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How was the Holy Roman Empire governed in the 1600s?

The Holy Roman Empire was a conglomeration of some 300 independent states and cities in Central Europe. Seven "Electors" from these states (traditionally three archbishops and four princes) elected the Holy Roman Emperor, who was usually the Habsburg ruler of Austria.

As a conglomeration, the Holy Roman Empire lacked a strong central government.  As Voltaire put it, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.


How was Poland governed in the 1600s?

Poland was governed by a king elected from a central diet comprised of the Polish nobility. The king had little power to coerce the nobles to obedience, and the central diet required the unanimous consent of the nobles for any resolution.

The lack of a strong central power made Poland vulnerable to its neighbors.


What event marked the last serious Ottoman threat to the peace of Europe?

In 1683, the Ottoman Turks attempted to capture Vienna, but were defeated by a combined force of Austrians, Germans, and Poles.

The Ottoman attempt marked the last time the Turks would threaten to overrun Europe; from 1683 onward Ottoman possessions in Europe were gradually reclaimed.


Following the division of the Hapsburg lands into eastern and western halves, which lands were controlled by the eastern branch of the Hapsburg dynasty?

The eastern Hapsburgs controlled Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, and regularly being elected Holy Roman Empire. Their polyglot empire comprised numerous languages, cultures, and ethnicities, such as Czechs (Bohemia), Magyars (Hungary), Germans (Austria), as well as a number of Slavs.

The only unifying characteristics of the eastern Habsburg lands was shared Catholicism and loyalty to the Hapsburgs themselves.


What event gave rise to the Pragmatic Sanction?

By 1713, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI was the last male Hapsburg. He issued the Pragmatic Sanction to insure that a female descendant could ascend to the throne without provoking a succession dispute.

Beginning even before the birth of his daughters, Charles struck bargains with each of Europe's sovereigns, trading territories for their willingness to recognize a woman's right to inherit the Hapsburg lands, which contravened the general law governing inheritance of royal crowns. When Charles VI died in 1740 his daughter Maria Theresa inherited the Hapsburg Crown's lands.


Who was the only woman ever to rule over the Hapsburg lands?

Maria Theresa (1717-1780), who became Queen after the death of her father Charles VI. She survived the War of the Austrian Succession, and during her 40 years on the throne instituted both political and financial reforms that strengthened the central power of the Austrian state.

She also reorganized the Austrian Army, enabling it to find battlefield success in the Seven Years' War.


Which Hapsburg ruler is generally considered an Enlightened Despot?

Joseph II (1741-1790) was an Enlightened Despot, who used his absolute power to end forced labor, reform the judiciary, ban torture, and abolish serfdom.

His successor Leopold II removed most of his reforms.


Which principality did the Hohenzollerns rule?

The Hoenzollerns were the princes of Brandenburg-Prussia, which would become the Kingdom of Prussia after the War of the Austrian Succession.


How did the Principality of Brandenburg-Prussia become the Kingdom of Prussia?

Through a complex series of legal maneuvers and an alliance with Austria in the War of Spanish Succession, Frederick I (1657-1713) convinced Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I to recognize him as a king.


The son of Frederick I, Frederick William (1620-1688), Prince of Brandenburg-Prussia, is known as _____ _____ _____.

The Great Elector

With an indomitable will and a dedication to make his principality an important player in European affairs, Frederick William focused his efforts on building a strong army which defeated a Swedish army bent on destroying his territory. Frederick William's 40,000-man army would become the most respected in Europe.



Junkers were the landed aristocracy of Brandenburg, and later, Prussia. The Junkers dominated the Prussian social order and comprised the officer corps of Frederick William's and Frederick II's expanded Prussian army.


What reforms highlighted the reign of Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great?

In addition to doubling the size of the Prussian Army to 80,000 men, Frederick the Great was an Enlightened Despot; he improved education, allowed freedom of the press and religion, and devoted attention to scientific agriculture.

An ardent devotee of the French Enlightenment, Frederick considered himself the "first servant of the state." 


How did Frederick the Great reorganize the Prussian bureaucracy?

Frederick the Great established a strong centralized bureaucratic hierarchy, with a system of internal reporting which prevented corruption and maximized the financial returns of the state.

By the end of his reign, the incorruptible Prussian bureaucracy was the most efficient in Europe.


Which royal family ruled Russia, beginning in 1613?

From 1613 to 1917, Russia would be ruled by the Romanovs. As the leader of the Russian state, the Romanov monarch was known as the Tsar.


What reforms were instituted by Peter the Great (1672-1725)?

Nearly 7 feet tall and of indomitable energy, Peter the Great was dedicated to melding Russia into a European power. He built the first Russian navy, expanded Russia's army, and introduced factories to Russia. Old nobles, known as boyers, were forced to shave their beards, and women were allowed to remove their veils.

Peter founded St. Petersburg as a second Russian capital, intending it to serve as the model of a European city.


How did Russia gain control of the Baltic Sea?

Sweden had dominated the Baltic Sea since the early 1600s. To challenge this control, Peter declared war on Sweden in 1700.

After a 21-year conflict, Peter defeated the Swedes, establishing Russian control of the Baltic and signaling Sweden's decline as a major power.


Who were the boyers?

The boyers were old Russian noble families. Much to their chagrin, Peter the Great forced the boyers to wear Western clothing and shave their beards and serve in the Army.

He also forced the boyers to construct houses to his specifications in his new capital city of St. Petersburg.


How did the legal condition of the serfs in Russia differ from their Central European counterparts during the 17th and 18th centuries?

Although both Central European and Russian serfs had few rights, in Russia the serfs were not tied to the land. They could be forced to work in mines or factories and sold off at any time.


What female Russian Tsarina is considered Russia's only Enlightened Despot?

Catherine the Great (1729-1796) allowed some religious freedom and limited adoption of printing presses. She corresponded with Voltaire, is considered Russia's only Enlightened Despot. Her reforms ceased with Pugachev's Rebellion.

Catherine was no saint; historians believe she murdered her husband so she could seize the throne.


What event marked the end of Catherine the Great's reforms?

In 1773 a group of Cossacks and peasants revolted, demanding land and freedom. The Russian Army crushed what became known as Pugachev's Rebellion.

Catherine allowed the nobles to have complete control over their serfs, and decided against further reforms.


What five powers were considered the strongest nations of Europe in 1715?

The five strongest nations in Europe were France, Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Formerly powerful nations, such as Sweden, Spain, and the Dutch Republic, had declined in power compared to better organized and/or larger nations.


balance of power

The balance of power was a central tenet of European diplomacy for centuries, dedicated to ensuring that a single nation did not dominate the Continent.

If one nation became too strong and upset the balance, the other nations banded together to offset their neighbor's power.


What political power struggles dominated Central Europe in the 1700s?

In Central Europe, the primary political power struggle was between the Habsburgs and the Hohenzollerns.

Both sides sought alliances with either the French or the English, who were engaged in their own Western European power struggle. These shifting alliances maintained the European balance of power.


What political power struggles dominated Western Europe in the 1700s?

In Western Europe, the primary struggle was between the English and French. Both sides sought alliances with either the Hohenzollerns or the Hapsburgs, engaged in their own Eastern European power struggle.

These shifting alliances maintained the European balance of power.


Although he'd agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction, how did Frederick the Great react to the death of Charles VI in 1740?

Frederick the Great refused to recognize Maria Theresa's claim to the Hapsburg throne, and used it as an excuse to declare war on Austria.

In the resulting War of the Austrian Succession, Prussia was joined by France, Spain, Bavaria, and Saxony. Great Britain and Russia allied with Austria.


The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) resolved the War of the Austrian Succession. What were the treaty's results?

Under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Maria Theresa remained on the Hapsburg throne, and Prussia gained control of Silesia, a rich and populous territory that allowed Prussia to compete with Austria as an equal.


After the War of the Austrian Succession, Count Kaunitz, the Austrian foreign minister, was determined to regain Silesia, and reached an alliance with what long-time Hapsburg foe?

In 1756, Count Kaunitz reached an alliance with her old enemy France against Prussia. Russia and Sweden later joined the alliance as well. To cement the new Franco-Austrian alliance, Maria Theresa's daughter Marie Antoinette was given in marriage to the future Louis XVI.

To restore the balance of power, Great Britain allied herself to Prussia. 


The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) took place primarily in what country?

For most of the war, the armies of France, Russia, and Sweden focused on Prussia, devastating the country. Frederick the Great, campaigning in person, kept his army intact and inflicted serious defeats on all three major powers.

When Czar Peter III (Catherine the Great's soon to be deceased husband) took the throne, the Russians dropped out of the war, and the Peace of Paris (1763) followed. Great Britain contributed monetarily to the Prussian defense, but mainly concerned herself with acquiring French colonial possessions. 


In 1763 the Peace of Paris and the Treaty of Hubertusburg resolved the Seven Years' War. What did the treaties establish?

Pursuant to the treaties, Britain acquired Canada which the French allowed in exchange for the small Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Otherwise no significant territorial changes took place. For the remainder of his reign, Frederick the Great focused on rebuilding his kingdom, which had withstood seven years of war.

In America, the war had been known as the French and Indian War, and American colonists aided the British army in the conquest of Canada.


In three separate phases between 1750 and 1800, what country was divided between Austria, Russia, and Prussia?

Austria, Russia, and Prussia divided the country of Poland between themselves, each taking a third. The division of Poland marked the end of the independent Polish state, which would remain divided and conquered until 1918.