Archive for the ‘Chapter 14: The Early Modern State’ Category

Central and Eastern Europe

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Russian absolutism was explosive during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Russia’s commitment to drive east, which begun in the earth late 16th century, transformed the Siberia, a now natural resources haven.  By the mid-eighteenth century Russians had traveled 6,000 miles east of Moscow towards the pacific.

Peter the Great had traveled to Western Europe eraly and was deeply impressed by Western society as a whole.  Upon his return Peter created a system of bureaucratic advancement based on merit.  He reformed the military and built a gigantic professional army of 200,000 men armed with the most advanced weapons at the time.  This army would eventually destroy the Ottoman Turks, gaining his eventual victory in the Treaty of Nystad.  A legacy to his Western influence, Peter eventually built St. Petersburg, or the modern capital of Russia.

Peter the Great

Peter the Greats expansion east

Louis XIV

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Louis XIV, or the “Sun King” is remembered in history as a absolutist French ruler.  Louis XIV immensely long reign extended 72 years (1643-1715).  While in power Louis contributed in creating a centralized state.  This movement had begun in the Early Modern State in moving away from feudalism and appeasing nobility.  Louis strove for peace, law, beauty, order, and splendor in order to consolidate the central state and it’s power.   Louis was most influential and powerful in the late  17th century and had made France a prominent figure in the world.  Louis XIV built the Palace of Versailles, which is known for its symmetrical gardens and opulent architecture.  The height of his power however, was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  Louis was very powerful and able to persecute with authority the Huguenots.

The Life of Louis XIV Video

The Sun King

Louis XIV is famous for saying "L'etat c'est moi!" or "I am the state"

The “Sacred Ground” of a nation-state

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Before the French Revolution, the event which the modern world unfolded int he shadow of, the idea of the nation-state was quite different. Nowadays, A state like Germany would be germany despite who controls the location or draws the borders, it is a sort of primordial, “Sacred ground” of the German people. The same goes with Japan or any other country on the map today. These are not interchangeable borders and domains based on the politics and whims of the rulers, with the language and culture as the binding glue.
But it was not always like this, which is interesting to think about. The paradigm shift of the French Revolution put us into this frame of thought, that borders are not interchangeable as the political situation allows. Before nation-states, different multi-ethnic empires rise and fell with different peoples and languages overlapping on the same land, only separated by time. Politics and rulers could make up “countries”, and another ruler could come by and erase them into the sands of time.

National Personifications

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Before the 18th century or so, our primordial-seeming nation-states had no real historical precedents. The borders were drawn by mutlti-ethnic empires for thousands of years. Countries had a national awakening largely thanks to printing press technology allowing literature in the nation’s language to be disseminated, rather than in Latin.

We all know about Uncle Sam, America’s national personification, but almost every country has an analog to him.

Britain has the John Bull, represented by a portly British gentleman. Interestingly enough, his existence extends back to the early 18th century, about as far as the nation-state itself does.

Many countries, particularly Germanic ones, have a national personification that is based on a pre-Christian hero. Germany has Arminius, who was a general that won decisive victories for the Germanic tribes in the 1st century AD. Denmark has Ogier the Dane, a legendary Viking character from the early medieval period.

Chapter 14: The Early Modern State

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Society in early modern Europe


The period which is referred to as the Ancien Regime or Old Regime lasted from 1650 to 1785.  During the Ancien Regime, Europe’s aristocrats, a small portion of the population, continued to dominate the political, religious, economic, and social life.  The aristocracies were the “natural leaders” of society, including politically and in the military.  Aristocrats enjoyed many privileges.  In France, nobles were exempt from the taille, or taxes.  Polish nobles were also exempt from taxes after 1741.  German states, Russia, Austria, and Hungary also were exempt from taxes and were given serfs, or plebian servants bound to their estates.  The aristocracy was all powerful, and because of this, over 50 peasant revolts occurred in the 1760’s alone.

An aristocrat from the Ancien Regime –

Peasants, Serfs, and Family Life

During the Ancien Regime, famine, war, and disease were a constant threat in daily life.  Peasants, or servants of the aristocracy, were a part of the poor working class.  In England and France, most peasants were free workers, however in German states, Poland, and Russia, most peasants were serfs, bound to an estate and a noble.  Most members of the poor working class rarely traveled more than a few miles from their place of birth and often worked in a rural setting, living of livestock and crops.  Peasants were able to own land, however it was small and often not enough to provide their family with good living conditions.

Peasants working in a field –

Ancien Regime – France