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 Major Concept:

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the monarchies of Western Europe sought to centralize political power. Political absolutism supported that trend .

Monarch - government run by a king, queen, emperor, czar (comes from the word Ceasar).  Monarchs have hereditary rule (passed down from generation to generation - ex. the eldest son of a king would become the next king.)

The titles of many of these monarchs use Roman numerals.  Click on this line for a link for a refresher lesson on the Roman numerals.

Ivan the Terrible


Ivan IV (August 25, 1530 - March 18, 1584) was the first ruler of Russia to assume the title of tsar. He is also known as Ivan the Terrible. The early part of reign was one of peaceful reforms (including a centralized administration by limiting the powers of the nobles, also known as boyars) and modernization (during his reign the first printing press was introduced to Russia).  Ivan revised the law code, created a standing army, established the council of the nobles (1549), and subordinated the church to the state. 

Ivan formed new trade agreements with English merchants.

 How does appearance of the Russians differ from the appearance of the English?

Ivan IV of Russia ("Ivan the Terrible") demonstrates his treasures to the ambassador of QueenElizabeth I of England


Less positive aspects of Ivan’s rule include the introduction of the first laws restricting the mobility of the peasants, which would eventually lead to serfdom. He also introduced the use of the secret police.


He had St. Basil's Cathedral constructed in Moscow to commemorate the seizure of Kazan. Legend has it that he was so impressed with the structure that he had the architects blinded, so that they could never design anything as beautiful again.


During the latter half of Ivan's reign, he launched a war of seaward expansion only to find himself fighting the Swedes, Lithuanians, Poles, and the Livonians. For twenty-two years the war dragged on, damaging the Russian economy and military but winning it no territory.


After suspecting several Russian boyars of treason, Ivan instituted a reign of terror.  The secret police executed thousands of boyars.  Depopulation and famine ensued. In a dispute with Novgorod republic, Ivan ordered the secret police to murder the inhabitants of this city. What had been by far the richest area of Russia became the poorest. Between thirty and forty thousand were killed. In 1581, Ivan in a fit of rage killed his son.




Take note of the beard and traditional Russian wardrobe.





Philip II,


In the 1500s, Spain emerged as the first modern European power.  Spain's king, Charles V, was involved in almost constant warfare.  His son, Philip II, expanded Spanish influence, strengthened the Catholic Church, and, believed he ruled by divine right, made his own power absolute.   Under him, Spain became the most powerful state in Europe.


Philip II, the self-proclaimed leader of Counter-Reformation, assumed the throne in 1556.  He ruled Spain and the Netherlands. He was devoted to stopping spread of Protestantism held an Inquisition to stop the spread of Calvinism. His enemy was Elizabeth I of England, a protestant; she had encouraged the looting of Spanish ships by her Sea Dogs.  Philip send a huge fleet "the invincible Armada," in 1588 to attach Elizabeth I.  The Spanish were defeated, Philip was bankrupt by 1596 and died in 1598


Spanish Armarda

Only the first 6 minutes of the link.




Thomas Hobbes - Political philosopher who in 1651, published the book -Leviathan
  • Hobbes is one of the first political philosophers to introduce the notion of a Social


  • The idea that people enter in an agreement whereby the majority rules.
  • Hobbes asserts that people have natural rights, however people give up their natural

            rights in exchange for order in society. 

  • Hobbes was an Englishmen who wrote his ideas during the dictatorship of England's

            Oliver Cromwell, who won the English Civil War after defeating the forces of King

            Charles I.

  •  Hobbes agrues that the best form of government is one of absolute power.  While people

             have natural rights, they give them up in exchange for order in society.

  •  If you had lived through a civil war, would you be willing to give up your natural rights  

             in exchange for peace and an orderly society?

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627 –1704)

  • Court preacher to Louis XIV of France, Bossuet was a strong advocate of political

            absolutism and the divine right of kings.

  • He argued that government was divine and that kings received their power from God

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627 –1704) was a French bishop and theologian,.


On the regents, they like to use quotes from Bossuet.  Read the quote below


According to Bossuet's, "On the Nature and Properties of Royal Authority," the greatest crime is to attack the person of the king, since the king is not a mere man, but the representative of God on Earth, whose life individuals must guard above their own so as to obtain the grace of God.  Because the king is directly accountable to God, according to Bossuet, he cannot be held liable to any man for his judgment.


  1. According to the quote, who does a King answer to?
  2. What limits does a king have?



Absolutism in France

1600s – France takes the place of Spain as the most powerful nation in Europe


Louis XIV symbolized the true absolute monarch.

  • During a time when many French people did not have shelter or enough to eat,

            Louis XIV built the lavish Palace of Versailles outside of Paris.

  • The cost may have exceeded 100 million dollars.

  • Versailles had enough rooms to house 10,000 people.

  • The palace served two purposes.

  • Louis hosted huge banquets and encouraged his nobles to stay at Versailles so as to

             keep an eye on them.

   What symbolism do you see in this picture?

Peter the Great of Russia
Fast Forward to minute 6, the last 3 minutes covers Peter the Great, once he is in power.
Peter the Great expanded Russian territory to the north to get access to the Baltic Sea, there he built his "window on the west."  The Palace at St. Petersburg

Modern Russia started with the rule of Peter the Great. He realized that Russia should be westernized to ensure its independence. Already fascinating by mechanical inventions, he studied government and business models of the West.



But Peter also believed in starting from the bottom and working his way up. He learned ship building from the Europeans he invited to Russia, and built a ship himself, which he captained as Peter Alekseevich. In 1697, he accompanied an embassy to European courts as a carpenter named Peter Mikhailov. He also served as seaman, soldier, barber and, to the discomfort of his courtiers, as dentist.


Peter sent Russians to be educated in the West, and imported skilled labor, military and administrative experts from abroad. He encouraged smoking, but taxed tobacco. Because European men usually were clean shaven, he taxed Russians wearing beards. He modernized the calendar, simplified numerals, and encouraged private industry and mining. Remarkably, Peter managed to modernize Russia without borrowing money for his state. Instead, he taxed his citizens heavily.


To ensure continual contact with the West, Peter captured the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea from the Swedes and built a new capital, St. Petersburg, on its shores.


Peter was a big strong man, 2,04 meters (6′ 8” inches) tall, and unlike previous monarchs, not afraid of physical labor. In November 1724, he dived into the cold northern ocean to assist in a ship rescue. It led to his illness and death.

 Peter the Great and the Westernization of Russia
DBQ - January 2008 (answer the questions for documents 1, 2 & 3 {pages 13-15})

Catherine the Great

The need to possess warm-water ports greatly influenced the foreign policy of Russia


During her reign, Catherine the Great expanded Russia's borders to the Black Sea (a warm water port) and into central Europe. THe warm water port allowed Russian to trade year round as opposed the ports in the north which froze in the winter.  She promoted westernization and modernization though within the context of her autocratic (absolute) control over Russia and increasing the control of landed gentry over serfs. Catherine the Great promoted education and the Enlightenment among the elite. She kept up a correspondence with many figures of the Enlightenment in Europe.


Akbar “The Great” was the most powerful Mughal Caliph to ever rule India. He achieved a widespread level of prosperity and peace in India that was never seen to that extent again. His court housed many famous philosophers, Persian poets, Muslim and Hindu scholars and thousands of wives.


Akbar unified India and created a well-organized bureaucracy. Besides this he constructed many great buildings including the Red Fort in Agra. Akbar’s reign was a Golden Age in Indian history that came at a bloody price. The destruction that Akbar brought as a Muslim ruler over his reluctant Hindu populace included the massacre of over 30,000 captive Hindus in 1568. Like the ancient Assyrians, Akbar was found of making a tower of severed heads as a reminder to his conquered subjects



One of the great accomplishments Akbar made was the formation of a centralized bureaucracy and well-organized government. He appointed military governors to be put in charge of provinces in his empire. These governors were responsible for their region and were severely punished and killed if they misused their power to hurt the peasants. Besides this, Akbar imposed a tax on land which applied to everyone equally. This was an important innovation because the wealthy landowners were usually not taxed before. Akbar also dropped the tax on non-Muslims and appointed several Hindus to high positions in his court. He married a Hindu princess in order to cement his relationships with the neighboring Hindu kingdoms. Akbar’s kingdom was the only kingdom to allow Hindus to live under their own laws and form their own courts instead of having Muslim laws imposed on them. He believed that all religions should be tolerated and that the ruler should treat all beliefs equally. Because of Akbar’s lenience towards non-Muslims, the Mughal Empire enjoyed a time of opulence and relative harmony

   Suleiman the Magnificent

Suleiman the Magnificent (Suleiman the Lawgiver) was the Sultan of Turkey (1520-1566) under whose governance the Ottoman Empire reached the height of its power. Also known as the Lawgiver, he built bridges, mosques, aqueducts, and fortresses, and vastly increased the expanse and wealth of the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman was responsible for a proliferation of art and literature that is greatly valued even today.


Remember, this was build during the Renaissance period.



The Ottomans defeated the Byzantine Empire in 1453.  The Ottomans benefited from rich trade along the Mediterranean Sea.  As you see on the map, the Ottomans controlled the Eastern Mediterranean.  They renamed Constantinople, Istanbul.  Istanbul was a center of trade.

What other empire is known for its aquaducts and system of roads and bridges?

From the notes above, what do you see in this picture that is attributable to Suleiman the Great?


August 2011 DBQ (documents 7-9, pages 18-20)



Essential questions:
  1. How did absolute monarchs increase power?
  2. How does absolutism compare and contrast in Europe with absolutism in Asia and Africa?

Practice multiple choice questions taken from state regents exams


22.  Akbar the Great, Suleiman the Magnificent, and Louis XIV are all rulers associated

       with (Aug. ’11)

(1) natural rights                                              (3) religious toleration

(2) filial piety                                                  (4) absolutism


• Captured the city of Constantinople in 1453

• Benefited from rich trade along the Mediterranean Sea

• Ruled by Suleiman the Lawgiver


13. Which empire best fits these descriptions? (June ’11)

(1) Roman                                           (3) Mongol

(2) Ottoman                                        (4) Songhai



18. One way in which Akbar the Great, Ivan the  Terrible, and Louis XIV are similar is

     that they were all (June ’11)

(1) theocratic rulers                 (3) absolute rulers

(2) elected leaders                   (4) enlightened despots


17. The Ottomans were a strong trading empire through the mid-1600s because they

     (Jan. ’11)

(1) controlled access to the eastern Mediterranean Sea

(2) had the most powerful navy in the world

(3) dominated West African caravan routes

(4) conquered most of Asia

more practice questions can be found at the link below:

 Thematic Essay August 2005 Regents

 Thematic Essay June 2007 Regents

 Thematic Essay August 2007 Regents