A. State Development
1. Between 1516 and 1519 Charles of Burgundy, descendant of the
Austrian Habsburg family, inherited the thrones of Castile and Aragon,
with their colonial empires, the Austrian Habsburg possessions, and the
position of Holy Roman Emperor. Charles was able to forge a coalition to
defeat the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna in 1529, but he was unable to
unify his many territorial possessions.
2. Lutheran German princes rebelled against the French-speaking
Catholic Charles, seizing church lands and giving rise to the German
Wars of Religion. When Charles abdicated the throne, Spain went to his
son Philip while a weakened Holy Roman Empire went to his brother
3. Meanwhile, the rulers of Spain, France, and England pursued their
own efforts at political unification.
B. Religious Policies
1. The rulers of Spain and France successfully defended
state-sponsored Catholicism against the Protestant challenge.
2. In England, Henry VIII challenged papal authority and declared
himself head of the Church of England. Later English monarchs resisted
the efforts of English Calvinists to "purify" the Anglican Church.
C. Monarchies in England and France
1. In England, a conflict between Parliament and king led to a civil
war and the establishment of a Puritan republic under Oliver Cromwell.
After the Stuart line was restored, Parliament enforced its will on the
monarchy when it drove King James II from the throne in the Glorious
Revolution of 1688 and forced his successors, William and Mary, to sign
a document, the Bill of Rights, that limited the power of the crown.
2. In France, the Bourbon kings were able to circumvent the
representative assembly known as the Estates General and develop an
absolutist style of government. Louis XIV’s finance minister Colbert was
able to increase revenue through more efficient tax collection and by
promoting economic growth while Louis entertained and controlled the
French nobility by requiring them to attend his court at Versailles.
D. Warfare and Diplomacy
1. Constant warfare in early modern Europe led to a military
revolution in which cannon, muskets, and commoner foot soldiers became
the mainstays of European armies. Armies grew in size, and most European
states maintained standing armies (except England, which maintained a
2. In order to manage the large standing armies and in order to use
the troops more effectively in battle, Europeans devised new command
structures, signal techniques, and marching drills.
3. Developments in naval technology during this period included
warships with multiple tiers of cannon and four-wheel cannon carriages
that made reloading easier. England took the lead in the development of
new naval technology, as was demonstrated when the English Royal Navy
defeated Spain’s Catholic Armada in 1588, signaling an end to Spain’s
military dominance in Europe.
4. With the defeat of Spain, France rose as the strongest power on
continental Europe, while its rival England held superiority in naval
power. During the War of the Spanish Succession, England, allied with
Austria and Prussia, was able to prevent the French house of Bourbon
from taking over the Spanish throne.
5. With the War of the Spanish Succession and with Russia’s emergence
as a power after the Great Northern war, the four powers of
Europe—France, Britain, Austria, and Russia—were able to maintain a
balance of power that prevented any one power from becoming too strong
for about two centuries.
E. Paying the Piper
1. The rulers of European states needed to raise new revenue to pay
the heavy costs of their wars; the most successful made profitable
alliances with commercial elites. The Spanish, however, undermined their
economy by driving out Jews, Protestants, and the descendants of Muslims
so that the bullion they gained from their American empire was spent on
payments to creditors and for manufactured goods and food.
2. The northern provinces of the Netherlands wrested their autonomy
from Spain and became a dominant commercial power. The United Provinces
of the Free Netherlands and particularly the province of Holland favored
commercial interests, craftsmen, and manufacturing enterprises, and
Amsterdam became a major center of finance and shipping.
3. After 1650 England used its naval power to break Dutch dominance
in overseas trade. The English government also improved its financial
position by collecting taxes directly and by creating a central bank.
4. The French government streamlined tax collection, used protective
tariffs to promote domestic industries, and improved its transportation
network. The French were not, however, able to introduce direct tax
collection, tax the land of nobles, or secure low-cost loans.