Absolutism in Western Europe

Western Europe in the Ancient Era largely comprised of governments that were run by monarchs in close consultation with the nobles and national representative assemblies. This meant that the monarchs were accountable for their subjects as their decisions were questionable and could be challenged and even overridden. The people also felt more as subjects of their representative at the national assembly and not the ruling monarch. In essence, these representatives thus gained some autonomy that often weakened the thrones. There also would be no unified defense force for the entire nation, and this left it vulnerable to external as well as internal attacks. This was the feudal system of government that made the kingdoms weak and lacking good organization. Absolutism implies concentrating all the authority on the ruling monarchs and giving them the mandate to be above the law and make decisions for the good of their empires. Absolutism basically gave the ruling monarch an absolute power over the entire empire, making him responsible for making laws and policies without having to consult or seek approval from the nobles or representatives. This can thus be equated to a present day centralized government system without the democratized ideology of checks and balances.

The Introduction of Absolutism

During the seventeenth century, most of the European monarchs decided they had had enough of the nobles and national representative assemblies. They believed that they were leaders by divine appointment and thus they deserved the powers to make decisions without being questioned (Robison 83). In addition, they were tired of the confidence and arrogance of the representatives that was as a result of their people's loyalty to them instead of to the King. This resentment was also because there had been a number of uprisings against the monarchs led by these representatives in various parts of the continent.

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As a result, the monarchs decided to claim their 'divine right' for absolute control over their territories. They started with weakening the national representative assemblies, and some even simply eliminated these from the empires. They also came up with the mechanisms of sabotaging the nobility by requiring them to spend a lot of time in the King's Court and yet not allowing them to participate in government activities. The monarchs also made sure to put these nobles in a position that was subservient to the throne and thus they would need to be on the King's good books to obtain any favors. In another centralization strategy, the monarchs consolidated bureaucracies for tax collection, formation of central armies and operation of the justice system. This further pushed the few resilient feudal arms into irrelevance in the empires. A war could thus only be afforded by the state through the wealth accumulated through tax collection. At the end, empires totally relied on the monarchs for decisions on laws and policies both internally and externally.

The Significance of the Absolutism Introduction into Western Europe

The major significance of the absolutism introduction in Western Europe is that it enabled the formation of vast national armies that protected these new states both internally and externally. This means that there was much less vulnerability within the nation, and also outside from the neighbor's perspective. Basically, this absolutism theory enabled the empires to become economically, politically and even physically stronger by virtue of the expanse armies that covered the territories. The fact that the monarchs were sovereign and undisputed also created a relative calm that exuded peace, stability and thus confidence, traits that kept off any aspiring intruders from breaching the walls of the empires.

The Impact of Absolutism in History

During the Ancient Era, all the way to 1715 France emerged to become one of the formidable entities of all times both in Europe and the world (Church 24). European states mostly emerged as a consequence of wars and conquests, especially between 1600 and 1700. The states which were first to embrace the royal absolutist system were France and Spain. France, however, takes the most recognition with regards to achievements made upon adaptation of the absolutism system of government (Church 29).

 

The foundations of absolutism here were laid during Louis XIII's reign when he worked hand in hand with his Chief Minister to centralize the power and rescue the Empire from the aristocrats. The system however came to fruition and propelled the French Empire to the great heights of success during Louis XIV's reign, also with the help of his Chief Minister (Church 47). As an absolute monarch, Louis XIV emphasized on his unrivalled powers through his influence on culture, politics and economy. He tamed nobility, and changed the French society by giving his royal patronage to cultural institutions that were influential in the society. These included the fine arts, music, theatre, sciences and languages. As a result of his sole leadership capabilities, the French society is still credited for such high levels of scholarship and civilization.

King Louis XIV also used his position of absolute power to develop the nation's infrastructure. His most lauded ventures included the developed transport network, improved industrial sector and expanded merchant fleets. He achieved this with the help of his Controller General through the mercantilism policies (Church, 36). Moreover, by virtue of his sovereignty as the sole ruler of the French Empire Louis XIV was able to recruit and train a huge number of soldiers who carried out the expansionism policies and protected the state from both within and without (Wakeman 145). With this army, France was capable of declaring war and defending itself from attacks as well making it not only a formidable enemy but also a great ally.

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In a more generalized context, absolutism generated a lot of changes in most of the world. First, the formation of countries has until this day been based on the concept of absolutism. Democratization has simply curbed the autonomy of the presidency in most states today, but dictatorships and authoritarian governments still operate on the basis of absolutism. Countries both in Europe and beyond were created on the basis of centralized powers just like in absolutism (Bourne 109). Furthermore, the colonization concept was made possible by the fact that these colonial powers had armies to enforce their rule upon the weaker victims. Absolutism is credited with enabling the formation of these great national armies, and thus it also takes the credit for European expansion overseas.

Humanism is also another concept that came as a result of absolutism. When the monarchs assumed all the authority, the church was obviously not satisfied. Being after the religious wars, most of the people had already grown weary of the clergy with regards to their conduct and insatiable greed (Bourne 134). The church had accumulated so much wealth, and was being exempted from tax. This led the business community to revolt. Absolutism had created a conducive environment for business, and this had increased the number of middle class citizens in Europe. Thus they developed some strong arguments for humanism, a concept that encouraged secular thoughts with regards to business as opposed to giving utmost importance to the church. This concept can be said to have paved the way for capitalism, which sparked the industrial growth to unimaginable proportions and further encouraged the colonization in the search for raw materials.

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It was during the seventeenth century that most of the European monarchs decided they had had enough nobles and national representative assemblies. They believed that they were leaders by divine appointment and thus they deserved the powers to make decisions without being questioned. Also, they were tired of the confidence and arrogance of the representatives that was a result of their people's loyalty to them instead of to the King. This resentment was also because there had been a number of uprisings against the monarchs led by these representatives in various parts of the continent. The major significance of the introduction of absolutism in Western Europe is that it enabled the formation of vast national armies that protected these new states both internally and externally. Basically, this absolutist system enabled the empires to become economically, politically and even physically stronger by virtue of the expanse armies that covered the territories. The fact that the monarchs were sovereign and undisputed also created a relative calm that exuded peace, stability and thus confidence, traits that kept off any aspiring intruders from breaching the walls of the empires. In examining the significance and impact of absolutism in Europe, France under King Louis XIV ruling is the best example given the numerous achievements that were registered during and after his reign.

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