4.6 Internal and External Challenges to State Power from 1450 to 1750

7 min readmarch 16, 2023

Amanda DoAmaral

Amanda DoAmaral

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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Internal and External Challenges to State Power

As states expanded power, they were consistently met with resistance and rebellion. This is a constant in world history. People will always find a way to challenge state power, especially when survival is at stake.
Here’s a few examples of how states were challenged between 1450-1750:

Queen Nzinga vs. Portuguese Colonizers

Who Was Queen Nzinga?

Queen Nzinga was a 17th-century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms, which are located in what is now Angola. She is known for her leadership and diplomatic skills, as well as her military prowess. Nzinga is remembered as a brilliant strategist and a fierce warrior who fought against the Portuguese and their efforts to colonize Angola. She is also remembered for her efforts to promote unity and cooperation among the various African tribes in the region, and for her efforts to preserve the independence and cultural traditions of her people.

What Was Her Interaction With the Portuguese?

After the British and Dutch pushed the Portuguese out of India, they turned their attention to expanding their role in the African slave trade. In order to resist the Portuguese, Queen Nzinga of Ndongo (present-day Angola) initially made an alliance with them in order to protect the imports of guns for her people #girlpower
Over time, the Portuguese became more exploitative to expand their powers. Queen Nzinga turned to the Dutch to help fend off the Portuguese. Together, they defeated the Portuguese in 1647, but the Dutch retreated from central Africa a year leaving the region vulnerable. 
Even into her 60s, Queen Nzinga personally led her troops into battle to protect their land. After her death, the Portuguese gained control of the region until well 1975.

Image Credit: wikipedia

Serfs vs. Russian Central Government

While the West African people were defending themselves from foreign attacks, the Russians were dealing with internal challenges. Russian serfs had suffered oppression from the time of the Mongols and by the 15th century, the hardship and population of serfs had increased.
Free peasants affected by heavy debts often lost their land and were forced into serfdom. Even as serfdom was abolished across Europe, Russian serfs were tied to the land through strict laws that had no opportunity for freedom. Escaped serfs began to organize as free peasants, especially in the steppes. They were called Cossacks.
The Cossacks under Yemelyan Pugachev rebelled against Catherine the Great.

Who Was Catherine the Great?

Catherine the Great was the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. She is known for her intelligence, political acumen, and modernizing reforms, which helped to transform Russia into a major European power. Catherine came to power after overthrowing her husband, Peter III, in a coup. She was a strong and capable leader who worked to improve the education system, the economy, and the legal system in Russia. She also expanded Russia's territory through military conquest, adding territories such as Crimea and parts of Poland to the Russian Empire. Catherine was a patron of the arts and sciences and supported the development of literature, music, and education in Russia. She is considered one of the greatest rulers in Russian history.
Although they experienced early success in their revolt, the Russian government eventually suppressed the rebellion. After that, oppression of peasants and serfs increased in an effort to avoid future conflict.

Maratha (Hindu Warriors) vs. Mughal Empire (Muslim)

South Asia, which includes modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, has a majority population of Hindus and a strong minority of Muslims. However, in the 17th century, the Mughals were a Muslim group that ruled the region. 
In fear of minority rule, Hindu warriors called the Marathas rebelled. Between 1680-1707, the Maratha rebellion continued until they killed the Mughal leader Aurangzeb. His death effectively ended the Mughal Empire and the Maratha Empire ruled until 1818. 

Maratha Empire

The Maratha Empire, also known as the Maratha Confederacy, was a Hindu state in India that existed from the early 17th century to the early 19th century. It was founded by the Maratha warrior Shivaji, who established a powerful military and established himself as the ruler of a large kingdom in western India. The Maratha Empire eventually grew to encompass much of central and western India, and it became one of the dominant powers in the region. The Maratha army, which was composed of skilled cavalry and infantry, was known for its mobility and effectiveness in battle. The Maratha Empire reached the height of its power in the late 18th century, but it eventually declined and was dissolved in the early 19th century, following the defeat of Maratha forces by the British East India Company in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

Mughal Empire

The Mughal Empire was a Muslim state in India that ruled a large portion of the Indian subcontinent from the early 16th to the early 19th century. It was founded by Babur, a Chaghatai Turkic-Mongol prince, who established the Mughal dynasty after defeating the Sultan of Delhi in battle. The Mughal Empire was known for its cultural achievements and its legacy can still be seen in India today, particularly in the fields of art, architecture, and literature. Mughal emperors, who were descendants of Genghis Khan and Timur, were known for their centralized government, their strong military, and their support of the arts. The Mughal Empire reached the height of its power during the reign of Emperor Akbar the Great, who is remembered for his religious tolerance and his efforts to bring peace and stability to the region. The Mughal Empire declined in the early 18th century and was eventually dissolved in the mid-19th century, following the defeat of Mughal forces by the British East India Company in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Pueblos vs. Spanish

In the Americas, Indigenous groups rebelled against European conquest. In present-day New Mexico, the entire Pueblo community rebelled against the Spanish for 10 days in 1680.
The Pueblo Revolt was successful and the Spanish retreated from the region. However, they returned in 1692 to recapture the lands. Some Pueblos again resisted, but the Spanish quickly massacred the small group of warriors. After that, many Pueblos migrated away in search of freedom.

What Was The Pueblo Revolt?

The Pueblo Revolt, also known as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, was an uprising of the Pueblo people against Spanish colonial rule in what is now the southwestern United States. The Pueblo people, who were Native Americans living in present-day New Mexico, had long been subjected to forced labor, cultural suppression, and religious persecution by the Spanish colonizers. In 1680, they rose up against their oppressors, led by a Pueblo religious leader named Popé. The Pueblo warriors were able to drive the Spanish out of the region, and they established a period of independence that lasted for more than a decade. The Pueblo Revolt is remembered as one of the most significant acts of resistance by Native Americans against European colonization in North America.

Slaves vs. Slave Owners

Jamaica had a growing slave population throughout this time period. In 1655, the British took control of the land forcing the Spanish out. As Spanish slave owners fled, many slaves escaped and formed settlements called Maroons. Revolts led by maroon communities had some success, but were ultimately squashed.
The Gloucester County Rebellion in 1663 was the first slave revolt in the British American colonies. African slaves forged an alliance with white indentured servants in a rebellion to demand freedoms. 
The revolt in Virginia failed and had serious consequences. In order to prevent white and black oppressed groups from conspiring, the Virginia government wielded racist policies to drive a wedge. They gave lower class white workers some rights to appease them and prevent further chaos. Black slaves remained enslaved for 200 more years.

Indigenous Tribes vs. British Colonists (Metacom’s War)

Native American tribes in New England were some of the first indigenous communities to be displaced by British colonists. The last stand against colonization was led by Metacom, also known as his colonial name King Phillip.
By the 1670s, the colonists and Natives had largely co-existed. However in 1675, Metacom mounted one last effort to drive the British off the Native land. Many tribes participated, although some sided with the English. 
The colonists defeated the Natives after 14 months of bloody rebellion. Relative to the total population, Metacom’s War is the deadliest in US history. 

Glorious Revolution: English Protestants vs. English Catholics

Back in England, things were getting complicated. England was a majority Protestant country, but had a Catholic minority. In 1685, the Catholic King James II ascended to the throne and began enacting anti-Protestant policies.
William of Orange was backed by Protestants to overthrow him. Without any bloodshed, William and Mary II pressured James II into exile and took the throne. William and Mary accepted joint powers with parliament and signed the English Bill of Rights. This is what’s known as the Glorious Revolution.

Rebellions & Revolts

Notable Challenges
  • Dutch & English pushed out of South Asia
  • Queen Nzinga’s rebellion in modern-day Angola
  • Fronde revolt against the royal power
  • Cossack rebellion
  • Pugachev rebellion
  • Maratha rebellion
  • Pueblo & Apache Revolt in present-day New Mexico
  • Maroon Wars (Jamaica)
  • Gloucester County Slave Rebellion (Virginia)
  • Metacom’s War (New England)
  • Glorious Revolution (Catholic vs. Protestant in England)
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🐎Unit 1 – The Global Tapestry, 1200-1450
🐫Unit 2 – Networks of Exchange, 1200-1450
🕌Unit 3 – Land-Based Empires, 1450-1750
🍕Unit 4 – Transoceanic Interactions, 1450-1750
✊🏽Unit 5 – Revolutions, 1750-1900
🚂Unit 6 – Consequences of Industrialization, 1750-1900
💣Unit 7 – Global Conflict, 1900-Present
🥶Unit 8 – Cold War & Decolonization, 1900-Present
✈️Unit 9 – Globalization, 1900-Present
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