Absolute Monarchs in Europe, 1500–1800

CHAPTER OVERVIEW Spain lost territory and money. The Netherlands split from Spain and grew rich from trade. For a time, France was Europe’s most powerful country, where King Louis XIV ruled with total control. Austria’s queen resisted a Prussian land grab. Peter the Great modernized Russia. England’s Parliament struggled with different kings and became the greatest power in the country.


Spain’s Empire and European Absolutism

KEY IDEA During a time of religious and economic instability, Philip II ruled Spain with a strong hand.


harles V ruled the Holy Roman Empire and various other European countries. In 1556, he retired from the throne and split his holdings. His brother Ferdinand received Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. His son, Philip II, got Spain and its colonies. Philip expanded his holdings by taking Portugal and gaining its global territories. When he tried to invade England in 1588, though, he failed. The defeat made Spain weaker. However, Spain still seemed strong because of its wealth—gold and silver—that flowed in from the colonies in the Americas. This wealth led to some serious problems, however. The prices of goods constantly rose. Also, unfair taxes hit the poor, keeping them from building up any wealth of their own. As prices rose, Spaniards bought more goods from other lands. The silver from the colonies, then, began to flow to Spain’s enemies. In the middle of these troubles, Spain lost land. Seven provinces of the Spanish Netherlands rose in protest against high taxes. Also, they were Protestant and Spain was strongly Catholic. In 1579, these seven provinces declared their independence from Spain. In the new Dutch republic, each province had a leader elected by the people. The Dutch also practiced religious tolerance, letting people worship as they wished. Dutch merchants established a trading empire. They had the...