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European History


Republican States 1550–1700

In republican states, legislatures hold some power over taxation and law; but states not necessarily democratic, as legislatures may represent only nobles and wealthy

England: Despite kings’ attempts at Catholicism and absolutism, England remains Protestant and maintains strong parliamentary monarchy led by landed gentry

  • Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603) establishes tolerant religious settlement, increases royal bureaucracy and efficiency

    • 1588: English fleet defeats the Spanish Armada

  • James I (r. 1603–1625; a.k.a. James VI of Scotland) unites rule of Scotland and England, believes in divine right of kings, alienating Puritans

  • Charles I (r. 1625–1649) and Parliament (led by Puritan John Pym ) quarrel over Charles I’s taxation without Parliament’s consent, his refusal to call Parliament, and centralized structure of church governance

    • 1642–1646:Civil war between Charles I’s royalists (“Cavaliers”) and Parliament (“Roundheads,” favored by religious outsiders the Puritans)

    • 1649: Victory of Parliament’s New Model Army, commanded by Oliver Cromwell, leads to Charles I’s execution

  • 1653–1658: Cromwell rules England, enforces Puritan ideals, subdues Ireland and Scotland

  • Charles II (r. 1660–1685) given throne in Restoration, as English desire end to Puritan republic

  • James II (r. 1685–1688) renews fears of Catholic, absolutist monarch

  • 1688: Peaceful Glorious Revolution brings moderate monarchs William and Mary to England, assuring Protestant rule and Bill of Rights

  • 1707: Union of Scotland with England and Wales creates United Kingdom

  • 18th-century Hanoverian monarchs rule with Parliament, dominated by wealthy property owners, but sometimes responsive to public pressure

    • British sense of national identity emerges: Protestant, wealthy, loyal to monarchy, sense of rivalry with France

    • Political parties emerge: Whigs, Tories vie for House of Commons (lower house of Parliament)

Netherlands: Newly independent northern United Provinces (or Dutch Republic) thrives in 1600s; expands middle class through trade and industry, via growing global economy

  • Draining and filling in of land from sea creates fertile soil for increased agricultural production

  • Resists authoritarian government; maintains federalist republic led by wealthy families

  • Slight majority of Dutch are Calvinist, but country is known for religious toleration

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: Created by Lublin Union (1569), which unites northeastern Europe under one king; golden age of Poland

  • Nobles of the Sejm (the parliament) have customary veto power, which weakens central authority

  • Religious toleration as Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Jews live together

  • 1648: Ukrainian peasants revolt against cultural, religious and economic domination of Polish-Lithuanian nobles; turmoil lasts over a decade


The Global Economy 1600–1800

Global trade brings spices, tea, sugar, cotton from Asia and Americas to Europe; England and Netherlands especially benefit, while Italian states and Spain decline

Dutch and English shipbuilding, large middle class, urban population contribute to economy based on trade

Commercial innovations: Banks, credit, bills of exchange, joint stock companies (long-term investments by many) spark trade

  • Dutch East Indies Company trades spices, tulips from Indonesian colonies; though independent of the government, it represents the government’s interests

  • British East India Company establishes trade in India, operates its own administration and military

Slaves from central west Africa provide labor in American economies from North America to Brazil

  • Millions of Africans forced to migrate across the ocean, bringing languages, culture to American colonies

  • Prosperity of colonial traders, merchants, and manufacturers of consumer goods comes to depend on slavery

Mercantile system: Belief that there is a limited amount of wealth in the world and that each nation must seek a favorable trade balance; expansion only through conquest

Dutch economy declines in late 1600s due to series of wars with England and France, lack of strong leadership

Port cities and capitals expand; medieval trade and ecclesiastical centers decline

Largest European cities in 1800: London, Paris, Naples, Constantinople, Moscow