Causes for the Rise of Absolutism in The new absolute Monarchies



A number of factors contributed to the rise of absolute monarchies in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the first place the disorder, anarchy and confusion which prevailed in Europe during the medieval period greatly contributed to the growth of the absolute monarchies.

People were fed up with uncertain conditions which caused them untold misery and were willing to be ruled by an absolute ruler who could assure them peace and order. This fact was fully exploited by rulers of Spain, France, England, Russia, Austria etc. to establish their absolute rule.

Secondly, as a result of the Crusades the rulers and nobles of Europe came in contact with the East, where absolute monarchy was a common form of government. This had its impact on the rulers of Europe and they tried to assert their authority.

The nobles and barons who could have possibly checked them were so much enfeebled due to Crusades that they never dared to challenge the authority of the kings.

Thirdly, the enormous expansion in trade, commerce, industry and the consequent rise of towns and cities also greatly contributed to the growth of absolute monarchies in Europe.

The traders, merchants and industrial­ists wanted peace and order so that they could carry on their occupation without any hindrance and were too willing to extend necessary support to the absolute rulers who promised them peace and order. The middle classes also provided the kings with necessary finances and useful officials.

Fourthly, the decline of the empire and the Papacy led to the growth of a number of nations where rulers successfully asserted their authority and established absolute rule. Had the empire not declined and the Papacy maintained its dominant position, absolute monarchies would not have grown in Europe.

Fifthly, Renaissance and Reformation also greatly contributed to the growth of absolute monarchies. As a result of Renaissance people took to the study of classical literature and discovered that ancient Romans thrived under the autocratic rule of one person and were willing to support autocratic rulers for the sake of the glory of the nation. Similarly, Refor­mation dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the Roman Church and in a number of countries the king became the head of the church.

The kings began to treat church as a department of the state. They appointed the officials of the church and paid them salaries from the government treas­ury. Naturally, the kings began to be looked upon as heads of the state as well as the church.

Sixthly, the discovery of, gun-power also greatly facilitated the emer­gence of absolute monarchies. After the discovery of the gun-powder the kings tried to free themselves from the control of the feudal lords and started maintaining standing armies of hired soldiers.

With the help of canons and muskets these soldiers could destroy the castles and military forces of the nobles and barons. Consequently, the nobles and barons who could possibly raise voice against the autocratic powers of the king submitted to their authority.

Seventhly, the spirit of patriotism and nationalism which pervaded the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries played no less significant role in the promotion of absolute monarchies. Fired by the spirit of patriotism and nationalism people were willing to extend full support to the rulers who could provide position of pride to the country.

Eighthly, during this period a number of political thinkers like Machia velli, Bodin, Hobbes etc. greatly eulogised absolute monarchy and thus created a favourable climate for the growth of absolute monarch. Machia velli in his The Prince projected the need of an absolute king because he alone could provide security to people. He treated the king above law and Parliament.

Likewise Jean Bodin in his book The State propounded the theory of 'legal sovereignty. He asserted that the king was the source of all law and was accountable to God alone. Likewise Hobbes made a plea for absolute monarchy on the ground that it alone could provide peace, prosperity and stability to the country. Thus these thinkers created a favourable climate in favour of absolute monarchy.

Finally, the emergence of absolute monarchies was rendered possible due to the presence of a number of powerful monarchs like Louis XIV of France, Frederick of Prussia, Peter of Russia, Charles II of Spain, and Joseph II of Austria.

These rulers waged numerous wars and brought glory of their perspective states. In addition they also attached great importance to the social, economic and cultural upliftment of the people which naturally won them their support, and helped them to establish their absolute rule.