The Growth of the Modern State in Early Modern Europe
The text explores the development of the state in Early Modern Europe, with a focus on military developments and the expansion of political power. It discusses the transition from prescriptive, particularist, and pious political thought to rational, universal, and secular thinking, using the example of Brandenburg-Prussia. The concept of enlightened absolutism is discussed, with particular attention paid to Frederick the Great of Prussia and Joseph II of Austria. The text also touches on the relationship between the Enlightenment and power, and the tension between the Church and state in the Habsburg Monarchy.
Table of Contents
- The Expanding State and Military Developments
- Brandenburg-Prussia: A Case Study of Political Transition
- Enlightened Absolutism and the Enlightenment
- Joseph II of Austria: Reforms and Opposition
The Expanding State and Military Developments
The text discusses the growth of the state in Early Modern Europe, which was spurred on by increasing military costs. As armies and navies grew in size, the state had to correspondingly expand its power. This led to a shift from prescriptive, particularist, and pious political thought to rational, universal, and secular thinking. The text also discusses the cost of warfare, noting that the Seven Years War was a particularly expensive conflict that left Britain struggling economically.
Brandenburg-Prussia: A Case Study of Political Transition
Brandenburg-Prussia is used as an example of the transition from traditional political thinking to modern, rational thought. The author notes that Frederick II of Prussia advocated for a social contract between the ruler and the citizens, and referred to himself as the “first servant of the state.” This marked a shift away from the traditional belief that rulers were chosen by God and held absolute power. Frederick’s ideas were influenced by the Enlightenment, and he was committed to improving the lives of his subjects. The text notes that this transition was not without its challenges, and many conservative contemporaries opposed the changes.
Enlightened Absolutism and the Enlightenment
The concept of enlightened absolutism is discussed in this section, with a particular focus on Frederick the Great of Prussia and Joseph II of Austria. Despite criticisms of these rulers, the text argues that they were committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment and introduced reforms that improved the lives of their subjects. The text also explores the relationship between the Enlightenment and power, noting that rulers relied on ministers and intellectuals to implement their policies. Examples of enlightened politicians include the Marquês de Pombal in Portugal and Joseph von Sonnenfels in Austria.
Joseph II of Austria: Reforms and Opposition
The section focuses on the reforms implemented by Joseph II of Austria, which aimed to shift power away from the Pope and towards the bishops and parish priests. Joseph introduced toleration for Protestants and Greeks Orthodox, dissolved religious orders deemed useless, and established state-run “general seminaries” to re-educate the clergy. He also introduced toleration for Jews, with the aim of making them more useful to the state. These reforms were met with opposition from conservative contemporaries and the Church. Joseph’s attempts to reform secular privilege in Belgium led to hostility and then outright revolt. In Hungary, his radical assault on the social, economic, and political power of the Magyar gentry led to insurrection plans and threats of military intervention by Prussia.
The text concludes by discussing the tension between the Church and state in the Habsburg Monarchy, which ultimately led to a crisis in the late 1780s. The campaign of 1789, in which the Austrians achieved significant victories against Turkey, helped to restore order in the Habsburg Monarchy. Joseph II died in 1790 and was succeeded by his brother Leopold II, who revoked many of the unpopular policies and pledged attachment to the traditional order. The text suggests that although the transition to modern political thinking was not without its challenges, it ultimately represented an important step forward in the development of the modern state.