3.1 Context of State Building from 1648-1815

4 min readjanuary 12, 2023

Catherine Brown

Catherine Brown


Isabela Padilha Vilela

AP European History 🇪🇺

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Contextual Causes

Now when we discuss the idea of state-building, it’s important to understand that the cause for this sudden change would be this surge for Monarchical Sovereignty, thus furthering the rise of Absolutist rulers such as King Louis XIV, and Peter The Great.  Contextually speaking, Absolutism emerged at a dicey point in European History. New Monarchs of the 16th and 17th Centuries had consolidated their power through various means.

Louis XIV, Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Most Importantly, many of these leaders wouldn't have come into sovereign power if it weren't for Jacques Bousset, who came up with the Divine Right of Kings. This document asserted that the ruler should have political and religious authority above anything else.
1648 also marked the ending of The Thirty Years’ War, which had thrown Europe into a political and religious frenzy. It leads to general uncertainty during peacetime. Much of the chaos brought larger military power in the hands of rulers, which ups their prestige and renown. 

The different levels of sovereignty

During this time period, it is important to recognize that states were struggling to maintain power inside and outside its borders. Since the Renaissance, the Catholic Church began to lose its political power, opening way for other political institutions to emerge and the contestation of power of certain institutions. This completely changed the political landscape and posed a sovereignty threat to European Nations.
Different European nations distributed authority differently depending on its internal conflicts as well. Different language minority groups contested the sovereignty of certain governments, for example:
  • Celtic regions of Scotland, Ireland and France speak the Gaelic language, and had a rich culture that involved traditions, music, food that differed from the dominant one.
  • The Dutch Revolt in the region of the low countries happened when the Dutch minority ruled by the Hapsburg Dynasty of Spain decided to figh for independence. It ended up in the formation of teh Dutch Republic (what is today the Netherlands, Belgium adn Luxembourg).
  • The Defenestration of Prague was an important moment for the Czech people. They had been ruled by the Holy Roman Empire for most of the Middle Ages. This event led to the beginning of the Thirty Year's War, and symbolized Czech resistance, as two Imperial governors were thrown out the window of the Bohemian Chancellery.
    • Jan Hus was an important symbol of this movement, as he was a theologist that was vocal in his opposition to the Church and defended the Czech minority. He was considered and heretic and was burned at the stake in 1415.

Rise of Absolutism and Challenges to Order

Absolutism is defined as a consolidation of sovereign power into a single ruler or monarch. Rulers would create these empires took control of every facet of the state. 
There are two figures who were really influential when causing this rise of Absolutism. One of them was Thomas Hobbes, a writer during the English Civil War, known for his work titled “Leviathan”. In this work, he argued that humanity’s original state before governance leads to utter chaos and destruction. By instituting a ruler to oversee the populace, a sense of security and protection emerges. 
As mentioned before, the second figure who emerged as a focal point in Absolutism was Jacques Bousset, who’s known for his theory of the Divine Right of Kings (as stated before, believes that the ruler has control over every facet of political and religious life). The King’s Authority trumped anyone below him, and could only answer to God. 
A common theme within the Rise of Absolutism would be the challenges that arose when these monarchs desired power. Common issues emerged regarding religion, and conflict with the nobility for power remained a common issue for absolute monarchs. 
In terms of religion, the Catholic Church had considerable wealth and power, which would clash with the power and influence of the absolute Monarch. With the rise of monarchs, the king’s overreaching grasp on every asset of the state threatens the church. An interesting example would be through Peter The Great (which will be discussed later in this unit).
Nobility also was seen as a major threat towards the Absolute Monarchs’s rule. Nobility controls a major sector of a European states’ power and distributes them towards other figures. With the monarch taking all the power, it leaves the nobility in a threatened position, fighting for prestige and power in order to keep their family names prevalent.
🎥 Watch: AP European History - Age of Absolutism

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