Age of Absolutism Unit Introduction




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Age of Absolutism


Unit Introduction
Time Period and Name: The time period of 1550 – 1800 was a time when the world saw the emergence of the “Absolute Monarch”, which is a king or queen who has complete control over a country. Absolutism originated in Spain when Philip II was in power, and it began to fade out after the rule of Catherine the Great in Russia. Because this 250-year period saw the rise and fall of many absolute monarchs, it is known as the “Age of Absolutism”.
Absolute Monarch Ideology: The ideology that absolute monarchs follow is called “absolutism”. All of the mentioned absolute monarchs were successful because they all followed the ideology, or belief, of absolutism to perfection. Absolutism has three key components. The first is having a strong central government so that no one can stand in the way of the monarch’s policy making. The second is having a strong military to deal with war when the country expands its boundaries or if an invasion from another country may occur. The third and final is using the economic theory mercantilism, (the policy of exporting more than is imported) to create a strong economy and wealth for the country in order to support the countries absolutist tendencies.
Introduction Questions: Answer these questions on a separate sheet of paper.


  1. In what time period did the Age of Absolutism occur?




  1. Explain what an absolute monarch / monarchy is.




  1. What is the name of the ideology that absolute monarchs follow?




  1. What are the three key components of absolutism? Explain each one in detail.



Section # 1 – Spain (1516 – 1598)

The Hapsburg Monarchy / Dynasty:

The Hapsburg Monarchy had been in place well before the year of 1500, but during the age of Absolutism the Hapsburg Monarchy was Europe’s most powerful royal family. The Hapsburg Empire included Spain, Portugal, the Holy Roman Empire (present day Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and parts of Poland, France and Italy), and the empire in the Americas created by the Conquistadors (present day Mexico, Southwestern United States, and Northern South America). Needless to say, at one point in the Hapsburg Empire covered almost half of the known world at that time. Ruling this huge empire was a tough task that some met and others did not.



Charles V (5th): (1516 – 1556)
The Hapsburg Empire reached its greatest size in 1516 under the rule of Charles V who was the grandson of King Ferdinand II of Spain and Queen Isabella I of Spain and the nephew of Henry VIII’s 1st wife Catherine of Aragon. This would make Charles V the cousin of Mary I of England (“Bloody” Mary), who would eventually marry Charles V’s son Phillip II. Bloodlines aside, Charles V governed all of the Hapsburg land effectively and with pride. He gained international respect of his people and enemies with his shrewd use of power and diplomacy. Throughout his reign Spain was constantly at war and constantly trying to create wealth to finance the wars. By 1556 Charles V was exhausted and he decided to abdicate (step down). Charles V always thought the Hapsburg Empire was too big to be ruled by just one man. For this reason, Charles V relinquished his thrown and divided it between his brother Ferdinand II and his 29-year old son Philip II. Ferdinand II was given Austria and most of the Holy Roman Empire while Philip was given Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Milan & Naples (Italian lands), and the newly established American Empire of the New World.

Ferdinand I (1st) of Austria: (1556 – 1564)
When Ferdinand I took the Austrian throne in 1556, he became the 1st Austrian Hapsburg monarch and would eventually become the Holy Roman Emperor. Ferdinand I was a devout Catholic who opposed the spread of the Protestant faith. This opposition to Protestantism would bring Austria into many conflicts, and would be a huge reason why Ferdinand could never established an absolute monarchy in the Austrian Hapsburg Empire. Ferdinand would eventually die in 1564.

Phillip II (2nd): (1556 – 1598)


Philip II, a devout Catholic as well, ascended to the Spanish throne in 1556 and did not give it up until his death 42 years later in 1598. Unlike his uncle, Ferdinand II, Philip II was able to establish an absolute monarchy in his Spanish Hapsburg Empire. For many reasons, Philip II is remembered as one of the hardest working and most devoted monarchs in history. Unlike many other monarchs of his time, Philip II devoted much of his time to government work and hardly any of his time towards leisure activities. Philip II was the epitome of an absolute ruler, who ruled with complete power over the government and the people. During his rule, Philip II had five objectives on his political agenda; 1) create wealth for himself and Spain, 2) create a powerful Spanish military, 3) expand Spain’s borders and its political influence, 4) spread the Catholic religion throughout Europe, 5) make Spain the most powerful country in Europe. Philip II felt that if he achieved the 1st four objectives on his political agenda, then the 5th item would naturally happen.


Spanish Wealth:
During Philip II’s 42-year reign Spain experienced the “siglo de ore”, or what historians call the “Golden Age” of Spain. This time period was labeled the Golden Age because of Philip II’s devotion to art and literature. Philip II had architects build beautiful statues and sculptures throughout Spain, and he established academies of science and mathematics to enrich the knowledge of Spanish people. This was all funded by the Spanish trading empire in the Americas (New World). This trading empire consisted of precious metals, tobacco, cocoa, indigo, and sugar, all of which were in heavy demand by other European countries and constantly flowing from the Spanish trading empire in the Americas. As other countries bought these materials, the Spanish economy grew as well as its wealth.
Spanish Military:
Not only did Philip II use the wealth of Spain to enrich Spanish culture, he also used it to build one of the most powerful and most feared militaries in all of Europe. At the heart of the Spanish military was the mighty Spanish Armada. This naval fleet consisted of 132 ships, 20,000 men, and 2,400 cannons. The power of the Spanish Armada was well known and well respected throughout Europe and the world.
Philip’s Wars:

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