Map Exercise 10: Europe in the Seventeenth Century    (This exercise includes 4 maps)

In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, a new kind of Europe was born. The European economy underwent a drastic transformation and governments took whatever measures necessary to obtain and maintain the wealth of their nation. These nations used the economic theory of mercantilism as a justification for their actions. Simply stated, mercantilism was the idea that nations ought to maximize international trade through monopoly while building up domestic industries through government protection. This is how Adam Smith would have described the mercantilist ethos of the seventeeenth century. Of course, Smith was trying to demonstrate what was new about the economic organization of the eighteenth century, in this case, capitalism.

Meanwhile, from his court at Versailles, Louis XIV became the great model of absolutism, and eighteenth century monarchs tried to emulate him with varying degrees of success. Louis eliminated the independence of all existing governing authorities with the exception of his own. In this respect, he was the nation, and his absolute power was justified by an appeal to the divine right of kingship.

In this exercise, you should consider:

  • What forces were responsible for the shift from a mercantilist to a capitalist economy?
  • Why is it likely that Louis XIV was both the first and the last of the absolute monarchs?
  • Why was North America a prize to be won by the most powerful European nations?
  • Did Russia follow the same pattern of development as Europe?
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