European History in the 17th Century: Absolute Monarchies, Science, and Culture

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Political Regimes

The Absolute Monarchies

The powers of state government were controlled by the monarch, without having to consult traditional institutions (the Cortes).

The theory of the divine origin of their power. Centralized administration (it was managed from the court by civil servants who ensured that the monarch controlled the economy and army and that their orders were obeyed throughout their kingdom).

Example: Louis XIV of France ("Sun King")

The Parliamentary Systems

The power of the monarch was limited by the parliament, which represented the interests of the three estates.

England attempted to introduce absolute monarchy, but the English parliament opposed. There were two revolutions: in the first one, Charles I was executed; in the second one, James II abdicated, and William of Orange (King William III) was coronated.

William of Orange then signed the Bill of Rights, which obligated the king to obey the laws approved by the parliament.

The Hispanic Monarchy in the 17th Century

Validos: Individuals acting in the king's name.

  • Felipe III: Duque de Lerma and Duque de Uceda
  • Felipe IV: Conde-Duque de Olivares
  • Carlos II: Nithard and Valenzuela

Europe's Population and Economy

Chartered Companies: Colonial empires that granted a commercial monopoly in a certain area or for a certain product.

Science and Culture

  • Francis Bacon: Invented the scientific or experimental method.
  • René Descartes: Defended the use of reason as a means to understand reality. Developed the Cartesian coordinate system.
  • John Napier: Invented logarithms.
  • Isaac Newton: Laid the foundations of modern mathematics. Formulated the law of gravitation.
  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Laid the foundations of modern mathematics.
  • Galileo Galilei: Discovered the principle of inertia. Confirmed Copernicus' heliocentric theory. Perfected the telescope. Invented the microscope.
  • Johannes Kepler: Studied the orbit of the planets.
  • Blaise Pascal: Mechanical calculator.
  • Evangelista Torricelli: Barometer.
  • Zacharias Janssen: Invented the microscope. Lens maker.


  • Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
  • Francisco de Quevedo: Conceptism
  • Luis de Góngora: Cultism
  • Lope de Vega: Fuenteovejuna
  • Tirso de Molina: El Burlador de Sevilla
  • Pedro Calderón de la Barca: La vida es sueño

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