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Absolutism in Seventeenth-Century Europe by John Miller, Graham Scott

By John Miller, Graham Scott

So much 17th Century ecu Monarchs governed territories that have been culturally and institutionally different. compelled via the escalating scale of conflict to mobilise evermore males and cash they attempted to deliver those territories below nearer keep watch over, overriding neighborhood and sectional liberties. This used to be justified by means of a idea stressing the monarchs absolute energy and his responsibility to put the great of his nation earlier than specific pursuits. The essays of this quantity examine this method in states at very various levels of financial and political improvement and verify the nice gulf that frequently existed among the monarchs energy in conception and in perform.

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This elementary unit of social life is (in the person of its head, the paterfamilias) subject to the sovereign and his laws. The internal government of the household, however, is a matter for the husband and father who rules it and not for intervention by the state except in emergencies. The full implications of this for Bodin's political theory, and therefore for the idea of absolutism, may escape notice if we do not bear in mind that the family Bodin is thinking of is an essentially important economic entity.

The Bodinian sovereign, absolute though he was by juridical definition, must abide not only by the laws of God and nature but also by what Bodin calls lois royales or leges imperii. These are, in effect, constitutional norms, defining the basis and location of the sovereign power itself. They are the rules in term of which that 30 ABSOLUTISM IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY EUROPE power is sovereign and in accordance with which it must be exercised. Bodin, it must be acknowledged, takes for granted a good deal more than he develops explicitly in this connection.

That the safety of the people should be the supreme law (salus populi suprema lex esto) was, after all, a maxim with a long and in no sense 'Machiavellian' pedigree. Much of what has been said so far tends to suggest that the idea of what we have come to call absolutism took shape and grew largely within the matrix of traditional kingship. At the same time, it cannot be denied that tradition was being stretched, perhaps at times strained to something near breaking-point. A firmer emphasis on legislative power exercised by the sovereign's command; an ampler development of what might be called the mystique of divinely ordained hereditary monarchy; a new stress on the importance of disciplined organisation in both military and civil THE IDEA OF ABSOLUTISM 37 matters; a sharper awareness of what the realities of the political arena may demand of one who has to survive its hazards - these are some of the ways in which that strain may be said to have manifested itself.

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