Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History

By Euan Cameron | Go to book overview

6
Warfare, Crisis, and Absolutism

JEREMY BLACK

Seventeenth-century Europe was dominated by war, and it was through war that the major political changes occurred. Bourbon France emerged under Louis XIV ( 1643-1715) to become the leading power in Europe. Sweden rose during the Thirty Years War ( 1618-48) to become the dominant power in northern Europe and then during the Great Northern War ( 1700-21) lost much of its empire to the Russia of Peter the Great ( 1689-1725). War was also the means by which the Turks were repulsed by Austria in 1683, and Austria subsequently conquered Hungary ( 1684-99). All these developments focused on warfare, and were accompanied by a dramatic increase in military strength. Military expenditure and army and navy size increased greatly: Louis XIV had the largest army in western Europe since the days of the Roman Empire. This greater military strength was related to the development of what were subsequently termed 'absolutist' monarchies, although the power of monarchs rested as much on the cooperation of the nobility as on the size of the army.


The Expansion of Europe

Military strength was crucial to another fundamental aspect of early modern European history, namely relations with the outside world. In 1618-1715 more of the world's land surface was brought under the control of European powers and these powers strengthened their position on the major sea-trading routes.

In Asia the expansion of Russian power across Siberia to the Pacific

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