Economic Renewal and Wars of Religion: 1560-1648

(Notes from pp. 104-146, History of the Modern World, R.R. Palmer)


Economic Renewal


  1. The Opening of the Atlantic
  1. The Portuguese in the East
  2. The Discovery of America
  3. The Spanish Empire in America


  1. The Commercial Revolution
    1. Economic Growth: Population growth; steady rise in prices; widening trade market
    2. Decline of the Medieval Guild Economy
i.    In which the Master owns means of production and provides his own labor as well, assisted by apprentices and day laborers
ii.   Production to order, rather than bulk commodities produced for an international market
    1. Emergence of Entrepreneur and Banker
  i.   Entrepreneur risks investment in operation to earn a profit
  ii.   Bankers lend money at an interest
 iii.   Capital Investment creates new industries: printing, mining, ship building, equipping armies
 iv.   International trade in bulk commodities and in cloth
  1. Mercantilism
i.      The national government asserts policies which supplant local guild tariffs.
ii.    Mercantilist economists believed in creating self-sufficient economies which import only raw materials and export only finished products (ie woolen clothing). Mercantilists believed that the wealth of a country was measured by the amount of bullion stored in the country’s treasuries.
iii.   National Tariffs were imposed to support the sales of a nation’s finished products.
iv.  Governments subsidized consortiums to engage in international trade (ie The East India Company).


  1. Changing Social Structure


a.     The Feudal Nobility evolves into the Aristocracy:

                                                          i.      Rather than relying solely on income from estates, nobles had to supplement their income by service to king and church or even by engaging in business enterprises (i.e. middle class behavior)

                                                         ii.      The aristocracy maintained an edge over the rising bourgeoisie by emphasizing their ancestry as badge of status.

b.     The Growth of the Bourgeoisie

                                                          i.      F. bourgeois: town dweller vs. Marx bourgeoisie: owners of capital and means of production

                                                         ii.      The Bourgeoisie was a highly Stratified Class:

New Heirarchy:

1)   Urban elites (like the Medici in Florence) dominated city states.

2)   Merchants, Bankers, Ship Builders

3)   Learned Professions: Law and Medicine, Government Officials, Judges, Tax Officials

4)   Clergy, Guild Members, Wholesale Merchants

5)   Shop Keepers, Innkeepers, Barrel Makers, Tanners

6)   Journeymen Workers, Apprentices

c.       Lower Class

                                                               i.      Still the Vast Majority of the Population: Wages rose slower than prices, so economic change hurt this class.

                                                             ii.      Working Poor: peasants, unskilled wage earners: miners, fishermen, sailors, servants, porters, water carriers, chambermaids, washer women, footmen, coachmen, stable boys, lackeys, excrement removers.

                                                            iii.      Unemployed, unemployable, vagabonds



Wars of Religion: Political and Religious Conflict over Economic Spoils

Europe in 1600


  1. The Hapsburg Bid for Dominance: Catholic Spain (Netherlands, Northern Italy, South America) and Holy Roman Empire (Austria, Hungary and Poland) vs. the Dutch, English and French


    1. The Ambitions of Philip II and Hapsburg Spain

                                                                i.      In 1556 Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, abdicated, leaving Austria, Bohemia and Hungary to his brother Ferdinand and everything else to his son Philip.

                                                               ii.      Philip II of Spain (1527-1598)

1)   King of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Milan, Naples, Tunis

2)   He claims England and France, and all of America.

3)   Strict Catholic: leader of the Counter-Reformation, the church’s counter offensive against Protestantism

4)   Built the Escorial in Madrid as his palace

b.      Timeline

                                                               i.      1567: Protestant Revolt in the Netherlands                                                            ii.      1569: Catholic Revolt in England

                                                            iii.      1570: Elizabeth I of England excommunicated

                                                           iv.      1572: Catholics in France purge Huguenots: St. Bartholemew’s Day Massacre


  1. The Revolt of the Netherlands (1566-1588)

a.        Antwerp and Amsterdam were rich international trading centers: the gateway of trade to Northern Europe. 

b.      Neither a Dutch nor a Belgian nationality exists; instead, the Netherlands’ seventeen principalities had been conquered by the Duke of Burgundy and inherited by Philip II.

c.       1566: the rich northern provinces revolt against Spanish rule

d.      Philip II sends in the Duke of Alva and institutes the Inquisition.

e.       The Provinces descend into civil war.

f.       Protestant Alliance with England (Elizabeth I vs. Mary Queen of Scots)

g.      1578: War rages between Protestant North and Catholic South with Antwerp as the prize: a possible staging ground for an invasion of England.

h.      1585: The English enter the war.

i.        English and Dutch sea raids vs. Spanish galleons and New World outposts

j.        1587: Spanish organize invasion of England; Mary Queen of Scots executed.

k.      1588: Spanish Armada of 130 ships, 30,000 troops, 2400 pieces of artillery is met by Sir Francis Drake in the English Channel. A great storm disperses the fleet and dooms the invasion.


a.       England emerges as Protestant power.

b.      England emerges as dominant sea power and colonial power.

c.       East India Company is founded in 1600.

d.      Netherlands is partitioned in 1609 (Dutch vs. Spanish Netherlands).

e.       Amsterdam becomes dominant North Sea port.

f.       Dutch East India Company founds New Amsterdam at port on mouth of Hudson River.

g.      Spain begins decline as greatest European power.

Massacre of the Innocents
(1610) Peter Breughel, the Younger


  1. Disintegration and Reconstruction in France


    1. During the first half of the 16th c. France consisted of three hundred separate states under the loose control of the King. Each principality or city stubbornly defended its identity, autonomy, laws, courts, tariff, taxes, and local parlements.
    2. The French Catholic Church had long asserted its independence from Rome.
    3. The Reformation:

                                                       i.            Calvin was a Frenchman

                                                      ii.            Huguenots:

1.      radical protestants, not moderate Anglicans

2.      One half of the French nobility converted to this religion.

                                                    iii.            These princes asserted the right to regulate religion.

                                                    iv.            Huguenots were particularly numerous in SW France.

                                                     v.            town movement: bourgeois oligarchy

    1. 1559: Henry II dies and is succeeded by his 15 year old son, Francis II

                                                          i.         The true power was really exercised by Henry II’s wife, Catherine d’Medici, who influenced the three kings who ruled from 1560-1590. 

                                                         ii.         During this tumultuous time, powerful factions vied for control and four decades of Huguenot vs. Catholic civil war ensued.

                                                       iii.         1572: St. Bartholemew’s Day Massacre at behest of Catharine d’Medici: slaughter of Parisian Huguenots

                                                      iv.         Rise of politiques who support strengthening the monarchy: Jean Bodin and the modern theory of sovereignty: the absolute ruler

    1. Henry of Navarre, a Huguenot chieftain, becomes King and then converts to Catholicism

                                                          i.         Crowned Henry IV in 1589 and founded the Bourbon dynasty.

                                                         ii.         1598: Edict of Nantes established a truce between warring princes by dividing territorial rights and mandating religious tolerance.

                                                       iii.         1614 Henry IV assassinated.

                                                       iv.         1618: Estates General called for last time before 1789

                                                        v.         Cardinal Richilieu, a politique, became the Chief Minister and worked to strengthen the central power of the state


  1. The Thirty Years War, 1616-1648: The Disintegration of Germany


    1. The Holy Roman Empire: 300 states including French speaking regions, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, but dominated by German speaking people
    2. The Birthplace of the Reformation: Martin Luther
    3. 1555: Peace of Augsburg

                                                         i.        Lutherans and Catholics make peace

                                                       ii.        Calvinism starts to spread

    1. 1609: Catholic Hapsburgs seek to establish a more modern, unified, sovereign state but were opposed by the Dutch and French.
    2. 1618: Thirty Years of War begins

                                                       i.         Catholic-Protestant German Civil War

                                                      ii.         Holy Roman Emperor vs. Member States  in Constitutional Struggle

                                                    iii.         International War: French vs. Hapsburgs; Spanish vs. Dutch, involving Denmark, Sweden and Transylvania

                                                    iv.         Shifting loyalties of Soldiers of Fortune

    1. 1618-1625: Bohemian Stage
      1. Czech Hussites defenestrate ambassadors from the emperor
      2. 1620: Battle of White Mountain crushes Hussite rebellion.
      3. Protestantism is stamped out in Czech territories
    1. 1625-1629: Danish Stage
      1. Duke of Holstein (Danish) enlarges principality.
      2. Emperor hires Wallenstein to oppose him.
    2. 1630-35: Swedish Stage

                                                         i.            Counter-Reformation flows over Germany

                                                       ii.            1629: Emperor’s Edict of Restitution

                                                      iii.            Swedes hired by Dutch and French to fight Catholics

                                                     iv.            1630-32: King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is victorious at Breitenfeld and Lutzen, then is killed

    1. 1635-48 French Stage

                                                       i.              French enter war when armistice seems near

                                                      ii.              War spreads to France and Northern Spain

    1. 1648: Peace of Westphalia

                                                       i.              Threat of Hapsburg/Catholic domination averted

                                                      ii.              Stabilization of Protestant Catholic struggle: Calvinism and Lutheranism recognized as legal.

                                                    iii.              France and Sweden enlarge territorial possessions

                                                    iv.              Empire broken into 300 separate principalities.

                                                     v.              Empire possesses no power to make law or set foreign policy.

                                                    vi.              Physical wreck of Germany

1.      1/3rd of population perishes

2.      starvation, fire, pestilence, homelessness, exposure

vii.      France emerges as dominant continental European power