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Absolutism & Enlightenment


Humanism
Humanism was an intellectual movement where people began to focus on life in the
present, which was in contrast to the Middle Ages' focus on the after life. Humanism
stressed the importance of education, with the study of ancient Greek and Roman texts
becoming the learning standard. Humanism stressed the importance of the
individual. This movement was the driving force of the Renaissance and is reflected in
the period's artistic, literary, and scientific achievements.
Niccolo Machiavelli
Humanist ideas are reflected in works of Renaissance literature. The most famous writer
of the time, William Shakespeare, wrote 37 plays between 1590 and 1613. His plays
reflect the ideas of individualism and the unconquerable human spirit, and most of them
are still performed today. Other important Renaissance authors include Dante, who wrote
The Divine Comedy, and Miguel de Cervantes who wrote the comedic tale Don Quixote.
Besides works of fiction, writings on political philosophy reappeared during this time
period. The most well know political philosopher of the Renaissance was Niccolo
Machiavelli, whose book The Prince, reads as a "how to" guide for successful rule.

The Rise of the Absolute Monarchy

The rise of absolute monarchies dates back to the seventeenth (1600s) and eighteenth
centuries (1700s), when several monarchs in western and eastern Europe increased the
power of their central governments. In doing so, these kings, emperors, or sultans
secured their position as the supreme ruler and possessor of all power. They surrounded
themselves with followers and advisors who were strong advocates of royal absolutism.

For those that opposed their behavior and seizure of power they replied that they had
been granted the divine right of kings.

The Divine Right of Kings

A doctrine in defense of monarchical absolutism, which asserted that kings derived their
authority from God and could not therefore be held accountable for their actions by any
earthly authority such as a parliament. Originating in Europe, the divine-right theory can
be traced to the medieval conception of Gods award of worldly power to the political
ruler, paralleling the award of spiritual power to the church. By the 16th and 17th
centuries, however, the new national monarchs were asserting their authority in matters
of both church and state. The theory claimed that kings were answerable only to God
and it was therefore sinful for their subjects to resist them. This idea exploded
throughout Europe during the Age of Absolutism.

Absolutism & Enlightenment


Focus Questions
1) Define: Humanism__________________________________________________________________________________________
2) Renaissance literally translates to rebirth. According to the first paragraph, why
do you think Humanism became the driving force of the Renaissance?
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3) Use the information in the second paragraph to complete the chart below.
Renaissance Writer

Notable Works

4) Directions: For each of the Machiavelli quotes listed below, state whether you agree
or disagree with that statement. In the next column, write some potential dangers or
drawbacks you might imagine could occur from leaders following this philosophy.
Agree/Disagree?
Potential
Drawbacks?
It is better for a ruler to be
feared than loved
Ruler should be quick and
decisive in decision
making
Ruler keeps power by any
means necessary
The end justifies the
means
Be good when possible,
and evil when necessary
5) Define: Monarchy- (use the prefixes and suffixes on the side of the room to decode
the meaning)
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6) How is an Absolute Monarchy different from other forms of government, including
our own?
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7) Explain the Divine Right of Kings in your own words:
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Part Two:
Absolute Monarchs claimed they had the Divine Right to Rule. That means that their
right to rule came from God, and they didnt have to answer to anyone. Imagine how
easy life would be if you could claim DIVINE RIGHTS! and say My right to do
___________________ comes from God! And I dont have to answer to you (teacher,
parents, cops, etc)!! If you could claim Divine Right for one thing, what would it be?
Meaning: If you could get away with ONE THING all the time, and never have to answer
for it to ANYONE, because you had Divine Right, what would you use your Divine Right
for?
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