Different models of political sovereignty affected the relationship among states and between states and individuals.
Between 1648 and 1815, the sovereign state was consolidated as the principal form of political organization across Europe. Justified and rationalized by theories of political sovereignty, states adopted a variety of methods to acquire the human, fiscal, and material resources essential for the promotion of their interests. Although challenged and sometimes effectively resisted by various social groups and institutions, the typical state of the period, best exemplified by the rule of Louis XIV in France, asserted claims to absolute authority within its borders. A few states, most notably England and the Dutch Republic, gradually developed governments in which the authority of the executive was restricted by legislative bodies protecting the interests of the landowning and commercial classes.
Between the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815), European states managed their external affairs within a balance of power system. In this system, diplomacy became a major component of the relations among states. Most of the wars of the period, including conflicts fought outside of Europe, stemmed from attempts either to preserve or disturb the balance of power among European states. While European monarchs continued to view their affairs in dynastic terms, increasingly, reasons of state influenced policy.
The French Revolution was the most formidable challenge to traditional politics and diplomacy during this period. Inspired in part by Enlightenment ideas, the revolution introduced mass politics, led to the creation of numerous political and social ideologies, and remained the touchstone for those advocating radical reform in subsequent decades. The French Revolution was part of a larger revolutionary impulse that, as a transatlantic movement, influenced revolutions in Spanish America and the Haitian slave revolt. Napoleon Bonaparte built upon the gains of the revolution and attempted to exploit the resources of the continent in the interests of France and his own dynasty. Napoleon’s revolutionary state imposed French hegemony throughout Europe, but eventually a coalition of European powers overthrew French domination and restored, as much as possible, a balance of power within the European state system. Conservative leaders also attempted to contain the danger of revolutionary or nationalistic upheavals inspired by the French Revolution.
2.1.1: In much of Europe, absolute monarchy was established over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries.
2.1.1.A: Absolute monarchies limited the nobility’s participation in governance but preserved the aristocracy’s social position and legal privileges.
2.1.1.B: Louis XIV and his finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, extended the administrative, financial, military, and religious control of the central state over the French population.
2.1.1.C: In the 18th century, a number of states in eastern and central Europe experimented with enlightened absolutism.
2.1.1.D: The inability of the Polish monarchy to consolidate its authority over the nobility led to Poland’s partition by Prussia, Russia, and Austria, and its disappearance from the map of Europe.
2.1.1.E: Peter the Great “westernized” the Russian state and society, transforming political, religious, and cultural institutions; Catherine the Great continued this process.
2.1.2: Challenges to absolutism resulted in alternative political systems.
2.1.2.A: The outcome of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution protected the rights of gentry and aristocracy from absolutism through assertions of the rights of Parliament.
2.1.2.B: The Dutch Republic established by a Protestant revolt against the Habsburg monarchy, developed an oligarchy of urban gentry and rural landholders to promote trade and protect traditional rights.
2.1.3: After 1648, dynastic and state interests, along with Europe’s expanding colonial empires, influenced the diplomacy of European states and frequently led to war.
2.1.3.A: As a result of the Holy Roman Empire’s limitation of sovereignty in the Peace of Westphalia, Prussia rose to power and the Habsburgs, centered in Austria, shifted their empire eastward.
2.1.3.B: After the Austrian defeat of the Turks in 1683 at the Battle of Vienna, the Ottomans ceased their westward expansion.
2.1.3.C: Louis XIV’s nearly continuous wars, pursuing both dynastic and state interests, provoked a coalition of European powers opposing him.
2.1.3.D: Rivalry between Britain and France resulted in world wars fought both in Europe and in the colonies, with Britain supplanting France as the greatest European power.
2.1.4: The French Revolution posed a fundamental challenge to Europe’s existing political and social order.
2.1.4.A: The French Revolution resulted from a combination of long-term social and political causes, as well as Enlightenment ideas, exacerbated by short-term fiscal and economic crises.
2.1.4.B: The first, or liberal, phase of the French Revolution established a constitutional monarchy, increased popular participation, nationalized the Catholic Church, and abolished hereditary privileges.
2.1.4.C: After the execution of the Louis XVI, the radical Jacobin republic led by Robespierre responded to opposition at home and war abroad by instituting the Reign of Terror, fixing prices and wages, and pursuing a policy of de-Christianization.
2.1.4.D: Revolutionary armies, raised by mass conscription, sought to bring the changes initiated in France to the rest of Europe.
2.1.4.E: Women enthusiastically participated in the early phases of the revolution; however, while there were brief improvements in the legal status of women, citizenship in the republic was soon restricted to men.
2.1.4.F: Revolutionary ideals inspired a slave revolt led by Toussaint L’Ouverture in the French colony of Saint Domingue, which became the independent nation of Haiti in 1804.
2.1.4.G: While many were inspired by the revolution’s emphasis on equality and human rights, others condemned its violence and disregard for traditional authority.
2.1.5: Claiming to defend the ideals of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte imposed French control over much of the European continent, which eventually provoked a nationalistic reaction.
2.1.5.A: As first consul and emperor, Napoleon undertook a number of enduring domestic reforms while often curtailing some rights and manipulating popular impulses behind a facade of representative institutions.
2.1.5.B: Napoleon’s new military tactics allowed him to exert direct or indirect control over much of the European continent, spreading the ideals of the French Revolution across Europe.
2.1.5.C: Napoleon’s expanding empire created nationalist responses throughout Europe.
2.1.5.D: After the defeat of Napoleon by a coalition of European powers, the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) attempted to restore the balance of power in Europe and contain the danger of revolutionary or nationalistic upheavals in the future.