The national states under national monarchies had originated at the dissolution of the Old Roman Empire. But it is to be noted here that around 1500, the monarch and the prince were almost worship unlike the nations in modern times. That is why this new state was called by the name National Monarchies and not by ‘Nation-states’. In fact, there are various factors that led to the rise of new monarchies or national monarchies.
Factors that led to the Rise of New Monarchies
There are several factors that led to the rise of new monarchies. They are
- The crusades enabled Europeans to learn various ideas like absolutism from rulers of the east and the Muslims, method of government, trade, travel, growth in wealth, and the rise of the Middle class. Foreign contact or affair gave more power to the kings that were lost in the middle ages.
- Feudal nobles lost much power and influence and were not in a position to oppose royal absolutism.
- People desire a strong and stable government to check wars and they hate the feudal society.
- Revival in the study of Roman law and Past Glory i.e. Renaissance. There was the rise of vernacular literature and it has created a feeling among the people that when a group of people having same literature and speaking the same language, constituted separate nationality should be united under one state.
- From the later half of the 15th century, Europe saw the decay of feudalism. The Feudal lords, who were leaders in limiting monarchy, lost much of their earlier influences and leadership and were not in a position to oppose royal absolutism anymore.
- The Renaissance was one of the major factors that led to the rise of new monarchies. The renaissance had produced what is known as the middle class and since then they became the leader of the common people. The growth of the middle class was the most significant feature of the period of transition from the medieval age to modern times. This class comprises a rapidly increasing number of men, wealth, and brains. The rising middle class wanted a strong government capable of restoring peace and order; so that they might peacefully carry on their ordinary occupations. Gradually under the middle-class influence, the institution of monarchy became stronger and stronger in the national states.
- Another factors that led to the rise of new monarchies is the Change in the method of warfare – the invention of gun powder. But the invention of gun powder and firearms diminished the importance of their military service. It helped the Kings to raise their own national army, equipped with cannon and handgun. This was an important instrument of monarchical absolutism.
- Support of scholars and statesmen and the church for absolutism absolute powers of a monarch e.g. Niccolo Machiavelli. In the most celebrated book, “The Prince”, he strongly argued that each nationality should constitute of separate state to be governed by a strong prince.
- The geographical discovery of the time inspired many kings of Europe to established colonies and empires all over the world and to achieve success in this venture they realize that they must be strong at home.
The New National Monarchies of the Year 1500
By the year 1500, many national monarchies had emerged by uprooting feudalism and undermining the church. The reaction was visible everywhere – France, England, Russia, and Spain, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Hungary, Bohemia, Scandinavian Kingdoms.
The more important was England, which had been a Kingdom since the ninth century, but which during the middle ages had been not so much a national state as part of a dynastic dominion. In England, the reign of Henry VII (1485 1509) saw the rise of monarchical absolutism.
In the 15th century, England was harassed by bloody and confusing struggles, known as the ‘Wars of the Roses’ (1455-1485) between rival claimants to the throne, and as a result, the first of the Tudor dynasty secured the crown and ushered in a new era of English history.
It led to the growth of a strong independent monarchy relying upon the support of the middle class or common people. Worried by the bloody civil war, the nation wanted a strong ruler who will be able to give them peace and order.
Henry VII responded to the wants of the nation and thus with the masses on each side and the nobles, he was able to establish a strong national monarchy. England, thus in the year 1500 was a real national monarchy, and the power of the king appeared to be distinctly in the ascendant. Parliament was fast becoming a formal and perfunctory body.
Scotland in the year 1500 was a national monarchy. But it was much weaker than England, and its monarchs, who were of the Stuart family, had been much less successful in overcoming the clannishness of the Scottish highlanders, in disciplining the feudal nobles, and in establishing absolutism. The Scottish national monarch was a pawn, rather than a chief piece, in the sixteenth century game of international politics.
At the same time, the national monarchy of France was largely consolidated territorially and politically. “The Hundred Years” War had freed the Western Duchies and countries of France from the English control and at the same time, it aroused French national feeling and created a need and desire for a strong national monarchy. Beginning from the reigning period of Louis XI (1461-1483) and the reigning period of Charles VIII (1483-98) the government of France had become to a certain extent absolute monarchy. France in the year 1500 was also a national monarchy, with the beginnings of national literature and with a national patriotism centering in the King. It was becoming self-conscious. Like England, France was on the road to “strong government”.
Spain also rose from a group of weak and unorganized state to be a powerful monarchy. The dynastic policy was gradually constructing a United Spain. The marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile and on the support of the middle class and the church, the seed of absolutism was laid in Spain also.
In northwestern Europe, in the year 1500, were three kingdoms, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden corresponding to the present-day states of those names. The three Scandinavian countries had many racial and social characteristics in common, and they had been politically united under the king of Denmark by the Union of Calmar in 1397. The kings both of Sweden and of Denmark labored in the sixteenth century with complete success to dominate the church and with considerable success to enlarge their realms and to reduce the power of Parliaments and the influence of the nobility. In the Scandinavian as in France and England, royal absolutism was arising.
Likewise from the reigning period of Ivan IV, appropriately called “Ivan the Terrible”, the grandson of Ivan III, solemnly assumed the title of Tsar or Emperor of “All the Russias”. A new monarchy, an absolute and imperialist one, was clearly arising in North-Eastern Europe.
Crisis of Feudalism and the Rise of New Monarchies
Feudalism was a political and economic system based on the relationship between the lord and the vassal in which land was held on condition of homage and service. In feudalism, the lord imposed his sovereignty over his subjects or his seigneur. The tenants had to perform obligatory work on his estate. The economy of feudalism as Marxist historians stated is a system of self-sufficient ‘natural economy’ in which the requirement of the landlord was produced in the state by the serfs.
In the feudal system, trade was carried out on the local markets but with the revival of Mediterranean trade, local merchants started to engage in overseas trade and ventured outside the local markets. The revival of trade also resulted in the increase of demand for luxury items by the landlords.
In order to acquire the luxury items, the feudal landlords started to produce a surplus for sale. Out of the surplus accumulation, the feudal lords also started to engage in trade. The small traders hoarded their profit and turned them into big capital and started to engage in trade on large scale. The well-to-do farmers also accumulated their surplus for trade.
The craftsman also started to produce a surplus for sale in the market. The demand for handicrafts in the market with the revival of trade led to the production of surplus. These craftsmen accumulated the small surplus they produced and when they became large enough they invested it again by hiring wage labor in the handicrafts factories. They advanced raw-materials to the poorer craftsmen in the countryside and brought the finished product to the market. Thus, those involved in market enterprise played an important role in the development of capitalism.
History of Modern World
(15th Century to World War II)
By: BARBARA F.Jala
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