MODULE 3 OVERVIEW
You have already traveled throughout the Italian Peninsula and have learned about the remarkable achievements in art that led to the Renaissance. In Machiavelli’s, The Prince you investigated the advice he left for absolute rulers on how to rule their nation. Indeed, the nation states of the world all ruled absolutely, that is without any restrictions upon them.
This period is often called the Age of Absolutism because many important nations of Europe were ruled by absolute monarchs, kings or queens whose authority was virtually without limits.
Peter the Great
But one nation was to find that ruling absolutely presented many problems. In England, in the later Middle Ages, English monarchs steadily increased their power but they were nonetheless restrained by various forces by laws, customs, and by such institutions as Parliament. The idea of Parliament goes back to the Magna Carta.
Magna Carta On Display
Absolute monarchs, on the other hand, were thought of as above the law. The absolute monarch was a hereditary ruler who claimed to be God’s agent on earth. He or she ruled by divine right link —that is, the power granted to the ruler by God alone. According to theory, the ruler was God’s chosen representative, responsible only to God and not to the people in general nor to any one group. The monarch’s subjects were duty-bound to obey their ruler as they would obey God.
The absolute monarch’s power went beyond the right to declare war or order a person executed without trial, Royal power was a mystical notion nourished by illusion, Most of a monarch’s subjects never really knew what royalty was did, or could do, The ruler was cloaked in mystery. There were court rituals kneeling, bowing, and so on and a variety of gestures and a courtly language that the average person did not understand, All of this, of course, convinced the common people that their monarch was someone special.
Between 1625 and 1815 three nations stepped forward to challenge the belief and to alter their country’s government and their future. These were the nations of Britain, the United States, and France.
As you complete the assignments in Module 5 remember that the Revolutionary changes set the tone for more democratic reforms in the future throughout the world.