Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Europe at war, 1689-1713

William of Orange’s primary motive for invading England had been to draw the nation into the European coalition against France, and his arrival produced a dramatic transformation of British foreign policy. From 1689 to 1714 it was at war for all but five of these years. These wars demolished the order Louis had constructed in the first thirty-five years of his reign.

The Glorious Revolution (1688-89): why it matters

1. The Revolution did not bring about democracy. After 1688-9 the crown still retained considerable prerogative power.

2. However, the Revolution and the Act of Settlement (1701) and the Act of Union (1707) established a Protestant succession to the crown. From this time onwards monarchs and their spouses had to follow the religion of the people. The Toleration Act of 1689 allowed Dissenters (not Catholics) freedom of worship. Although Dissenters were still deprived of public office by the Test Act, the practice of Occasional Conformity allowed many of them to sit on corporations and to vote.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Siege of Vienna

Go here to listen to the discussion on the Siege of Vienna in Melvyn Bragg's 'In Our Time'.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Three wars and an invasion

The War of the Reunions
In 1683-4 Louis XIV fought his third war, the War of the Reunions. In many respects it was a continuation of the two previous wars and was part of the ongoing struggle between France and Spain for the mastery of Europe.

In 1670 he had set up several Chambers of Reunion to investigate whether France had been given all the territories to which it was legally entitled following the Thirty Years’ War and the War of Devolution. The Chambers resolved that more areas, mainly small towns and villages surrounding the cities that had been ceded by treaty, should be awarded to Louis and when French troops were sent to these areas they were generally unopposed. In effect, the reunions were a legal veneer for annexations.

In 1680-1 the French attacked Orange, where the Dutch Stadhouder William’s family had its hereditary estates. In August 1681 they occupied the town, pulled down its walls and let loose the dragonnades. This was a final insult to William as a sovereign prince. For a while though he was helpless, as the States General would not allow him to increase the number of armed forces. In September 1681 the Protestant city of Strassburg was taken from the Empire and renamed Strasbourg, giving the French control of much of the lower Rhine. The barrier town of Luxembourg was then besieged (it fell in June 1684).

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Louis XIV and religion

During the reign of Louis XIV religion was still a vital issue. The king had been granted the title of ‘most Christian King’ by the pope. Though he could not define doctrine, it was the king’s right to direct affairs of religion in France and therefore to govern relations between church and state. The church was the strongest moral and ideological support for the monarchy. The crown made use of priests and bishops to inform the population of laws and victories and bishops often played an important role in local government. The Church formed the First Estate. Although it was exempt from the taille, the Assembly of Clergy which met every year was obliged to grant a free gift of several million livres to the monarchy.

Louis XIV: the early wars

[This painting by Pierre Mignard represents Lous'' capture of of Maastricht in 1673.]

France: the international situation
In 1661 France had just emerged from 25 years of foreign war against the Habsburgs of the Spanish and Austrian empires. Since her entry into the Thirty Years’ War in 1635 French foreign policy had aimed at breaking the potential stranglehold on France occasioned by the rise of Spanish power and Spain’s possession of territories round the borders. The costs of the war were such that in 1648 both France and Spain went bankrupt - but France slightly less so than Spain.

One of the ‘big stories’ of the late 17th century is the transformation of the military and financial institutions of the state to enable it to fight large-scale wars in Europe and beyond.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Louis XIV and absolute monarchy

‘For monarchists everywhere, the turbulent 1640s proved to be the darkest decade before the dawn of a new era of authoritarian government often characterized by historians as “the age of absolutism”. Tim Blanning, The Pursuit of Glory (Penguin, 2007, 207).
The inheritance of Louis XIV
Louis was born 5 September 1638, the ‘God-given’, ‘miraculous’ child of Louis XIII and his Habsburg wife, Anne of Austria, after twenty-two years of marriage; he was baptised Louis-Dieudonné. He succeeded his father in May1643 aged four. From the start he was treated as a king.  He was taught that if he ruled in accordance with the will of God, his reign would be numbered as one of the most glorious in the history of France.

Throughout his reign he was acutely aware of his inheritance. French jurists had defined that the line of kings had followed each other in legitimate succession from Hugh Capet (987-96). This succession had to be male. The Salic law had the advantage of keeping foreigners off the throne but it created problems if there was no male heir. Before Louis’ birth the Bourbon line had come uncomfortably close to extinction. Louis himself only raised one legitimate child and was succeeded by his great-grandson (his son, grandson and one great-grandson predeceased him).

In his Memoirs, begun in 1661 for his son, the Dauphin. Louis set out a view of himself as a wise ruler, appointed by God, a glorious prince, dedicated to the pursuit of la gloire (glory, reputation). His reign coincided with the greatest period of French cultural and political dominance – le grand siècle.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Poor relief in ancient Rome: a comparison

If you want to make a comparison between poor relief in Christian Europe before the welfare state and provisions for the poor in the classical world, then this site provides fascinating information. As you will see, the bread dole in ancient Rome, doesn't have much resemblance to the concept of charity.

Thanks, Caryl.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The problem of poverty

[This is a picture of the Corsham almshouses in Wiltshire, founded by Lady Margaret Hungerford.]]

A widespread fear of the disorderly poor meant that the early-modern state was preoccupied with the question of poverty.

The largest group of people classed as paupers were the elderly. Widows and abandoned wives could account for a third or more of the recipients of poor relief. However, their best support remained their relatives. In eastern and southern Europe older people often lived in three-generational multiple family households, or moved from the household of one married child to another. But in Italy and Spain those without relatives could be abandoned. The poor relief records of Seville and Barcelona show that the poverty of a widowed mother and her daughter could turn the daughter into a prostitute and the mother into a procuress.

Old Age

William Harvey

This post is heavily biased to English history and is indebted to Pat Thane's Old Age in English History (Oxford University Press, 2000).

According to Psalm 90, the human life-span was 70. But in the early modern period some people lived beyond that age:Titian 1488/90-1576; William Harvey 1578–1657; Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679. The average age of death of the nine 17th century archbishops of Canterbury was 73 and the average age of appointment 60. In 1635 there was immense excitement over the death of Thomas Parr (‘Old Parr’) who died in London allegedly at the age of 153, having boasted that he had committed adultery at the age of 105. He was dissected by William Harvey who attributed his death to the sulphurous air and rich living of London. Perhaps significantly, he did not question his longevity and it was not until the 19th century that such claims were disbelieved.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Invention of Germany

Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, 1740-86
Click here for the second of Misha Glenny's programmes on Germany. This deals with the rise of Prussia to great power status in the eighteenth century and is very relevant to next term's programme.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Galileo and his daughters: a case study

This post is taken from Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love (London: Fourth Estate, 1999).

Galileo Galileo had three children, a boy and two girls, Virginia and Livia, the result of his long liaison with Marina Gamba of Venice. Virginia was born in August 1600, Livia a year later. Because the girls were illegitimate they were deemed unmarrigeable and soon after Virginia’s thirteenth birthday she was placed at the Poor Clare convent of San Matteo in Arcetri, where she lived out her life in poverty and seclusion.  She took the name of Suor Maria Celeste and Livia became Suor Arcangela.

The seventeenth-century family

In the seventeenth century the family was the basic unit of society. It was the place of residence and of the pooling and distribution of resources for consumption. For many a small farmer and craftsman it was also the basic unit of production. For most people the place of work was also the place of residence.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

More on the bibliothèque bleue

One of the productions of the Bibliothèque bleue, published at Troyes

Martine, from the Poverest class, has sent this link for finding out more about the bibliothèque bleue. Click on 'Patrimoine' at the top of the page and go to 'livres de colportages'. Then click on 'tout voir'. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The invention of Germany

Listen here for the first of Misha Glenny's fascinating programmes on German history. It deals with the Thirty Years' War so it should be familiar to you!

Monday, 17 October 2011

The crisis of the seventeenth century

The middle years of the seventeenth century saw a scale of disruption, social as well as political, that has caused some historians to write about a ‘seventeenth-century crisis’. It was a period of poor climate, bad harvests and food shortages but can these alone account for the widespread disorder?

From around 1640 major upheavals occurred in Scotland, Ireland, England, Catalonia and Portugal; in 1647 in Naples and Sicily; in 1648 and 1660 in Denmark; from 1648 to the early 1650s in France; from 1648 in Poland and Muscovy; from 1652 in Sweden.

It wasn't Galileo, it was Thomas Harriott

All these years I've been teaching people wrong! On 26 July 1609 the English polymath Thomas Harriot became the first person to look at a celestial object through a telescope. Harriot pointed his simple ‘Dutch trunke’ telescope at the Moon on 26th July 1609, making simple drawings of our nearest astronomical neighbour from his house in Syon Park in what is now West London. He made his pioneering drawings several months before Galileo

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Literacy and education

A hornbook was a primer  for children consisting of a sheet containing the letters of the alphabet, mounted on wood, bone, leather or stone and protected by a thin sheet of transparent horn or mica.ption
This post owes a great deal to David Cressy, ‘Literacy in context: meaning and measurement in early modern England’ in John Brewer and Roy Porter (eds), Consumption and the World of Goods (Routledge, 1993), 306) and to Margaret Spufford's famous and ground-breaking, Small Books and Pleasant Histories (Methuen 1981).

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Princess and the Philosopher

You can find more information about Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate (1618-80)  and her correspondence with René Descartes on Wikipedia - also  here. and here.

Some scholars think she was in love with Descartes. Philosophers admire her for the way she criticised his philosophy of dualism.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Scientific Revolution

[Above is a depiction of Louis XIV visiting the French Academy of Sciences in 1671.]
‘Religion provided a universal mode of thinking and of expression which pervaded all aspects of life in seventeenth-century Europe…For the great majority, strict conformity was both natural and unquestioned. Yet historians agree that this period also marked a crucial stage in the emancipation of the human mind from the blindly accepted dogma and intellectual traditions of the past.’ Thomas Munck, Seventeenth-Century Europe (Palgrave, 2005), 287.
The decline of the devil
The middle decades of the century saw a subtle yet significant shift as the primary source of danger came to be seen not as the devil but as human sin and weakness. Stories about divine judgement did not go away but they became marginalized. There was a growing scepticism about hell and eternal torments. This does not mean that religion was less important and it is misleading to see the period as witnessing a growing secularism.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Thirty Years' War (general survey)

Introduction The Thirty Years War is one of the great conflicts of early modern European history. It consisted of a series of declared and undeclared wars that raged through the years 1618-1648 throughout central Europe. It was
  • A geopolitical war between the House of Austria (the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III together with their Spanish cousin Philip IV) and their opponents, Denmark, the United Provinces, France and Sweden.
  • A German civil war. The principalities that made up Germany took up arms for or against the Habsburgs or, most commonly, both at different times during the war’s 30 years.
  • A religious war among Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists. Ferdinand II and, to a lesser degree, his primary ally Maximillian I represented the re-Catholicizing zeal of the Jesuit Counter-reformation, while Frederick V of the Palatinate represented the equally militant forces of Calvinism.
  • A war that was difficult to control as power increasingly rested with the army commanders: Tilly, Spinola, Wallenstein.
Background Under the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 Lutheranism had been given official recognition in the Holy Roman Empire, the principle of cuius regio euis religio had been established and church property in Lutheran areas was secularized.

The Thirty Years' War (Paul Kennedy)

Jacques Callot, Les Misères et les Malheurs de la Guerre (1632). There are are some useful websites for the Thirty Years' War which provide really comprehensive information. You might as well like to follow up this link for the most fascinating of all the protagonists in that dreadful conflict, Albrecht von Wallenstein. This summer the Chichester Festival Theatre put on Schiller's play, Wallenstein. I copied and pasted the piece below from the Sunday Times, 19 July 2009. It is a splendid piece by the historian, Paul Kennedy, a rave review of Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years' War by Peter H. Wilson. You can see the original here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Seventeenth-century Europe: an overview

Above is the Hendrick Avercamp's Winter with ice-skating (1608). Click to enlarge. The seventeenth-century
‘stands in transition between on the one hand the relatively prosperous and dynamic sixteenth century, with its major religious debates, its overseas expansion and economic growth…and on the other hand, the more relaxed and expansive eighteenth century…where many intellectual and cultural trends came together in the Enlightenment. Boxed in by the Muslim world in the Mediterranean, threatened by recurrent warfare both amongst the European powers and overseas, and at times overwhelmed by disease and starvation…seventeenth-century Europe was under siege. Thomas Munck, Seventeenth-Century Europe (2005).

The European states

European frontiers were unstable. 

There was no clear demarcation between the lands of the Ottoman Sultan and those of the Habsburg Emperors. Transylvania recognized Turkish suzerainty. Moldavia and Wallachia were Christian provinces within the Ottoman Empire. Belgrade was Turkish until 1688.

At the end of the century the Russian empire expanded westwards. Poland and Sweden lost territory.

The eastern frontier of France became a major theatre of war in the 17th century.

States and Dynasties

Emperor Ferdinand II (1578-1637)

There were two branches of the Habsburg dynasty.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What changed and what stayed the same?

Renaissance humanism, with its concern to recover ancient texts, can be seen as backward-looking. It took time for scholars to accept the idea that learning could be advanced rather than recovered. Scientists had to learn to separate their subject from theology, Aristotelian philosophy, Ptolemaic astrology and Galenic medicine. The humours and the body (See also earlier post.) The difficulties of accommodating new knowledge to ancient categories can be seen in the speculations of Niccolò Leoniceno, professor of medicine at the University of Padua. He decided that what we call the ‘Columbian exchange’, the arrival of syphilis in the Old World, had to be due to a rise in the level of the Italian rivers, notably the Tiber, which disturbed the humours. There is therefore a sense in which the rediscovery of ancient texts confirmed ancient prejudices. But at the same time, the idea of the inexorable laws of nature – rational, comprehensible and divinely ordained - took hold and in time weakened the Church’s assertion that theology was the queen of the sciences. The new anatomy Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) trained initially at Louvain where he complained that lecturer who taught Aristotle was
‘a theologian by profession and therefore…ready to mingle his pious views with those of the philosophers'. (Quoted Koenigsberger, Mosse and Bowler, Europe in the Sixteenth Century, Longman, 1989, 419).

The four humours

‘Nature that framed us of four elements,
Warring within our breasts for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.’
Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great

Humoral theory had been passed on from the late classical world in the works of Galen (c. AD 130-201). The four humours were four fluids that were thought to permeate the body and influence its health. Disease was thought to be caused by isonomia, the preponderance of one of the humours:
Yellow Bile
Black Bile
The four humours matched the four seasons

Autumn: black bile
Spring: blood
Winter: phlegm
Summer: yellow bile

Alchemy and magic

The sixteenth century saw an intensification of the ancient practice of alchemy. In his Oration on the Dignity of Man (scroll down), the Platonist, Pico della Mirandola (right) was careful to distinguish between good and bad magic.

Such was the significance of the alchemist that Christopher Marlowe (Dr Faustus, 1604), Shakespeare (The Tempest, 1610) and Ben Jonson (The Alchemist, 1610) all wrote plays illustrating his art. These fictional characters had some basis in real alchemists such as John Dee (1527-1609), Edward Kelley (1555-97/8) and Simon Forman (1552-1611). But alchemy was not confined to England. It was Europe-wide and was practised by Christians, Jews and Muslims, all engaged on a common quest to discover the inner meaning of life and of the universe.

Alchemy was empirical as well as mystical. It was at the centre of the investigations into the natural world and the heavens, which had contributed to the navigation of the world. With the increase of mining, there was a far greater potential for the exploitation of the earth’s minerals and metals and the search for wealth, power and cures, both chemical and herbal.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Divine Right of Kings

Go here to listen to Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time programme on the Divine Right of Kings.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Memories of Queen Victoria and Kaiser Bill

Nothing to do with the sixteenth century but those who were at my Saturday lecture might like to view this.  Click here.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The French Royal Family

Here is a family tree of the French royal family from Henri IV down to the present day. Click to enlarge. 

Merci, Martine.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Resistance and obedience: the crisis of political theory

In the second half of the sixteenth century both Protestant and Catholic writers began to construct theories of resistance to authority.

British theories of resistance
The first to do this were English Protestants in the reign of Mary I (1553-8) when Protestant exiles conducted a vigorous campaign in print against her religious policies, her Spanish marriage and the fact that she was a woman.

In his A Short Treatise of Politic Power (1556) John Ponet (c. 1514-56), bishop of Winchester, exiled in Strassburg, maintained that the power of the monarch rested on a contract with his people. This meant that their obedience was conditional: they would obey him as long as he ruled justly. Should he break this contract by depriving his subjects of their goods or murdering them, the people had the right to rebel and replace him with a leader more to their taste. In extreme circumstances they had a right to assassinate an evil ruler. Ponet’s justification of tyrannicide was not taken up in later centuries but his contract theory was to influence John Locke and provide the basis for the American Declaration of Independence.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

'Irredeemably corrupt'?

There have been several review of Hugh Thomas' The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V. This one in the Telegraph picks up some of the points we have discussed in class.  This quotation sums up much of the reviewer's argument:

'As Thomas makes clear, conquest opened up divisions within Charles’s empire. Men such as Cortés and Pizarro were good at winning empires; they could not be trusted to administer them.
Charles’s officials and churchmen had visions of an empire run on Christian ideals, but new rules governing relations with native peoples were fiercely resisted by those who relied on harshness and slavery.
When humane principles collided with the demand for cash, colonisers were often left to do things their own cruel way. Golden ages are never what they promise and this one, for all its romance, was irredeemably corrupt.'

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Spain, France, the Netherlands and England

This post is especially indebted to H. G. Koenigsberger, George L. Mosse and G. Q. Bowler, Europe in the Sixteenth Century (Longman, 1989) and to Richard Mackenney, Sixteenth-Century Europe: Expansion and Conflict (Macmillan, 1993).

In 1559 Europe seemed to be entering a period of peace as Henri II of France and Philip II of Spain signed the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis. The peace was sealed by the dynastic marriage of Philip to Elisabeth of Valois. France kept Calais, which she had conquered from England in 1558, and her conquests of Metz, Toul and Verdun. Philip was therefore forced to acknowledge the diminution of the empire of Charles V, but he retained Sicily, Naples, Milan, Franche-Comté and the Netherlands.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The English and the New World

The New World voyages were both cause and consequence of the worsening relations between England and Spain.

England’s claim to territory in the New World was old before it was exploited. In 1497 Henry VII had sponsored John Cabot’s voyage and discovery of Newfoundland. The Grand Banks had been known to fishermen earlier, but Cabot’s enthusiastic reports opened the way for international rivalries over the region; early in the 16th century English, French, Basque, and Portuguese fishermen were contesting for catches. [It was probably Basque fishermen who named Cape Breton Island.] In 1536 Richard Hore sailed from Gravesend to Labrador, but was driven off by natives.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The debate on the Indians

See here and here for more information.

From the time Columbus landed in Hispaniola in 1492 the Spaniards had been divided about how they should regard the Indians and how should they treat them. Were they rational beings capable of coercion to Christianity? Were they the lawful owners of their property? Or were they inferior creatures, savages who could legitimately be subjugated? in regards to the rationality and Christianization of the Indians.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Columbus has a lot to answer for.

Did Columbus bring syphillis from the New World? Have a look at this piece from the New York Times.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The New World: Spain and Portugal

Apologies for the small type and narrow line spacing. Blogger's fault not mine! If you go to the view menu in your browser bar you can enlarge it and read it more easily. 
'The greatest event since the creation of the world, apart from the incarnation and death of him who created it’. Lopez de Gómara to Charles V (1522). 
However in his autobiography written in the same year, Charles never mentions the Americas. The Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493, does not mention the New World.

The history of the European voyages of exploration may be conveniently divided into two areas.

1. The drive to the east, which was pioneered by the Portuguese
It is generally accepted that Brazil was discovered on April 22, 1500, by Pedro Álvares Cabral, though the expansion westwards across the Atlantic was eventually dominated by the Spanish.  Henry the Navigator right), the third son of King João I of Portugal and the English princess, Philippa of Lancaster, gathered round him mapmakers and navigators. He is seen  as the father of Portuguese exploration.  By 1462 the Portuguese had explored the coast of Africa as far south as Sierra Leone.
In 1486 King João II of Portugal appointed Bartolomeu Dias as the head of an expedition that was to endeavour to sail round the southern end of Africa in the hope of finding a trade route to India.In May 1488 he discovered the Cape of Good Hope, which he originally named the Cape of Storms. The discovery of the passage round Africa proved that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were not landlocked as had been thought. It enabled Europeans to trade directly with India and other parts of Asia, bypassing the overland route of the Middle East.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Ottoman Empire

See here, here, and here for some very useful websites.
‘The religious and political problems of sixteenth-century Europe – so vast, so intricate in themselves, so enmeshed in social change and cultural reorientation – were consistently rendered more complicated and more intractable by the holy war which Islam had vowed against unbelievers.’ Richard MacKenney, Sixteenth-Century Europe (1993), 243.
The empire therefore cannot be seen in purely secular terms. Religious considerations often dictated policy. The attacks on Rhodes (1522), Malta (1565) and Cyprus (1570) were designed to secure Muslim pilgrims’ access to the holy places. The infidels were also the Shi‘ites of Persia.

Monday, 10 January 2011


[Above is Henry Fuseli's representation of Macbeth's witches.]

See here for a good introduction.

Between 1400 and 1800 between forty and fifty thousand people, mainly women, died in Europe and colonial north America on charges of witchcraft. Why? As Lyndal Roper states,
‘No-one … can offer a total explanation for phenomena lying in the realms of psycho-history.’
Europeans had long believed in witches yet only in the period after 1500 did they turn this cultural assumption into a one of the major killers of western Europe.