Reformation and Enlightenment Europe: Absolutism or Democracy?

Essay by thesinologistJunior High, 9th grade March 2005

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From 1600's to 1800's, Europe underwent the Age of Absolutism. For this time period, Absolutism is significantly a better solution, considering the rise of culture it caused, the positive social and economical changes it proposed, and, most importantly, the stability it provided for Europe.

Culture is often considered as an essential element of civilization. Under the reign of absolutist monarchs, art and literature were able to flourish and prosper. In France, King Louis XIV, the Sun King, is well known for his fervor for the arts. This can be seen by his fanaticism of the palace of Versailles, his support for distinguished playwrights such as Molière and Jean Baptiste Racine, his sponsorship for the further construction of the Louvre, and his notable establishment of L'Académie des Beaux Arts (1648), the L'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (1663), and L'Académie des Sciences (1666), which later hosted many great French artists and scientists.

In Russia, Empress Catherine the Great, as an enlightened monarch, also promoted culture and education. She established a series of schools, legalized private publishing houses, wrote fiction, and supported famous French encyclopedists such as Voltaire, Diderdot, and D'Alembert. To put it in her own words, she was a "philosopher on the throne". The Prussian King Frederick II not only supported academies and made acquaintances with French philosophers, but was also a musician himself. These absolutist kings and queens, though often considered as strict religion-wise (especially Louis of France), were fairly liberal when it comes to culture.

Their liberality for arts and literature is not the only thing they have in common. These sovereigns also proposed a social change within their countries. During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, Colbert, Louis's finance minister, set up a system of mercantilism, which encouraged new industries to develop and economy...