Spain’s foremost Enlightenment thinker, Charles embarked to bring about reforms that echoed Feijóo’s challenges to the more orthodox teachings of the Catholic Church. One of Charles’s first standoffs with the Church came in 1735 when Pope Clement XII refused to recognize Charles’s legitimacy as King of Naples. Naples was seen by the Church as just another region under control of the Papal States; accordingly, the Church considered the pope the one and only authority in this kingdom.
When Pope Clement died and was replaced by Pope Benedict XIV in 1740, Charles seized the opportunity to assert his firm belief that the Church should hold no special authority in his kingdom. Benito Feijóo’s writings that rejected the harsh orthodoxy of the Church came into practice as Charles negotiated a concordat with Pope Benedict to tax church officials and hold them equal under the law. In 1759, Charles III ascended to the Spanish throne following the death of his brother. Charles was determined to continue his Enlightenment-inspired reforms, which included laws from banning bullfighting to protecting free trade to developing roads and canals. In Spain, Charles continued his goal of limiting the Church’s power in his sovereign state. He was able to decrease the number of clergy, who many Spanish felt were not contributing adequately to society. At the same time, due to the respect garnered by the Spanish Enlightenment philosophers, the Inquisition was increasingly viewed largely as an antiquated mission.
The story of Poland in the 18th century consists of the complete eradication of a nation that had previously played a critical role in the affairs of central Europe. The traditional starting date for the history of Poland is 966, when Prince Mieszko, who was to be the founder of a dynasty (Piast) that would rule Poland for four centuries, accepted Roman Catholicism, firmly tying Poland to the culture of western Europe. Vulnerable to attacks due to a lack of natural borders, the Poles in the Middle Ages had to deal with threats from the Mongols from the east as well as the Teutonic Knights from the west. In order to deal with the threat from the crusading order, a new dynasty was established in 1385 (Jagiellon) through uniting Poland with Lithuania, when the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jagiello, the ruler of the last pagan state in Europe, married the Polish Queen Jadwiga. This newly created Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth met its initial goal of defeating the Teutonic Knights by securing an important victory at the Battle of Grunwald (Germans refer to it as the Battle of Tannenberg.).
The fatal flaw for the Polish-Lithuanian state was the failure to create a strong, centralized government in the face of a recalcitrant nobility that feared the loss of authority. By the end of the 16th century, the nobles had greatly weakened the crown by making it an elective position and often selecting foreign princes to further ensure it would remain a weak title. This policy became increasingly dangerous in the 17th century, as new threats appeared from the Swedes and the Russians. The Polish-Lithuanian state still remained a significant player in Europe up until the end of the century, when King Jan Sobieski played a critical role in driving the Turks from the gates of Vienna in 1683, but by the middle of the 18th century, Poland was so weak that it maintained its independence only by the good graces of Russia. Poland’s luck ran out, however, eventually resulting in the loss of a great deal of land.
When Poniatowski became king in 1764, he displayed an independent streak that Catherine the Great did not expect from her former lover. This did not bode well for Poniatowski’s attempt to move the nation’s political system in a more centralized direction, an attempt that was met with displeasure by all of Poland’s neighbors. In 1772, Russia, Prussia, and Austria forced Poland to accept a partition that cost Poland 30 percent of its territory. In some ways, this first partition provided the nudge for Poland to finally get its political house in order. Influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, in 1791, the Polish-Lithuanian parliament (Sejm) produced Europe’s first written constitution. The constitution, which was never fully implemented (although it remained a beacon for later generations of Polish reformers), angered many nobles who saw their influence reduced as well as Poland’s neighbors who feared a national revival. The anti-Poniatowski nobles applied to the Russians for assistance, and Catherine, with the aid of Prussia, was more than willing to intercede.
Russia and Prussia insisted on the removal of the constitution and also carried out the Second Partition in 1793. This led to the loss of vast lands in the eastern part of the nation and reduced Poland to a rump state. In a heroic, last ditch effort to retain statehood, a Polish revolt broke out in 1794 under the military leadership of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who had fought with distinction in the American Revolution. Overwhelmed by more powerful enemies, Poniatowski was forced to abdicate, and a third and final partition took place in 1795, wiping Poland off the map. Despite the best hopes of Polish nationalists throughout the 19th century, an independent Polish state would only be revived in the aftermath of World War I.
After the turmoil of the 17th century, Great Britain became the most stable nation in Europe in the 18th century. The triumph of Parliament in its struggle against Stuart absolutism put Great Britain in a position of political stability that would provide one of the critical foundations for the establishment of a vast overseas empire, as well as the industrial transformation that would begin by the middle of the century.
With the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the throne passed to George I (r. 1714–1721), the ruler of the German state of Hanover, whose sole qualification was that he was a Protestant cousin of the late queen. Like his son George II (r. 1727–1760), he was far happier spending time in Hanover, where he could reign as an unquestioned absolutist, rather than having to deal with the independent-minded British Parliament. While there is a historical debate over the strength of support within Great Britain for the Stuart cause, the 18th century did experience two pro-Stuart revolts, in 1715 and 1745, the latter one famous for the involvement of “Bonnie Prince Charles,” who saw his dream of being restored to the throne dashed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
While it was clear that after 1688 the Houses of Parliament would dominate political life within the country, how that power was to be utilized in an efficient manner remained one of the significant questions in the early part of the 18th century. The most significant development in this regard was the evolution of the office of prime minister, which, while not officially recognized until 1905, became a political reality in all but name during Robert Walpole’s tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1721 to 1741. The fact that both George I and George II were less than attentive to British domestic politics meant that Walpole had a free hand to mold the political system to his advantage. Walpole used a complex system of political patronage to maintain his control over the House of Commons. This support in the lower house became the vital component for ministerial power, and when Walpole lost that support in 1741 over a conflict over the direction of British foreign policy, he resigned his post as Chancellor of the Exchequer even though he still enjoyed the support of George II.
Another development that shaped British politics in the 18th century was the formation of two parliamentary blocks: Tories and Whigs. While Tories stood for the prerogative rights of the monarch and support of the Church of England, the Whigs were more closely allied to the spirit of the Revolution of 1688 and the idea of religious tolerance. When George III (r. 1760–1820) came to the throne, he claimed that he wanted the throne to rise above party strife, though Edmund Burke in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent (1770) argued that parties were essential to parliamentary government and were a fundamental component for political stability. George III’s desire to choose his own chief minister during the first ten years of his reign remained problematic until Lord North assumed the mantle of chief minister in 1770 and held the position for the next twelve years.
The problems stemming from the first ten years of George III’s rule were to have important consequences as the colonists in the thirteen American colonies became increasingly restless, laying the groundwork for the American Revolution. The British government ended the Seven Years’ War with a tremendous victory over the French but also with an enormous deficit. In order to pay for the increasing costs of administering their far-flung empire, the British government looked for new sources of revenue. The passage of the Stamp Act in 1765, during the ministry of George Grenville, was probably a mistake, because it ticked off the two groups in society you don’t want to anger: publishers and lawyers. While the British government continued to assert its right to tax the colonists as it pleased, the colonists responded that without parliamentary representation, no taxes could ever be acceptable. By 1774, American anger at what was viewed as high-handed British policies led to the establishment of the First Continental Congress, with open hostilities breaking out the following year at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Eighteenth-century wars seemingly always brought about curious alliances, and the Americans were eventually to win their independence by 1783 with the help of France and Spain, with both states seeking to deliver a major blow to the British as payback for the Seven Years’ War.
The struggle for independence by the American colonists also helped to inspire a movement for parliamentary reform in Great Britain. Voting in 18th-century Britain was primarily the prerogative of the landed classes, but there were plenty of anomalies in the system. For example, there was a fairly wide franchise in London, but in other areas there were “rotten” boroughs, such as Old Sarum, where no one had lived since the Middle Ages but which still duly provided two members to the House of Commons. The parliamentary reform movement was to emerge as a significant factor in British political life in the 1780s. But by 1792, the advent of the French Revolution and, more specifically, its increasing violence and radicalism brought about a backlash against political reform in Great Britain, so that any expansion of suffrage would have to wait until the Great Reform Bill of 1832.
Wilkes and Liberty
In 1763, John Wilkes, a member of the House of Commons and part-time pornographer, was arrested for publishing a satirical attack on George III in his paper The North Briton. This event provided an outlet for those Englishmen, who, by shouting “Wilkes and Liberty” in the streets, saw the possibility of bringing about what they viewed to be much needed reforms in the political system, including greater freedom of the press and an expansion of suffrage.
Perhaps not surprising given the increased power of the throne during the reign of Louis XIV, a backlash against royal absolutism set in during the following century. Compared to its fellow absolutist states in central and eastern Europe, French absolutism seemed to hardly deserve the term at times, but for some Frenchmen, particularly those influenced by Enlightenment thought, the powers of the crown were seen as increasingly despotic.
An opportunity to challenge the throne came about at the middle of the century, when a papal decree attacked the Jansenists, a Catholic sect that held beliefs on predestination that were similar to the Calvinist point of view. Louis XV (r. 1714–1774) wished to support the papal decree and ban the group, but found himself blocked by the various provincial parlements, law courts primarily made up of nobles who had the prerogative right of registering royal edicts before they could be enforced. Many of those who sat in these parlements, while opposed to Jansenist teachings, also opposed registering the edicts because they felt it was emblematic of royal despotism.
During the long reign of Louis XV, the financial troubles of the monarchy increased, particularly as a result of the disastrous Seven Years’ War, but once again, the parlements stood in the way of any significant reform in the revenue system. Finally, in frustration, Louis XV abolished the parlements, but Louis XVI (r. 1774–1792) felt forced to bring them back in an attempt to curry favor with the nobility. The recalcitrance of the parlements in allowing the establishment of a more rational revenue system was to play a significant role in bringing France to the point of revolution by 1789.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
||Pre-revolutionary period (Ancien Régime)
||Liberal phase (Constitutional Monarchy)
||Moderate Republic (Girondins)
||Radical Republic (Jacobins)
||Directory (Moderate Republic)
Background to the Revolution: The Ancient Régime
Under different circumstances, Louis XVI might have made a decent constitutional monarch. He possessed the two main qualities needed for success in that job—he was rather kind and quite stupid. Unfortunately, France at this time was an absolute monarchy, and Louis’s personal limitations were significant. Louis was not helped by the tremendous unpopularity of his wife, Marie Antoinette, an Austrian princess who was extremely unhappy with her marriage to the sexually impotent Louis; theirs was an arranged marriage meant to aid relations between France and Austria. Rumors regarding acts of infidelity on her part continued to plague the monarchy and helped to widen the gap between the court and the rest of the country.
The major problem facing the monarchy was financial. France was not bankrupt in 1789, although the same could not be said for the French monarchy. Throughout the 18th century, the country had been at war, mostly with Great Britain, a conflict that dated back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The ignoble defeat of French forces in the Seven Years’ War and the more successful involvement of French forces in the American Revolution helped exacerbate the financial difficulties facing the monarchy. The debt grew so large that interest and payments on the debt absorbed slightly more than half the annual budget. While all European nations in the 18th century had racked up large debts, and by comparison the French debt was not particularly onerous given the great wealth of France, the problem was that the French monarchy was unable to tap into the wealth of the nation.
In the 17th century, the French monarchy, in an attempt to pacify a potentially rebellious nobility, had basically granted the nobility freedom from most taxation. It would be the task of Louis XVI (r. 1774–1792) to try to convince the nobility to give up their cherished tax-free status. This meant that Louis, a weak man, would have to break the back of the Paris and regional parlements, royal law courts that claimed the right of judicial review of all royal edicts, therefore empowering them to veto any attempt to tax the nobility. These parlements had gained influence throughout the 18th century and were a bastion of aristocratic intransigence on the taxation question.
The Calling of the Estates-General and the Demand for a National Assembly
By 1787, the financial situation grew so bad that Louis XVI called an Assembly of Notables made up of leading aristocrats and churchmen to see if they would willingly pay a new land tax that would apply to all, regardless of social status. The notables at the meeting refused to consider the tax and instead demanded that they be granted a greater share in governing the nation. This refusal by the nobility marks the start of the process by which France would be enveloped by the Revolution. Ironically, it is the nobles who set the stage for their own downfall with their demand for the Estates-General, an institution from medieval times that consisted of a three-house body made up of clergy (the first estate), nobility (the second estate), and commons (the third estate). “Commons” referred to everyone from bourgeoisie to peasants who were neither clergy nor nobility. Traditionally, each house received one vote, so the clergy and nobility dominated the proceedings. The notables assumed that calling the Estates-General, which had last met in 1614, would be an effective means of ensuring that the monarchy would not implement any economic reform that would place limits on their privileges. It also ensured that the bourgeoisie would not be able to limit the rights of the nobility.
By 1788, Louis XVI decided that in the following year he would call the Estates-General. To the chagrin of the conservative nobles, the question of the assembly’s voting structure immediately arose. Increasingly, writers began to declare that the Third Estate, consisting of all nonclergy and nonaristocracy (the majority of Frenchmen), was the true embodiment of the political will of the nation. Though the clergy were officially the First Estate, many simple parish priests felt more aligned with the Third Estate. Indeed, the most famous pamphlet from this period was written by the Abbé Siéyès (1748–1836), an obscure lower clergyman, who wrote:
What is the Third Estate? Everything.
What has it been in the political order up to the present? Nothing.
What does it ask? To become something.
By the end of 1788, the king agreed to double the number of representatives to the Third Estate, which meant little since voting would still be cast by each estate as a unit and not as individuals. Since no one has ever followed Shakespeare’s sage advice on what to do with lawyers, a large portion of the 600 members of the Third Estate were from that profession. No peasants attended the sessions, which would be held in the very home of royal absolutism—Versailles.
This sense of wanting change but ultimately not knowing what direction this change should take can be seen in the thousands of cahiers de doléances, or lists of grievances, that were presented to the king by the various electoral assemblies at the start of the meeting of the Estates-General. Many of these documents survive, and they reveal an assortment of grievances, such as the demand for a tax system that would be more equitable and the call for regular meetings of the Estates-General, along with some more practical notions, such as the need to limit the size of sheep herds, because their bad breath was destroying French pastures. While many of the cahiers de doléances demanded a lessening of royal absolutism, all were loyal to the idea of monarchy and to the concept that the monarchy would continue to lead the French state. Many believed that abuses would be promptly rectified if only the king knew of them.
May 5, 1789, marked the first day of the meeting of the Estates-General. Immediately, Louis XVI angered the members of the Third Estate by keeping them waiting for several hours as he formally received the credentials of members of the first two estates. Since it was clear that the king would not compromise on voting as individuals, the members of the Third Estate delayed formally submitting their credentials for several weeks. On June 17, in a momentous decision, the Third Estate declared that it would not meet as a medieval estate based on social status but instead would only assemble before the King as a national assembly representing the political will of the entire French nation, including representatives from all three estates.
From this point on, things moved rapidly. The First Estate, although it included great clerics like the Bishop of Paris who were a part of the nobility, also included those simple parish priests who saw themselves as having more in common with the members of the Third Estate. These parish priests voted to join the Third Estate and to meet as a national assembly. Rumors began to swirl that the king was preparing to take action against leading members of the Third Estate, and they also found that their meeting hall was closed off. In one of the famous scenes from the Revolution, members of the Third Estate gathered at a tennis court on the grounds of Versailles and, in what became known as the Tennis Court Oath, promised to continue to meet “until the constitution of the kingdom is established and consolidated upon solid foundations.” In response, the king granted a number of concessions, such as promising to periodically call the Estates-General and to drop some of the more onerous taxes on the Third Estate. Just one year earlier, such acts would have been greatly welcomed, but by this point, the king’s small concessions were “too little, too late.” Finally, on June 27, a desperate Louis XVI formally agreed to the consolidation of all three estates into a new national assembly.
The Storming of the Bastille and the Great Fear
The implications from these momentous events would extend far beyond the confines of Versailles. Indeed, the Revolution was about to see the first incident of violence. In Paris, panic began to set in as people continued to try to cope with a shortage of food that many blamed on the rapacious nobility and the acts of hoarders. The populace believed the rumors that the king was not interested in meeting with the National Assembly and was instead organizing troops that would be used to scatter the National Assembly and to reestablish royal absolutism. This created a panic in Paris as people searched for weaponry to defend themselves against the royal troops.
There is an ongoing debate among historians as to whether the crowds that gathered around the Bastille, a fortress prison in Paris famous as a symbol of royal despotism because it had held critics of the monarchy, were there spontaneously or whether they were organized by bourgeois (or middle class) elements. Regardless, the crowd of around 80,000 demanded the surrender of the fortress so they could confiscate the arms they believed were inside. Although the rebels promised safe passage to the small garrison inside, the crowd eventually surrounded them, cut off the head of the commander of the troops, and marched around the city with his head on a pike. When Louis heard about the storming of his fortress he asked, “Is this a revolt?” In response he was told, “No sire, it is a revolution.”
Once again, Louis quickly made concessions. He sent away some of the troops that he had possibly planned to use to disperse the National Assembly. He formally recognized the Commune of Paris, the new municipal government that would come to play a pivotal role in the later stages of the Revolution. He also agreed to the formation of a National Guard under the leadership of the Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), who was already known as a champion of liberty because of his involvement in the American Revolution.
In the countryside, things also began to spiral out of control. Just as rumors had spurred on events in Paris, rumors in the countryside brought about further changes in the direction of the Revolution. For the peasants, the decade of the 1780s had been a period of poor harvests. This, combined with a crushing tax burden, had resulted in a resentful and fearful peasantry. A general panic set in known as the Great Fear, which consisted of rumors that the nobility was using the increasingly anarchical situation both at Versailles and in Paris to organize groups of thugs to steal from the peasants. In response, peasants began to attack some of the great noble estates, carefully burning documents that verified some of their old manorial obligations.
The Great Fear contributed to one of the most remarkable moments in the Revolution. On August 4, 1789, aristocrats in the National Assembly decided that the only way to halt the violence in the countryside was by renouncing their feudal rights. In a highly emotional scene, aristocrat after aristocrat stood up—some sincerely, others out of peer pressure—to renounce those rights that had made them a separate caste in French society. Peasants were no longer obligated to work on the local lord’s land, nor were they barred from fishing in common streams or hunting in the forests, restrictions that the hungry peasantry found particularly onerous. As a result of the events of August 4, all the people of France were subject to the same laws and obligations to society.
The Constitutional Monarchy
Because there was no time to write a constitution, the National Assembly decided to put forward a document that would declare the rights of the new French citizen. Lafayette, aided by Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, one of the most influential documents in European history. Using the language of the Enlightenment, the work declared that political sovereignty did not rest in the hands of a monarch but rather in the nation at large. It also stated that all citizens were equal before the law and in their enjoyment of all rights and responsibilities of the society. Because all men were “born and remain free and equal in rights,” they were entitled to enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the freedom to engage in the economic activity of their choice. Befitting the bourgeois audience for whom this document was primarily intended, it also offered that property was inviolable and sacred.
Lafayette was being quite literal when he referred to the “Rights of Man.” He, like most other males, believed that women were clearly not entitled to the same rights as men because their domestic role precluded the possibility of a life beyond the household. Nevertheless, the language of liberty tugged at women’s sense of independence and by 1791, Olympe de Gouges wrote The Rights of Women, in which she argued that women should enjoy such fundamental rights as the right to be educated, to control their own property, and to initiate divorce. She did not, however, go so far as to demand full political rights for women. During this stage of the Revolution, women did gain certain rights over their property and the right to divorce, although these rights would be rolled back in the backlash that took place during the rule of the Directory and the reign of Napoleon. De Gouges herself would be executed during the Reign of Terror.
The events of the summer of 1789 had left Louis XVI unsure as to how to respond. He hesitated to accept the dramatic changes posed by the renunciation of aristocratic privileges on August 4. Although Louis vacillated, events would once again overtake him. On October 5, a large crowd of women, angry over the shortage of bread in Paris, decided to go to Versailles to meet with “the baker, the baker’s wife, and the baker’s little boy” (or as they were previously known, the royal family). At first, unsure of how to proceed, the crowd decided the surest way to hold the king to his promise to respect the decrees of the National Assembly was to escort him back to Paris where they could watch him more closely. This proved to be a pivotal decision; the king was now under the control of the people of Paris, whose revolutionary zeal far outstripped that of the rest of the country.
Another reason for the increasingly radical moves of the French revolutionaries was the steps taken by the National Assembly to control the Catholic Church in France. Part of the incentive for taking control of the Church was that the assembly now had to address the financial crisis that was initially the monarchy’s undoing and was now their responsibility. To pay for the financing of the French debt, the assembly took the very risky step of confiscating and selling the property of the Church. The assembly decided to issue assignats, government bonds that were backed by the sale of Church lands.
Along with the confiscation of the Church’s property, it was decided that the entire constitutional status of the Catholic Church needed to be altered. In July 1790, the king was forced, to his horror, to accept the passage of the Civil Constitution of the Church, legislation that basically made the Church a department of state. Bishops were to be chosen by assemblies of parish priests, who themselves were to be elected by their parishioners. Clergy were now civil servants with salaries to be paid by the state. In addition, clergy had to swear an oath of loyalty to the French state and to uphold the Civil Constitution of the Church. While these measures might have seemed appealing to earlier monarchs seeking to consolidate their power at the expense of Rome, Louis would not be choosing them himself as a divine-right prerogative, making the idea much less palatable.
In response, Pope Pius VI denounced the Civil Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. This set in motion a major 19th-century conflict, the dispute between church and state. In France, these attacks on the privileges of the Church instigated a counter-revolutionary movement composed of people who were committed to undoing what they thought was the sacrilegious treatment of their church. Counter-revolutionary reaction, royalism, and Catholicism became associated in the public mind. With the king and the National Assembly safely ensconced in Paris, steps were taken by the National Assembly to establish a workable system of government. In 1791, a constitution for France was promulgated, creating a constitutional monarchy. The king had the right to delay legislation passed by the unicameral, or single house, legislature for at most four years, although the monarch retained significant powers, including control over foreign policy and command of the army. Because the framers of the constitution feared how popular influence would affect the political process, a complex system of indirect elections was set up. The men of France were split into two different categories: active and passive citizens. Only those men who paid taxes that equaled three days of a laborer’s wages were allowed to vote for electors. Electors had to meet higher property requirements to qualify to vote for members of the assembly. Women were not given any sort of franchise, so out of a population of roughly 25 million, only 50,000 qualified as electors.
The National Assembly brought about other significant changes. The old French system of provinces was abandoned and replaced by 83 departments, which, making use of the rational spirit of the Enlightenment, were each roughly equal in size and still in use today. In a stunning development for the cause of religious liberty, Jews and Protestants were granted full political rights. Slavery, although still practiced in the colonies, was abolished in France. This led to a slave rebellion led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, a former slave, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. By 1794, slavery was abolished throughout the empire, although by that time, Haiti, the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, had broken free from France and was the first independent black state in the Caribbean.
The End of the Monarchy
By 1791, not only was there a growing counter-revolutionary movement within France, but on the borders of France resided thousands of nobles who had fled their country and were actively working to restore the ancien régime and their feudal privileges. The leader of these émigrés was the Count of Artois, the youngest brother of Louis XVI, and it was he who made the fatal decision to encourage his brother to flee France. On June 20, 1791, the royal family reached the French town of Varennes, on the border with the Netherlands, where the king was recognized and escorted back to Paris. Because the leaders of the National Assembly were still interested in maintaining the constitutional monarchy, they lied and said that the king had not fled Paris but instead had been abducted. Despite this attempt to keep Louis on the throne, the stage was set for the eventual collapse of the constitutional monarchy.
Although the new legislative assembly that was created out of the Constitution of 1791 stayed in existence for only one year, it was crucial for changing the course of the Revolution. The contentious debate within the assembly was matched by the factious debates that took place within the hundreds of political clubs that emerged throughout France. The most famous and popular of these clubs was the Jacobins, so named because they met in the Jacobin monastery in Paris. The Jacobins were represented in the National Assembly, although at this time, the Girondins faction primarily filled the leadership role in the assembly. The Girondins, named for the Gironde department in southwestern France where many in the faction came from, favored starting a revolutionary war to free from tyranny those people living in absolutist states, such as Austria and Prussia, the two nations on which France declared war in April 1792. This declaration of war ultimately sealed the fate of the royal family and helped further radicalize the Revolution.
Despite Girondin assurances that victory would be easy, the early stages of the war did not go well for France, which was forced to cope with an officer corps that was depleted by aristocratic defections. The war brought about an increasingly radical situation in Paris where the sans-culottes tried to deal with the scarce supply of bread and feelings of chagrin at being labeled passive citizens without the right to vote. They were also fearful following a manifesto issued by the Prussian commander, the Duke of Brunswick, which promised that he would destroy Paris if the royal family was harmed. In Paris, this helped create a political transformation that led to a demand for wider political participation and the establishment of a radical government, the Commune, in the city.
On August 10, a large mob of sans-culottes stormed the Tuileries palace, where the king and the queen were living, and slaughtered 600 of the king’s Swiss guards. This was followed by another act of horrendous violence. In September, following a series of defeats by French armies, around 1,200 individuals who had been arrested as potential counter-revolutionaries were slaughtered by a frenzied mob that was reacting to rumors that the prisoners were about to escape and attack French armies from behind. The Paris Commune then forced the National Assembly to call for elections for a new legislative body using universal male suffrage. This body, known as the Convention, was given the task of drawing up a new constitution ending the constitutional monarchy. Meanwhile, the military acts that had spurred on these developments began to change. The threat to Paris, which had spurred on the September massacres, ended quickly when a French army, inflamed by revolutionary passion, stopped the combined Austrian and Prussian advance at the battle of Valmy. With the Revolution apparently saved from the combined threat of foreign armies and counter-revolution, France officially became a republic on September 21, 1792, and the royal family was placed under arrest. Following the discovery of a cache of letters that Louis XVI had exchanged with his brother-in-law, the Austrian Emperor, Louis was tried and in early 1793 guillotined before a large crowd yelling for his blood.
European Reactions to the French Revolution
The French Revolution had a huge impact on the rest of Europe. For those on the continent who had been influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the events in France seemed like a breath of fresh air, and they eagerly created radical political associations of their own in places like the Italian states and the German states. At first, Austria and Prussia thought that the Revolution would be useful for bringing about the eclipse of France as the major power on the continent. They soon came to regret their initial complacency and began to see the Revolution for its potential to spread to other areas and possibly to threaten their own thrones.
In Great Britain, the immediate reaction to the fall of the Bastille and the abolition of French feudalism, along with the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, was quite friendly. For many, it appeared as if the violent rivalry between the two nations would finally come to a peaceful conclusion. William Pitt the Younger, the British Prime Minister, stated, “The present convulsions in France must sooner or later culminate in general harmony and regular order and thus circumstanced, France will stand forth as one of the most brilliant powers of Europe. She will enjoy just that kind of liberty which I venerate.” His chief political opponent, Charles Fox, was even more enthusiastic. He called the revolt “the greatest event that ever happened in the history of the world.”
Only Edmund Burke, a leading British politician attached to the Whig faction, was cautious. In 1790, he wrote Reflections on the French Revolution, which expressed his opposition to the Revolution. Burke was not against reform; he himself had been interested in the reform of certain aspects of English political life. He feared, however, that once the traditional system of deference was removed, it would dramatically alter the role of such institutions as the monarchy and the Church and eventually force would rule. To that end, he predicted that the Revolution would take a more violent direction, something that was rather prescient considering he was writing in only 1790. Burke believed that reform could take place only by keeping the present political structure and seeking to achieve evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. His work serves as the foundation piece for modern political conservatism.
Britain was eventually brought into the Europe-wide war sparked by the Revolution. By the fall of 1792, French armies, following initial setbacks, were pushing the enemy back and began to occupy territories, such as the Austrian Netherlands. They also captured much of the Rhineland and the important city of Frankfurt. Wherever French armies went they brought with them the ideas of the Revolution. Although the National Convention promised “fraternity and assistance to peoples who want to recover their liberties,” the French armies soon became more of an occupying force than liberators.
THE REIGN OF TERROR
In the Convention, the Girondins and Jacobins continued to disagree over the direction of the Revolution. The radical Jacobins sat on the left side of the hall where the Convention met on a raised platform; this seating arrangement earned them the label “the Mountain.” On the right sat the more conservative Girondins. This configuration was the origin of our modern political designations of left and right. In the middle of the hall sat those who were not directly tied to either faction; this section became known as “the Plain.” It was this group that held the key to the Revolution, because whichever side they aligned with would ultimately triumph.
While both the Girondins and the Jacobins were both considered republican, they had diverging opinions regarding some of the most pressing issues of the day. The Girondins wished to make a clean break from the absolutist government of the previous decades, while still maintaining the democratic spirit of the revolution. Toward this end, they favored exile for the king (rather than execution). When creating policies for the new French government, the Girondins pushed to maintain a degree of local autonomy instead of allowing all authority to be centralized in Paris. They were also fearful of the political influence of the sans-culottes and hoped to stem their influence by maintaining a policy of voting rights based on property ownership. With regard to the economy, the Girondins favored laissez-faire, the idea that the government should not play an active role in regulating the economy.
In contrast, the Jacobins took a more radical stance. They believed that the king was a traitor and should therefore be executed. They also felt that the only way to maintain the spirit of the revolution was through a powerful centralized government in Paris. Economically, the Jacobins argued for selective regulation of industries like the wheat trade in order to fight against wild inflation. Their policies were not specifically antagonistic toward the common people of Paris. Therefore, they garnered the increasing support of the sans-culottes, a group that would be critical to Jacobin success in the next phase of the revolution.
The spring of 1793 marked the beginning of what became known as the “Reign of Terror.” In part, it was inspired by the counter-revolutionary revolt that began in March in a western region of France known as the Vendée, a counter-revolution that was largely inspired by anger toward the restrictions placed on the Church. French armies met a major defeat that same month in the Austrian Netherlands, followed by the betrayal of their commanding officer, General Dumouriez, who fled to join the Austrians. In response to these provocations, the Convention created two committees, the Committee of General Security and the Committee of Public Safety; the latter assumed virtually dictatorial power over France throughout the following year. The leaders of the security committee included Danton, Carnot, and Robespierre, a lawyer. These men were associated with the Jacobin faction, which was becoming more influential at the expense of the Girondins. The Girondins were tainted by having made the traitor Dumouriez commander of French forces in the Netherlands and by their perceived lack of sympathy toward the Parisian masses.
The sans-culottes continued to be a useful tool for the Jacobins, and it was a mob of the former who stormed the hall where the Convention met and successfully demanded the expulsion of Girondin members. This allowed the Mountain to further consolidate its control, which had already been enhanced following the uproar in July, when Charlotte Corday, a Girondin sympathizer, stabbed to death the radical journalist Marat, a hero of the sans-culottes, while he lay in his bath. To appease the sans-culottes’ sensibilities, the Mountain-led Convention established a law of maximum prices, which placed limits on the price of bread and taxed the wealthy to pay for the war effort.
In August 1793, Lazare Carnot, the head of the military, issued his famous proclamation calling for a levée en masse, drafting the entire population for military service. This marks the first time that all citizens of a nation were called on to serve their country. According to the proclamation, men were expected to go into battle; women should “make tents and clothing and…serve in the hospitals.” Children were to “turn old linen into lint,” and the old folks were to go to public places and “arouse the courage of the warriors and preach the hatred of kings and the unity of the Republic.” The armies created out of this levée en masse proved to be surprisingly successful against the well-trained but unmotivated soldiers of Austria and Prussia, and the war once again began to turn in the French favor.
Once in power, the Jacobins worked to create what they considered to be a Republic of Virtue. To achieve this ideal, they felt that they had to obliterate all traces of the old monarchical regime. To that end they came up with a new calendar based on weeks made up of ten days. The months were renamed to reflect the seasons, and 1792, the first year of the Republic, was labeled as year one. There was also an attack on Christianity and churches, and those in power forced the removal of religious symbols from public buildings. To move people away from what he thought was the corrupting influence of the Church, Robespierre established a Cult of the Supreme Being, turning the cathedral of Notre Dame into a Temple of Reason. Most of these steps proved to be quite unpopular and eventually led to a political backlash against the Committee of Public Safety.
From the summer of 1793 to the following summer, France was embroiled by the workings of the Reign of Terror. Because the Revolution was believed to be threatened by both internal and external enemies, courtesies such as the rule of law—or fair trials—were thrown out the window. The Committee of Public Safety first began by banning political clubs and popular societies of women. Next, they executed leading Girondin politicians who were accused of being traitors, and the guillotine became a symbol of the age. In the end, around 20,000 individuals were executed. Approximately 15 percent of these were nobles and clergy; the majority were peasants who had been involved in counter-revolutionary activities.
Eventually, the Terror began to turn on those who had first set it in motion. By March 1794, under the leadership of Robespierre, the Terror had an extreme radical faction known as the Hébertists, who were violently anti-Christian and wanted to see the government implement further economic controls. Soon afterward, Danton, one of the Jacobin committee leaders, and his followers were brought to the guillotine for arguing that it was time to bring the Terror to a close. The surviving followers of Hébert and Danton were joined by members of the National Convention who feared that they were next in line for the guillotine. The end was fairly anticlimactic: On 8 Thermidor (July 26, 1794), Robespierre spoke before the Convention about the need for one more major purge. Someone in the assembly shouted “Down with the tyrant,” and for once, Robespierre seemed at a loss for words and left the building. The next day, he and his leading supporters were arrested by the Thermidorians, the label for those who were opposed to Robespierre, and after a quick trial that very same day, one hundred leading Jacobins were escorted to the guillotine.
THE DIRECTORY (1795–1799)
Following the execution of the leading members of the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety, the Thermidorians abolished the Paris Commune, a hotbed of radical sentiment, along with the Committee of Public Safety. They produced a government known as the Directory because it was led by an executive council of five men who possessed the title of director. The new constitution provided for a two-house legislature, made up of a Council of the Ancients, which discussed and voted on legislation proposed by the second house, the Council of Five Hundred.
As part of the backlash against the radical republic established by Robespierre, the franchise was limited to those men who possessed property, and only those who possessed significant property were allowed to hold public office. In general, the Directory witnessed the triumph of men of property over the sans-culottes. One sign of this was the revival of ornate dress, which members of the sans-culottes had been proud to not possess, along with the removal of all price ceilings on staples such as bread. Another part of this backlash against the radical phase of the Revolution was the attack on Jacobin club meetings by wealthy young men whose families had grown rich by providing French troops with supplies or through the confiscation of church property.
The Directory also had to be concerned with the possibility of a royalist reaction, and on 13 Vendémiaire (October 5, 1795), a royalist rebellion did break out in parts of Paris. A young general named Napoleon Bonaparte was told to put down the rebellion, and with a “whiff of grapeshot,” his cannon dispersed the rebels. The Directory had been saved, but soon it was to be destroyed by its savior.
Domestically, the Directory did little to solve the economic problems still facing the French nation, nor did it solve the ongoing conflict with the Catholic Church. Its armies, however, did meet with tremendous success on the battlefield. Among the rising generation of new French generals, the most important was Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was born in 1769 to a family of minor nobles on the island of Corsica, which had been annexed by France the year prior to his birth. He attended a French military academy, and in 1785 he was commissioned as an artillery officer.
Had it not been for the French Revolution, Napoleon would have remained a junior officer for the remainder of his military career, owing to his relatively humble birth and Corsican background. However, the Revolution offered tremendous opportunities to young men of ability, and Napoleon became a strong supporter of the Revolution and was aligned with the Jacobin faction. In 1793, after playing a major role in the campaign to retake the French port of Toulon from the British, he was made a general. Napoleon was nothing if not lucky during his career, and while other Jacobins were dragged off to the guillotine during the Thermidor reaction, Napoleon was left unscathed.
Desperate for military victories that might take the people’s minds off the dismal conditions at home, the Directory sent Napoleon to Italy. In a series of stunningly quick victories, Napoleon destroyed the combined Austrian and Sardinian armies, and before long, France controlled northern and central Italy. With the Austrians and the Prussians now out of the war, the only enemy was Great Britain. Instead of trying to cross the English Channel with an invasion force, a battle that Napoleon knew would have limited chance of success due to the powerful British navy, he decided to invade Egypt in order to cut Britain’s ties with its colony of India. Napoleon succeeded in conquering Egypt (and ushered in a new age of appreciation for ancient Egyptian civilization, in part inspired by the discovery of the Rosetta Stone). He was unable to do much with his victories on land because a British fleet under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated a French fleet at the Battle of Abukir on August 1, 1798.
Seeing that the situation in Egypt was doomed, Napoleon abandoned his army and rushed back to France where he had received word that the Directory was increasingly unstable. On 19 Brumaire (November 10, 1799), Napoleon joined the Abbé Siéyès, who at the time was one of the five Directors, staged a coup d’état, and overturned the Directory. Siéyès, who thought Napoleon could be controlled, established a new constitution with a powerful executive made up of three consuls, which included one of the sitting directors, Roger-Ducos, and Siéyès and Napoleon as the other two. One month after the coup, the politically ambitious Napoleon set up a new constitution with himself as First Consul. This structure granted universal male suffrage to satisfy republican sentiment but left Napoleon firmly in control over the real workings of the state. Using a technique that he would find increasingly useful, Napoleon staged a plebiscite (a vote by the people) for his new constitution to show popular support, and they passed it overwhelmingly.
Napoleon attempted to end some of the bitterness that had arisen out of the Revolution. A general amnesty was issued, and émigrés began to stream back to France. Since Napoleon only required that public servants be loyal to him, he was able use the talents of those Jacobins and monarchists who were willing to accept his dominance over the French state. Napoleon treated those who were not willing with brutal cruelty. He established a secret police force to root out his opponents. Following a plot on his life, Napoleon purged the Jacobins, and he kidnapped and executed the Bourbon Duke of Enghien after falsely accusing the Duke of plotting against him.
Napoleon recognized that a major problem during the course of the Revolution was the ongoing hostility of French Catholics. He himself was not religious, but he recognized that religion could be a useful tool for maintaining political stability and that the Church would continue to be important for many French people. In 1801, Napoleon created a concordat with Pope Pius VII. Basically, the settlement worked to the benefit of Napoleon. The concordat declared that “Catholicism was the religion of the great majority of the French.” The concordat did not, however, reestablish the Catholic Church as the official state religion, and it remained tolerant toward Protestants and Jews. The papacy would select bishops, but only on the recommendation of the First Consul. The state would pay clerical salaries, and all clergy had to swear an oath supporting the state. In addition, the Church gave up its claims to those lands confiscated during the Revolution. The Church was able to get Napoleon to do away with the calendar that had been established during the period of Jacobin dominance, which the Church particularly hated because it did away with Sundays and religious holidays.
Following a plebiscite in 1802 that made him Consul for Life, Napoleon set about to reform the French legal system. The Civil Code of 1804, commonly known as the Napoleonic Code, provided for a single unitary legal system for all of France, rather than the hundreds of localized codes that had been in existence under the monarchy. The code enshrined the equality of all people before the law and safeguarded the rights of property holders. Reversing the advances made by women during the Revolution, the code reaffirmed the paternalistic nature of French society. Women and children were legally dependent on their husbands and fathers. A woman could not sell or buy property without the approval of her father or husband, and divorce, while still legal, became much harder for women to obtain.
In 1804, Napoleon decided to make himself emperor. Once again, he held a plebiscite as a means of trying to show popular support, and again his wishes were overwhelmingly affirmed by vote. He invited the pope to take part in the ceremony, which took place in Notre Dame, rather than in Rheims Cathedral, the traditional place where French kings had been crowned. During the point in the ceremony at which the pope was about to place the crown on the Emperor’s head, Napoleon yanked it out of the pope’s hands and placed it on his own head and then took a second crown and placed it on the head of his wife, Josephine. Napoleon wanted to make it clear that he was Emperor of the French not based on the will of God or through accident of birth, but rather as a result of the weight of his own achievements. Napoleon also created a new aristocracy that was based on service to the state rather than birth. Members of the new aristocracy did not enjoy any special privileges before the law, nor could their titles be passed on to their children.
FRANCE AT WAR WITH EUROPE
Constant warfare was a hallmark of the reign of Napoleon. Although he is considered to be one of the geniuses in the history of warfare, in many ways his greatest skill was in taking advantage of certain developments that were taking place in 18th-century warfare. In 1792, with the levée en masse, French armies became larger than their opponents’ forces, and Napoleon became masterful at moving these large armies to outmaneuver his opponents. In part, he could do this because he could trust his highly motivated citizen-soldiers, unlike his opponents, who employed unreliable mercenaries who were given little independence on the battlefield for fear of desertion. Napoleon certainly did not invent the new lighter artillery found in the 18th century, but he skillfully recognized that this new artillery could be fully integrated with the infantry and cavalry as a very effective fighting tool. Although Napoleon supposedly said that an army “moves on its stomach,” he did little to feed those stomachs. He encouraged his men to live off the land, rather than using costly time to provide adequate provisions through the maintenance of a supply line, something that added to the great unpopularity of French occupying armies.
Although France was officially at peace with Great Britain as a result of the Treaty of Amiens (1802), Napoleon saw it only as a temporary measure as he sought for means to limit British influence. To antagonize the British, who had colonies in the Caribbean, he sent troops to Haiti, where a slave rebellion had created an independent republic. After most of the French troops died from disease, Napoleon turned his interest away from the colonies and even sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States for the paltry sum of around $15 million. Napoleon refocused on Europe and readied plans to invade England, but first the powerful Royal Navy would have to be defeated. At the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, Admiral Nelson died in the struggle that ultimately destroyed the French fleet and with it any hope of the French landing in England.
On land, however, Napoleon was in his element. Following the formation of the Third Coalition, in which Austria and Russia joined Great Britain, Napoleon set out to first destroy the Austrians, a goal which he achieved at the Battle of Ulm in October 1805, and then he won his greatest victory over a Russian force at Austerlitz. Following these battles, Napoleon decided to abolish the Holy Roman Empire and created the Confederacy of the Rhine, a loose grouping of sixteen German states that were placed under the influence of France. Ironically, just as in Italy, Napoleon’s victories in Germany resulted in the redrawing of the map, although with long-term consequences not favorable to the French nation. When the Prussians, who had previously worked out a treaty with France, saw the extent of French control over German territories, they hastily joined the Third Coalition. To punish them, Napoleon quickly gathered his forces, and at the Battle of Jena he obliterated the Prussian army and occupied their capital city of Berlin.
Following the complete collapse of the Prussian army, the Russian Tsar Alexander I (r. 1801–1825) decided that it was necessary to make peace with France. He met with Napoleon on a raft on the Nieman River, and on July 7, 1807, the two monarchs signed the Treaty of Tilsit, with the Prussian monarch eagerly waiting on the shore to see what Alexander and Napoleon cast as the fate of his defeated kingdom. Because of the insistence of Alexander, Prussia was saved from extinction, but it was reduced to half its previous size and was forced to become an ally of France in its ongoing struggle against Great Britain. Seeing that he could not defeat the British navy, Napoleon decided to wage economic war. He established the Continental System, an attempt to ban British goods from arriving on the continent. Rather than damaging Great Britain, however, the Continental System weakened the economies of those states that Napoleon had conquered and achieved little to advance French economic interests.
The Continental System and the resentment it caused throughout Europe helped galvanize support against French rule. Initially, wherever French troops went, they brought with them the ideals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. French troops arriving in Venice broke down the walls of the ghetto where Jews had been forced to live since the High Middle Ages and established full religious toleration. They also brought about the end of social distinctions wherever they went and imposed the Civil Code as the basic rule of law. Despite this, the French were still occupiers, and as time went on, increasingly harsh ones. Napoleon placed his generally worthless family on the various thrones of Europe, essentially as figureheads, because all authority came from Paris.
THE DEFEAT OF NAPOLEON
Napoleon’s eventual defeat came about for three reasons: the peninsula war in Spain, growing nationalism in French-occupied Europe, and the fateful 1812 invasion of Russia.
The War in Spain
In 1807, a French army passed through Spain on its way to conquer Portugal, an ally of Great Britain. The next year a revolt broke out against the incompetent Spanish King Charles IV bringing his son, the almost-as-incompetent Ferdinand VII (r. 1808–1833) to its throne. In response, Napoleon decided to take the opportunity to occupy Spain and place his brother Joseph on its throne. Almost immediately, the Spanish nation rose up in a nationalistic fervor to expel the French, who in turn used tremendous brutality against the Spanish people. Napoleon was eventually forced to leave 350,000 troops in Spain where they were tied down in a costly struggle against Spanish patriots who fought with guerilla tactics against the more static French troops.
Growing Nationalism in Europe
While Napoleon continued to struggle with what he called his “Spanish ulcer,” stirrings of nationalism also began to churn in other parts of Europe. In the German states, intellectuals began to see that a struggle against the French might be just the tool to create that unified German state for which they longed. These writers looked to Prussia for leadership, while within Prussia, there were stirrings of reform as the nation began to grasp the magnitude of its defeat at Jena. Fortunately for Prussia, it was blessed with two administrators who possessed immense abilities: Baron von Stein (1757–1831) and Count von Hardenberg (1750–1822). These men were hardly democratic reformers; they wanted to see the continuation of monarchical power and aristocratic privilege. They did, however, bring about much-needed reforms, such as ending the Junker (Prussian noble) monopoly over the ownership of land and abolishing serfdom. To create an army of motivated soldiers led by competent leaders like the French model, Stein appointed some bourgeois officers and removed some of the more incompetent Junker officers. He also established a professional ministry of war. Stein eliminated some of the harsher elements of military discipline to encourage the peasant soldiers to fight loyally for the state, and he established a large reserve army made up of part-time soldiers.
The 1812 Invasion of Russia
Some of Napoleon’s advisors warned him that the constant wars came at a high cost to the French nation. Napoleon, however, still looked for new lands to conquer. Russia seemed a suitable target, particularly because after the defeat of Prussia and Austria, only Russia was still standing as a strong continental rival. In June 1812, Napoleon took his “Grand Army” of 600,000 men into Russia, where he fully expected to defeat the Russians in open battle. To his great annoyance, the Russians merely retreated within their vast landscape. When Napoleon took Moscow in September, he found the city a smoking ruin, with fires set by the retreating army of the tsar. Since there was no enemy to fight and few supplies left in the part of Russia occupied by French troops, Napoleon decided to withdraw his army in one of the most famous retreats in military history. The combination of Russian attacks and the brutal winter made the withdrawal a disaster; only 40,000 of the original Grand Army finally returned to France.
The Russian retreat marked the beginning of the end. In 1813, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain formed a coalition to fight together until all of Europe was freed from French forces. While British forces under the Duke of Wellington pushed forward toward France through Spain, a combined Russian, Prussian, and Austrian force entered eastern France. By March of 1814, they were in Paris, and in the following month, after learning that the allies would not accept his young son on the French throne, Napoleon abdicated.
THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA, THE BOURBON RESTORATION, AND THE HUNDRED DAYS
In victory, the allies demanded the restoration of the Bourbon monarchs as outlined in the Treaty of Chaumont, which brought the Count of Provence, a brother of the executed Louis XVI, to the French throne as Louis XVIII. Meanwhile, Napoleon was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba, although the allies generously (and fearfully) paid off his debts and allowed him to maintain the title of Emperor and keep a small army on his tiny island state.
To create a lasting peace and to try to put the revolutionary genie back in the bottle, the allies met at the Congress of Vienna beginning in September 1814. The four great powers, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, dominated the proceedings, although the great architect of the Congress settlement was the Austrian Chancellor, Prince Metternich (1773–1859). Metternich was aware that the social and political changes brought about by the French Revolution had been detrimental to his own state and that it was necessary to turn back the clock. Metternich and the other representatives wanted to make sure that such ideas emanating out of the French Revolution, such as nationalism and liberalism, would have no place in a redrawn Europe. To that end, they made sure that Polish demands for a free and independent Poland went unanswered and gave the territory to the Tsar of Russia as the Duchy of Poland.
The great powers also wanted to ensure that no nation, least of all France, should ever dominate Europe again. To keep order in France and to ensure that the Bourbons’ subjects would not greatly resent them, France walked away with rather generous peace terms, including the right to hold onto all territorial gains made prior to November 1, 1792. The great powers also erected a series of states that would serve as a barrier to future French expansion. They created the Kingdom of the Netherlands by incorporating the Dutch territory with the Austrian Netherlands to the south, gave Prussia important territories along the Rhine River to block future French expansion to the east, and gave Piedmont the territory of Genoa.
While the victors debated the future course of Europe, the past came back to haunt them. On March 15, 1815, Napoleon returned to France having escaped from Elba. He found many in the army and in the country at large willing to support him, particularly since the return of the Bourbons had led to an unleashing of a violent white terror (white signifying the royalist flag and those loyal to the monarchy) against Jacobins and Bonaparte supporters. Louis XVIII was once again forced to flee his homeland as Napoleon was rapidly reinstalled as emperor. Although he promised France a liberal constitution and the end to foreign aggression, he knew that the other great powers would not allow him to maintain the throne, so once again he raised an army. At the Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815), Wellington, the British commander, aided by Marshal Blucher, the leader of the Prussian forces, defeated Napoleon. Following the Hundred Days, the name given to Napoleon’s remarkable return, he was exiled once again, although this time to the distant island of St. Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic, where he died in 1821.
CHAPTER 5 TIMELINE
||Assassination of Henry IV
||Galileo begins astronomical observations with his telescope
||Galileo publishes Letters on Sunspots
||William Harvey announces his discovery of the circulatory system
||Johannes Kepler reveals his third and final law of planetary motion
||Beginning of the Thirty Years’ War
||Battle of White Mountain
||Founding of Plymouth Colony
||Francis Bacon publishes Novum Organum
||Cardinal Richelieu becomes Louis XIII’s chief minister
||Charles I becomes king upon death of James I
||Petition of Right
||Murder of Duke of Buckingham
||Edict of Restitution
||Personal Rule of Charles I begins and will last eleven years
||Gustavus Adolphus dies at the Battle of Lutzen
||Galileo’s Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World
||Trial of Galileo
||Murder of Albrecht von Wallenstein
||France enters the Thirty Years’ War
||Charles introduces the Book of Common Prayer into Scotland
||René Descartes publishes Discourse on Method
||Beginning of reign of Frederick William (Great Elector)
||Charles forced to summon Parliament to deal with Scottish revolt
||Rebellion in Ireland
||Execution of Archbishop Laud
||Peace of Westphalia
||Beginning of the Fronde
||Execution of Charles I and establishment of English republic
||Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector
||Death of Cromwell
||Restoration of Charles II
||Thomas Hobbes publishes Leviathan
||Death of Cardinal Mazarin; Louis XIV becomes own chief minister
||Royal Society established by Charles II
||Chartering of the French East India Company
||Louis XIV begins construction of the Palace of Versailles
||Posthumous publication of Pascal’s Pensées
||Beginning of the reign of Peter the Great
||Rembrandt paints The Night Watch
||Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
||James II, a Catholic, becomes King of England
||Newton publishes his Principia
||John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government
||Art of Toleration
||John Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding
||Prussia becomes a kingdom
||Act of Settlement passed to bypass potential Catholic kings
||Cornerstone laid for the new city of St. Petersburg
||Act of Union brings about political unification of England and Scotland
||Treaty of Utrecht marks the end of the War of the Spanish Succession
||George I becomes first Hanoverian King of England
||End of the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden
||Start of Robert Walpole’s tenure as prime minister
||Hume’s Inquiry into Human Nature
||Frederick the Great becomes King of Prussia
||Start of the War of the Austrian Succession
||Battle of Culloden
||Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws
||Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle marks end of War of the Austrian Succession
||The first volume of Diderot’s Encyclopédie appears
||Maria Theresa carries out the “Diplomatic Revolution”
||Beginning of the Seven Years’ War
||Rousseau’s The Social Contract
||Rousseau’s Émile is published
||Start of the reign of Catherine the Great
||Voltaire pushes for reexamination in the trial of Jean Calas
||Peace of Paris marks end of Seven Years’ War
||Beccaria’s On Crime and Punishment
||Burke writes Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent
||Marriage of the future Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette
||Louis XVI becomes King of France
||First Continental Congress
||Fighting begins between American colonists and British
||Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence
||The first volume of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is published
||Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
||France goes to war against Britain in support of the American colonies
||Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
||Joseph II of Austria issues Edicts of Toleration
||Calonne, finance minister to Louis XVI, informs him that the crown is bankrupt
||Assembly of Notables meets
||Louis XVI decides to call the Estates-General
||Abbé Siéyès writes What Is the Third Estate?
||Estates-General meets for the first time (May 5)
||Third Estate declares that they will only meet as a National Assembly (June 17)
||Tennis Court Oath (June 20)
||Storming of the Bastille (July 14)
||Lafayette selected as commander of the National Guard
||Great Fear (July–August)
||Renunciation of aristocratic privileges (August 24)
||Declaration of the Rights of Man is adopted by the Constituent Assembly (August 26)
||Women’s march on Versailles (October 5)
||Jeremy Bentham’s Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
||Civil Constitution of the Clergy
||Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France
||Revolt breaks out in French colony of St. Domingue
||Louis XVI attempts to flee Paris (June 20)
||Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women
||France declares war on Austria (April 20)
||Mob of sans-culottes storms the Tuileries Palace (August 10)
||Battle of Valmy (September 20)
||France becomes a republic (September 21)
||Execution of Louis XVI (January 21)
||Universal conscription for the French armies begins (February 24)
||Execution of Marie Antoinette (October 16)
||Britain enters the war against France
||Counter-revolution breaks out in the Vendee (March)
||Establishment of the Committee of Public Safety (April)
||Expulsion of Girondins from the Convention (June 2)
||Ratification of new republican constitution (June 24)
||Murder of Marat by Charlotte Corday (July 13)
||Napoleon retakes Toulon from counter-revolutionaries
||Execution of Danton (April 6)
||Festival of the Supreme Being (June 8)
||Fall of Robespierre and the Jacobins (July 27)
||Establishment of the Directory
||Napoleon puts down royalist revolt (October 5)
||Napoleon launches invasion of northern Italy
||Napoleon begins invasion of Egypt
||French fleet defeated at the Battle of the Nile (August)
||Thomas Malthus’ Essay on Population
||Napoleon involved in coup overthrowing Directory
||Napoleon becomes First Consul
||Eli Whitney’s cotton gin
||Napoleon and Pope Pius VII sign concordat
||Plebiscite establishes Napoleon as Consul for Life
||Treaty of Amiens between Britain and France
||Napoleon sells Louisiana Territory to the United States
||Napoleon crowned Emperor
||Murder of the Duke of Enghien
||Promulgation of the Civil Code
||British victory over French-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar
||Defeat of the Prussians at the Battle of Jena
||Formation of the Third Coalition
||Defeat of the Austrians and Russians at Austerlitz
||Abolition of the Holy Roman Empire
||Napoleon and Alexander I sign Treaty of Tilsit
||Continental System implemented
||Invasion of Spain by French forces
||British Parliament votes for the end of the slave trade
||First passenger train line
||Napoleon’s invasion of Russia
||Occupation of Moscow (September)
||Retreat from Russia
||Battle of Leipzig (October)
||Napoleon forced to abdicate and the reign of Louis XVIII begins
||Congress of Vienna convenes (September)
||Napoleon escapes from Elba (March 15)
||Battle of Waterloo marks end of the Hundred Days (June 18)
||Napoleon sent into exile on St. Helena
||Death of Napoleon
Key Terms, Places and Events
divine right of kings
War of Spanish Succession
Petition of Rights
Short and Long Parliament
Independents vs. Presbyterians
Levellers and Diggers
The English Bill of Rights
The Act of Toleration
House of Orange
Dutch East India Company
English Poor Law
deductive vs. inductive reasoning
separation of powers
checks and balances
War of Austrian Succession
Partition of Poland
Tories vs. Whigs
Tennis Court Oath
Storming of the Bastille
Commune of Paris
The Great Fear
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
Civil Constitution of the Church
Jacobins vs. Girondins
Committee of Public Safety
Reign of Terror
Cult of Supreme Being
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Waterloo
Congress of Vienna
William of Orange
Rembrandt van Rijn
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Adam Smith, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nation
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
Baron de Montesquieu, Persian Letters
Denis Diderot, Encyclopedie
Catherine the Great
Joseph II of Austria
Frederick the Great of Prussia
Ivan the Terrible
Peter the Great
Olympe de Gouges, The Rights of Women
CHAPTER 5 REVIEW QUESTIONS
Try these questions to assess how well you understood and retained the information covered in the chapter. Answers and explanations are in Chapter 8.
Questions 1 to 5 refer to the passage below:
“At the same time that this new revelation came, a crisis was going on in religion. The old Romish church was being uprooted, or, rather, a new system was being grafted upon its stock, for the links have never been broken. The saints were shortly to be tabooed by the large mass of the English folk; the festivals were already at a discount. Simultaneously with the prejudice against the very names of their saints and saintly festivals, arose the discovery of a mine of new names as novel as it was unexhaustible….
The Puritan rejected both classes. [The Puritan] was ever trotting out his two big ‘P’s—Pagan and Popish. Under the first, he placed every name that could not be found in the Scriptures, and under the latter every title in the same Scriptures, and the Church system founded on them, that had been employed previous, say, to the coronation day of Edward VI.”
Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature, Charles Bardsley, 1888.
1. In this passage, the author seems to be chiefly concerned with
(A) The failings of the church that led to a religious crisis
(B) Describing all the names that the Puritans wanted to eliminate
(C) The revolutionary nature of the Puritan movement
(D) Proving that the Puritanism was promoted by the people, not the elites
2. Which of the following stands as the strongest expression of Puritan political power?
(A) The Puritan clergy who returned from exile when Mary I took the throne
(B) The calling of the Long Parliament under Charles I
(C) The rise of Oliver Cromwell
(D) The removal of James II from the throne
3. Which of the following was NOT used to describe a faction of the seventeenth-century Protestant movement in England?
4. All of the following were reasons for the newfound popularity of direct Bible study among Puritans EXCEPT
(A) the translation of the Bible into English
(B) the invention of the printing press, which made it easier to distribute Bibles to the masses and increased literacy
(C) a desire to perform acts of social justice
(D) distrust of intermediaries such as priests and bishops
5. Writing two centuries later about the history of Puritan names, Bardsley most likely arrived at his conclusions through
(A) confirmation of his pre-existing biases
(B) intense debate with other scholars about the veracity of their opinions
(C) a thorough analysis of secondary-source material, such as encyclopedia summaries
(D) original engagement with primary-source material, such as baptismal and county records
Encyclopédie, illustrated plate, mid-1700s. Edited by Denis Diderot.
6. The illustration above highlights what intellectual development that dominated the 18th century?
(B) Scientific Revolution
7. By setting the work of artisans and laborers on equal footing with the work of clerics and rulers, the Encyclopédie contributed to what major event?
(A) The establishment of the Ancien Régime
(B) The French Revolution
(C) The Wars of Religion
(D) The construction of the Palace of Versailles
8. Scientists of the 18th century saw the assembly and categorization of the natural world as
(A) the first step in the process by which one could arrive at universal laws
(B) a form of resistance against the tyranny of elite scientific thought
(C) a way to make money in an age marked by increased trade and commercialization
(D) an intellectual journey in which the collection of data was its own reward
9. The figure who did NOT support the idea of inductive reasoning as seen in the Encyclopédie was
(A) Francis Bacon
(B) William Harvey
(C) René Descartes
(D) Thomas Hobbes
• For which content topics discussed in this chapter do you feel you have achieved sufficient mastery to answer multiple-choice questions correctly?
• For which content topics discussed in this chapter do you feel you have achieved sufficient mastery to discuss effectively in an essay or short answer?
• For which content topics discussed in this chapter do you feel you need more work before you can answer multiple-choice questions correctly?
• For which content topics discussed in this chapter do you feel you need more work before you can discuss effectively in an essay or short answer?
• What parts of this chapter are you going to re-review?
• Will you seek further help outside of this book (such as a teacher, tutor, or AP Students) on any of the content in this chapter—and, if so, on what content?