| Chapter 17: Absolutism in Central and Eastern Europe to 1740
College Division image; link to college web site
College Division image; link to college web site
For LayoutFor Layout
For Layout
For LayoutFor Layout|For LayoutFor Layout|For LayoutContact Us
For Layout
For LayoutChapter 17
For Layout
For Layout
For Layout
For Layout
For Layout
For Layout
For Layout
For Layout
> Chapter 17
Chapter 17: Absolutism in Central and Eastern Europe to 1740

MP3 Chapter Summaries
Listen to Chapter 17 (Houghton Mifflin Flash Player with closed captions)
Listen to Chapter 17 (MP3 file)
Download Chapter 17 (Zipped MP3 file)

Chapter Outline

  • Warfare and Social Change in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Origins of Serfdom
  • During the period from 1050 to 1300, personal and economic freedom for peasants increased, and serfdom nearly disappeared.
  • After 1300, lords in Eastern Europe revived serfdom to fight their economic woes.
  • Laws were passed that bound peasants to land and lord.
  • Lords confiscated peasant lands and imposed greater labor obligations on them.
  • The Consolidation of Serfdom
  • Hereditary serfdom was established or reestablished in Poland, Russia, and Prussia.
  • The consolidation of serfdom accompanied the growth of estate agriculture.
  • Eastern lords enjoyed much greater political power than their western counterparts.
  • Weak monarchs could not or would not withstand their powerful nobles’ revival of serfdom and, in any case, most eastern monarchs did not oppose the growth of serfdom.
  • At the same time, the power of towns and urban dwellers was undermined.
  • The Thirty Years’ War
  • An uneasy truce prevailed in the Holy Roman Empire since the Peace of Augsburg of 1555.
  • Lutheran princes formed the Protestant Union in 1608 and Catholics responded with the Catholic League in 1609.
  • The war began in 1618, sparked by the “defenestration of Prague.”
  • The war is traditionally divided into four phases:
  • The Bohemian phase (1618–1625)
  • The Danish phase (1625–1629)
  • The Swedish phase (1630–1635)
  • The French, or international, phase (1635–1648)
  • Consequences of the Thirty Years’ War
  • The 1648 Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War.
  • The Thirty Years’ War was incredibly destructive.
  • The Holy Roman Empire was hit hardest by the war.
  • Some nobles and landlords benefited from the war, and a few northern towns also prospered as a result of the fighting.
  • The Rise of Austria and Prussia
  • The Austrian Habsburgs
  • In Bohemia, the Habsburgs crushed the mostly Protestant nobility, bringing in Catholic newcomers and binding local peasants to them (1618-1650).
  • In the culturally German core of Austria, the Habsburgs centralized the government and created a standing army (mid-1600s).
  • Austrian Rule in Hungary
  • After the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, the kingdom of Hungary was divided between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs.
  • Warfare between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans devastated Hungary.
  • In 1683, the Habsburgs succeeded in gaining control of most of Hungary and Transylvania.
  • The Hungarian nobility resisted the full development of Habsburg absolutism.
  • The Habsburgs advanced the cause of state building in Hungary by forging a consensus with the church and nobility.
  • The Pragmatic Sanction allowed Maria-Theresa to ascend to the throne in 1740.
  • Prussia in the Seventeenth Century
  • The Hohenzollern family ruled the electorate of Brandenburg and Prussia.
  • The Thirty Years’ War weakened representative assemblies and allowed the Hohenzollerns to consolidate their rule.
  • Frederick William, the Great Elector (r. 1640-1688), employed military power and taxation to unify his Rhine holdings, Prussia, and Brandenburg into a strong state.
  • The Consolidation of Prussian Absolutism
  • King Frederick William I (r. 1713-1740) encouraged Prussian militarism and created the most efficient army in Europe.
  • Frederick helped lay the foundations of a militaristic nation.
  • The Development of Russia and the Ottoman Empire
  • The Mongol Yoke and the Rise of Moscow
  • The Russian aristocracy (boyars) and a free peasantry made it difficult to strengthen the state.
  • The princes of Moscow served the Mongol invaders as officials.
  • Ivan III (r. 1462-1505) assumed the leadership of Orthodox Christianity and distributed conquered land to a new class of military servicemen.
  • Tsar and People to 1689
  • Ivan IV fought wars against Mongol successor khanates in the east and Poland-Lithuania in the west.
  • He launched a reign of terror against the boyar nobility.
  • Increased pressure on the peasants to pay for his wars led to a breakdown of the Muscovite state after his death (the Time of Troubles, 1598-1613).
  • Michael Romanov was elected tsar by the nobility in 1613.
  • The Reforms of Peter the Great
  • Peter the Great sought to reform Russia to increase its military might.
  • He created Western-style schools to train technicians for the army.
  • He borrowed Western technology and hired Western advisers.
  • He modernized the army and made Russia a great power in Europe.
  • He increased the burden of serfdom to pay for Russia’s military power.
  • The Growth of St. Petersburg
  • St. Petersburg is a good example of the ties among architecture, politics, and urban planning.
  • In 1702, Peter the Great began the task of building a new city.
  • The architectural ideas that informed the city matched Peter’s general political goals.
  • Peasants were forced to work on the construction of the city and nobles were ordered to build houses there.
  • The Growth of the Ottoman Empire
  • The Ottomans came out of Central Asia, settled in Anatolia, and created an empire that reached its peak under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566) in the mid-sixteenth century.
  • The Ottomans borrowed from the institutions and practices of the peoples they conquered.
  • The Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453.
  • Ottoman expansion continued in the sixteenth century.
  • The Ottoman Empire was originally built on a unique model of state and society.
  • The Ottoman bureaucracy was staffed by the sultan’s slave corps.
  • The Ottoman Empire experienced the same economic and social crises that affected the rest of Europe.
  • They were driven out of Hungary and Transylvania at the end of the seventeenth century.
  • Religious Diversity in the Ottoman Empire
  • The Ottomans were more tolerant of religious differences than Europeans.
  • The Ottomans divided their subjects into religious communities known as millet.
  • Non-Muslim minorities coexisted and commingled with the Muslim majority.
  • Nonetheless, the Ottoman Empire was an explicitly Muslim state.

For Layout