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Politics in Europe during the Renaissance

“New Monarchies” develop in 15th century (France, England, Spain)
o France
 Valois Dynasty begins to centralize territory and increase power of the French
monarchy
 Earlier French monarchs only controlled territory around Paris; French
kings begin to extend territory through war, dynastic marriage, and
diplomacy
 Charles VII (r. 1422-1461) and Louis XI (r. 1461-1483) extend power of
monarchy
 Take power from Estates General (elected legislature; parliament)
 Levy taxes to increase government revenues
 Begin building a royal army
 Reduce authority of nobility
o England
 Turmoil after loss of Hundred Year’s War and the onset of the War of the Roses
 War of the Roses: civil war between Yorks and Lancasters
 Tudor Dynasty founded in 1485
 Henry VII (r. 1485-1509) worked to restore order and increase power of
monarchy
 Reduced power of nobles; used Court of Star Chamber to interrogate
and torture nobles who were suspected of acting against the interests
of the crown
 Uses revenue earned from royal lands, judicial fees, and fees associated
with customs and duties to increase revenue for the crown without
raising taxes
 Often avoided calling on Parliament; wanted to maintain his own power
o Spain
 Iberian Peninsula was once controlled by Muslims (starting in the 700’s). Over
time, Christians began to claim territory
 In early to mid-1400’s, the Peninsula was divided into distinct kingdoms
(Castile, Aragon, Navarre) and Granada which continued to be a Muslim
territory. Portugal also existed as an independent state.
 Ferdinand and Isabella
 1469: Isabella of Castile married Ferdinand of Aragon
 Their marriage resulted in the birth of Spain. The other territories
eventually come under their control as well.
 Reconquista “Reconquest”: Christians launch campaign to rid the
Iberian Peninsula of non-Christians; Jews and Muslims forced out
o Use the Inquisition to interrogate and “convert” suspected
heretics; resulted in thousands being tortured and forced out of
their homeland
Politics in Europe during the Renaissance


Exploration: Ferdinand and Isabella sponsor voyages across the Atlantic
o Columbus: 1492
o Conquistadors begin to claim land for the Spanish crown
 Cortez: Defeats the Aztec in Mexico; Pizarro: Defeats
Inca in Andean South America
 Revenue from colonies in Americas makes Spain one of the most
powerful nations in Europe
o Silver from mines in Mexico and Peru brought back to Spain;
Spain then uses the silver to fund luxury trade with Asia
Decentralized States (Holy Roman Empire and Italy): remain fragmented without a centralized
government
o Holy Roman Empire
 Composed largely of German states; hundreds of relatively independent states
 Holy Roman Emperor was chosen by an electoral college of German
princes
 Reichstag was an assembly of electors, princes, and other
representatives whose duty was to maintain peace among the states of
the Holy Roman Empire
 Emperor almost always a Hapsburg , one of the most powerful families in
Europe
 Hapsburgs ruled Austria, one of the largest of the German states; they
used marriages to create alliances and increase land holdings ;
 Through dynastic marriages, the Hapsburgs had connections to France,
Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire
o Charles V (grandson of both Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain as
well as Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I)
o was in line to inherit the Spanish and Austrian thrones as well
as a title to Burgundy in France
o Italy
 Composed of numerous independent city-states
 Milan, Venice, Florence among the most powerful
 Catholic Church also controlled lands in central Italy (Papal States)
 Various government structures
 Some claim to be “republics”. In reality, many city-states were
controlled by wealthy families such as the Medici in Florence, the Sforza
and Visconti in Milan
 Often contained elected legislatures such as the Signoria in Florence
 Other states in Europe take advantage of Italy’s lack of unity and attempt to
seize territory
 France, Spain, and Holy Roman Empire all compete for Italian territory,
invade numerous times