Peter R. Campbell
This article argues that in spite of absolute monarchy's success in seemingly rising above society it developed claims and practices that ran counter to long-term representative tendencies contained within its own structures. It was never able to suppress these, nor did it intend to, because they remained enshrined in corporate society itself, on which it was based. Although the corporate society of the old regime was very hierarchical, its elites retained a large measure of autonomy in their own spheres. This sense of independence and the continued vitality of privilege provided fertile ground for a revival of conciliarist and later commonwealth arguments, and a historical belief in an ancient constitution. These arguments in favour of limited royal power eventually empowered an opposition that was able to take advantage of the excesses and contradictions that characterized some of the practices of absolute monarchy, whose power to enforce its central will was somewhat illusory.
Gary B. Nash
The American Revolution played an important role in African Americans' quest for freedom. It marked the first mass rebellion by slaves in American history, gave rise to the first civil rights movement, and resulted in the first large-scale constructions of free black life. African slaves in North America knew that their natural rights were violated by their enslavement, although a confluence of events heightened their restiveness and provided them with the ideology-laden phrases that they could deploy in their struggle to secure their liberty whenever and wherever possible. The Revolution offered slaves a chance to realize this dream. African American revolutionaries saw the war as a way to quench their thirst for freedom, to end corrupt power, and to die for their natural rights.
This chapter deals with the vast territories east of the Elbe river, including Poland–Lithuania, the Czech lands, Brandenburg–Prussia, and Russia. There are two primary and interlocking themes, first the westernization of these lands, secondly, the origins and development of the ‘second serfdom’ in the agrarian East. Westernization of the agrarian East came largely through the introduction and expansion of the ‘Frankish agrarian system’, which began around 1200 with Western colonization east of the Elbe. Westernization was essentially a repetition of basic agrarian developments that had already taken place in much of north-west Europe in the period 600–1000 AD. One of the most important of these developments was manorialism, and the so-called ‘second serfdom’ in Eastern Europe was thus not a deviation from westernization, but rather an integral part of it.
The main developments in western European agrarian society and economy are surveyed at the outset in a regional analysis which stresses the degree of variety within quite small areas and by the same token the irrelevance of national boundaries. The survey considers employment and production beyond tillage and pastoralism: fishing, hunting, mining, or local crafts and manufacturing are treated as part of the rural economy. There follows a detailed thematic analysis which examines crop yields, credit, share-cropping, landholding, labour, and total factor productivity. The conclusion briefly takes up the debate over the transition from feudalism to capitalism, initiated by Robert Brenner, to argue that the regional variations in landholding and inheritance practices which might emerge from an initially similar environment, while casting doubt on aspects of Brenner’s general thesis, nevertheless were shaped as much by power or class relations as by natural endowment, ecology, or technological innovations.
Through their successfully waged war and also by their novel political strategies, eighteenth-century North Americans seeking home rule made history. By systematically organizing around a refusal of British goods and developing a new national taste, they politicized the everyday. Twenty years later, this politicization was reprised in the French Revolution. Whereas the new American aesthetic was defined by sobriety and domestic production, the forms generated in the French Revolutionary decade combined the symbols of Republicanism with styles connoting non-aristocratic values. The likeness and difference of the role of culture, domesticity, and gender in the American and French revolutions are represented in their iconic forms—homespun for the United States and the dress of the sans-culottes for France. Both revolutions were characterized by a consistent investment in material culture and everyday life, and gave rise to new political cultures. This reformulation is best conceptualized using the term “cultural revolution.”
When the American Revolution was over, citizens of the new nation could not agree about the event's true meaning and the best way to preserve its authentic legacy. After the new federal government was established in the 1790s, these tensions invaded the national political arena and contributed to the formation of the first political parties that became known as Democratic-Republicans and Federalists. Those who supported George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Federalist Party saw the war simply as a battle for home rule. On the other hand, those who gravitated toward Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans interpreted the Revolution as a conflict not only about home rule but also about who should rule at home. For these American women and men, the principles of equality and natural rights were the Revolution's most important legacies. This chapter discusses the national politics of the new nation following the American Revolution, and examines the origins of the first political parties, the French Revolution and mass politicization, and inclusions and exclusions in the first political parties.
T. K. Rabb
This chapter traces the revolution in style and taste that swept over the visual arts as a result of the movement we call the Renaissance. Not only was there a transformation in subject matter, which was almost entirely religious at our starting-point, around 1450, but also in style, in the status of the artist, in the types of art that were produced, in patronage, and in the market for paintings and engravings. To follow these changes, the period has been divided into four broad periods: 1350–1520, the age of the Renaissance; 1520–1600, the age of Mannerism; 1600–70, the age of Baroque; and 1670–1759, the age of Rococo. In each segment the main developments in painting, sculpture, and architecture are outlined; the principal figures are identified; and changes discussed.
R. Bin Wong
Many of early modern Europe’s connections to Asia were commercial in nature, in contrast to the colonial relations forged by Europeans in the Americas. This chapter considers the ways in which the connections that Europe had with Asia and the Americas provide a context for comparing the early modern political economies of China and Europe. Similarities and differences highlighted by this exercise help make clear both the dynamics of economic change common within both world regions as well as the character of their connections, illustrating important differences between them. The intellectual limitations of identifying historical parallels according to traits first observed in Europe is suggested by noting features of early modern Chinese political rule that are not observed in Europe until a later historical era. These topics illustrate various ways in which comparisons and connections to other world regions helps to place early modern Europe in a global history perspective.
This article reviews the transfer of goods and services between the continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that the demands of long-distance trade, particularly but not solely across the Atlantic, encouraged innovation in technologies and methods, transformed commercial institutions, and required traders to develop novel ways of managing their businesses. After regaining independence from Spain in 1640, Portugal created a transatlantic trading system that was more vigorous than what had existed before 1580. The long eighteenth century witnessed a precipitate decline of France as an Atlantic commercial power and a steady rise of England. Paradoxically, France's Atlantic trading burgeoned, at least at first. While Britain and France struggled for Atlantic control, the Netherlands flourished, albeit in slightly different channels than before. The increase in the efficiency of shipping, the dematerialisation of finance, and the spread of information were substantial results of a burgeoning Atlantic trade. They also forced changes in traders' and governments' ideas about how commerce should be managed.
Samuel K. Cohn, Jr
Divisions between Marxist and non-Marxist historians have fuelled debate of late medieval and early modern popular protest over the past fifty years. Yet, an underlying consensus has arisen with two broad forms of popular revolt, a ‘pre-modern’ (encompassing the Middle Ages to as late as the mid-nineteenth century) and a ‘modern’ one. Supposedly, high bread prices sparked the former, women filled their ranks, the leaders came from the elites and not the rank-and-file of peasants or artisans, their ideologies were primitive and backward looking, and these revolts ended in repression, not revolution. With modernity the characteristics changed. This chapter challenges this ‘pre-modern’/’modern’ divide, arguing that late medieval popular revolts differed profoundly from those of the early modern period across all of these characteristics. The changes depended on a growing gap in power between rulers and the ruled that had begun in places by the closing decades of the fourteenth century.