Lesson #2 - European Absolutism and the Spanish Empire

Your first reading quiz will lead us off today. After everyone is done, we can talk a bit about the key issues in Chapter 21, Section #1.

We'll get started on the "real" history today by beginning our look at Unit #5, "Absolutism to Revolution." As you may guess from the title, this unit focuses heavily on the relationship between people and government. It largely focuses on Europe, and it will trace the transition from the absolute monarchs through the emergence of democracy and revolutions. 

Current History's Global Progress Report 2008:  Before we jump into the history itself, let's take a look at the article you downloaded yesterday. The Global Progress Report 2008 breaks its analysis into five sections:  politics, security, economics, development and resources. You can again download a copy of the Global Progress Report if you need one. You are your group were asked to do the following:

  • Read the "grade report" and the section of the article on your topic.
  • Try to understand any events and/or analysis confusing to group members.
  • Think about any events since the start of the year that might be relevant to your topic.
  • Discuss whether you think the grade given by Current History is accurate.  Why or why not?
Let's talk about what you found and any questions you may have.

European Absolutism - We'll spend the next few days looking at the rise and impact of the "absolute monarchs" of Europe. This will culminate when we put a half dozen of them "on trial." That simulation will get explained after we cover some of the basics.

First, two simple questions for you.  (There's a bit of sarcasm implied there, since I don't think the answers are necessarily that simple...)

  • What is the best government?  (The logical follow-up:  Why?)
  • What are the qualities of the ideal ruler?

Second, I've got a DBQ activity for you called "Absolutism and Democracy." It draws on the work of a number of influential thinkers, and it also previews some of what we will cover next week in our look at the Enlightenment. You can pair up if you'd like and work on this for about 15 minutes.  (This activity also helps preview one of the choices for your first essay.)

Third, let's look a little bit more closely at the theory of absolutism.  We'll try and answer several questions here.

  • What is absolutism?
  • What earlier examples do we have of absolute rulers?
  • What factors led to the rise of European absolutism?
  • What were the signs or effects of absolutism?

Finally, we'll introduce the "Absolute Monarchs on Trial" activity we'll hold later in the chapter. You'll be selecting your role. Some will be specific historical figures, and others will represent various interests and/or classes. You'll have some freedom to invent a history that is consistent with the reality of the time.

Here are the roles we'll have:

Philip II of Spain (King)
Louis XIV of France (King)
Maria Theresa of Austria (Empress)
Frederick the Great of Prussia (King)
Peter the Great of Russia (Czar)
Charles I of England (King)

Cardinal Richelieu
Jean Baptiste Colbert
Thomas Hobbes
Niccolo Machiavelli

Dutch merchant
Spanish sailor from the Armada
French peasant
French soldier from War of Spanish Succession
French nobleman
Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian serf
Russian laborer building St. Petersburg
Oliver Cromwell
Member of English Parliament
Scotish Presbyterian soldier
Austrian Protestant merchant

Prussian soldier

THE CHARGES:  The Absolute Monarchs of Europe are charged with: ignoring the needs and well-being of the people, bankrupting the state, pursuing selfish foreign policies and harming the futures of their states.

FORMAT:  All witnesses should be prepared to give a "speech" in class.  This should be between 2 and 3 minutes. It need not be memorized. If you are a real person, you should explain why "you" support a particular monarch and/or the idea of absolutism. If you represent a "type" or person, you should create a story consistent with your assigned side and background. Prosecution witnesses may focus on one or more of the charges against a particular monarch. 

The six monarchs will have two roles. First, they can question the witnesses for the two sides. In addition, they will have a chance to address the jury before deliberation begins.  (All the witnesses become the "jury" at this stage.) In this address, each monarch has between 2 and 4 minutes to summarize his or her accomplishments as a monarch and/or explain why they should not be convicted of the charges. Our jury will then deliberate on the fate of each monarch, and they also can ask questions of the monarchs at this point. (Note that there may well be different verdicts in the different cases.)

EVALUATION:  You will receive credit for both your "speech" and your participation/conduct during the rest of the trial.

HOMEWORK for tomorrow - Wednesday, August 26th

Please read Section 2 from Chapter 21, "The Reign of Louis XIV." (pp. 596 - 602)  

Begin to think about and/or prepare for your role in our "Absolute Monarchs on Trial" simulation.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Vergin published on August 26, 2008 8:00 AM.

Lesson #1 - Course Introduction was the previous entry in this blog.

Lesson #3 - The Age of European Absolutism and the "Sun King" is the next entry in this blog.

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