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PinkMonkey Online Study Guide-World History

5.4 Age of Enlightened Despots

During the 17th and the 18th centuries, there was an upsurge of strong monarchs in Europe owing to the need for a strong central government. Though all the monarchs were not worthy, some of them came to be called the ’enlightened despots’. They were referred to as enlightened because they not only patronized learning and the arts, but were themselves highly accomplished. They were also called benevolent since they were hard working rulers who strove to improve the condition of the people. They realized that their own power depended on the prosperity of the nation. However they were regarded as despots since they jealously guarded and tried to strengthen their autocratic hold on the states that they governed. The most outstanding among the enlightened despots were Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Maria Theresa and Joseph II of Austria.

  • Monarchy in England
  • Alfred the Great (871-901), William the Conqueror (1066-1087), Henry II (1154-1189), Edward I (1272-1307) and others were powerful rulers. The Wars of the Roses paved the way for the rise of the Tudor monarchy, of which Henry VII, Henry VIII, Mary and Queen Elizabeth were strong rulers.

    The Stuart rulers like James I (1603-1625), Charles I (1625-1649), Charles II (1660-1685) and James II (1685-1688) were despotic rulers whose power parliament tried to curb.

    The unpopular ruler James II was deposed and the Dutch prince William of Orange and his wife Mary, were invited to rule over England through the Glorious or Bloodless Revolution.


    5.0 - Introduction
    5.1 Growth and Features of the Revolution
    5.2 The Rationalist Spirit and the Contribution of Voltaire
    5.3 Application of the Critical Spirit
    5.4 Age of Enlightened Despots
    5.5 Dates & Events
    5.6 Points to Remember

    Chapter 6


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