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Absolutism in Austria and Prussia

Factors Influenced the Development of Absolutism

The War of the Austrian Succession showed the need for reforms in Austria, which was in a state of the financial crisis and was a poorly managed fragmented state. One of the directions of transformation was the implementation of a policy of unification in the field of public administration, in other words, bringing this essential sphere to uniformity. These reforms were aimed at forming a single, integral, efficiently managed state from disparate lands, capable of functioning in new economic conditions.

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The main reason is that the influence of the Roman Catholic Church has weakened. Consequently, as a result of the Reformation, the church began to need the support of monarchs in an effort to maintain its position. Then, there was a weakening of the influence of the local feudal nobility, which historically resisted the centralized power of the monarch.

As a result, the role of mercenary troops increased, using firearms and artillery, which required severe financial costs, which were only within the power of the royal courts.

Similarities and Differences

A more consistent and open policy distinguished Austria. The State Council was established — a body of supreme administration and legislation, the rights of class self-government in certain areas were restricted in favor of the bureaucracy. Moreover, justice was separated from the administration, and codification work was undertaken in the field of civil and criminal law. Concerning the peasants, the restriction of serfdom was carried out three days a week.

Government control over the judicial power of landlords was established, measures were taken to protect peasant landholdings from seizures by landlords. While in Prussia, Frederick II ruled the state through a well-trained bureaucracy, accustomed to unquestioning obedience and diligence. Monarch paid much attention to the army, where harsh stick discipline prevailed. The army was an instrument of a very aggressive foreign policy. Thus, the nobility was the central pillar of power.

Stronger and More Efficient Absolutism

These reforms affected all spheres of society and Austria began to transform from a fragmented multinational empire into a centralized bureaucratic state capable of occupying a worthy place among the rest of European states. The development of public education, the support of science and art, and the elimination of the church’s influence are all positive features of the policy of enlightened monarchs. Moreover, this led to the fact that Austria became one of the leading powers of the Enlightenment.

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