Chapters in Western Civilization - Vol. 1

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XI
THE EMERGENCE OF THE EUROPEAN STATES-SYSTEM

John B. Wolf

The seventeenth century has been given many names: The Age of Absolutism, The Century of French Hegemony, The Age of Power, The Age of the Baroque, A Century of Crisis. None of these formulas actually encompasses all the vital forces of the century; indeed, it is probably unwise to attempt to bring all the irrational and unruly forces unleashed by war, religious conflict, political and dynastic ambitions, new technologies, and new conceptions of man, nature, and the universe, under a single formula. One thing, however, is certain: this seventeenth century was responsible for the creation of new and the extension of old institutions that have subsequently become the political framework for the lives of modern men. In both internal and international politics the differences between the institutions of Europe at the death of Philip II ( 1598) and those at the death of his great grandson, Louis XIV ( 1715) indicate that a revolutionary change had taken place in the interval.

In 1600 every government in Europe had to regard contingent anarchy in the form of civil rebellion as a constant in political life; a century later such rebellion was out of the question unless the rebels could gain control of the king's army. In 1600 the rulers of Europe talked much about their absolute power, but in actual fact they lacked both money and personnel to make that power effective; by 1715 the military and police powers, directed and administered by officials of the treasury and the war ministry, had taken on the contours of a modern state.

Unquestionably the most important factor in the process that created the new states-system was the rise of standing armies and navies. It was the desperate requirements made by the military that forced men to develop new sources of taxes and to find new personnel to collect and administer

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