What is absolutism? How and why did European monarchs attempt to create absolutist states in the 1600’s? Absolutism is the system of rule that allows one or more rulers to maintain absolute power over everything in the land. The “Age of Absolutism” is generally considered to last from 1660-1789 and began with King Louis XIV of France. The other rulers of that time followed his lead in order to gain wealth and stop the violence in their countries. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were filled with violence and wars.
Rulers of the time considered absolute monarchies to be the best solution to these problems.
In order for absolutism to work, the monarchy had to obtain complete control of the tax system, military and judicial system. These areas changed from the hands of the aristocracy and local gentry to the monarch. This was not something that the aristocrats and gentry were willing to give up easily. Up to that point, they had controlled the areas and had answered to no one but the King.
The nobility and the Church were the most adamant opposition to the absolutist regime. The monarchy explained the need for absolutism as the “will of God” and to oppose it was to oppose God’s will.
Absolutism, it was stated, was in place to protect and guide society, even though that society had no power to govern themselves. Absolute monarchy had three basic components: Centralization- this meant that the monarchy was the center of everything. All decisions from the monarchy were undisputable and final.
All counties and villages were expected to follow this rule to create a united state and a centralized leadership. Economic reforms- Louis XIV introduced a “modern” system of accountancy and yearly state budgeting that was instituted by other monarchs in Europe.
Louis XIV also supervised systematic attacks on corruption, removing, punishing, or paying off office holders. He also introduced tax reforms – ending exemptions, tax-farming, and military collection of taxes – and state support for industry, science, trade, and the arts. The government income was raised to the point that it could pay for quite massive expenses. Government subsidizing and directing of industry and manufacture increased productivity, raised wages, and brought France into the trade wars with the English and the Dutch. This became the precedent for absolute monarchy.