Because in the early modern period, the forces of globalization put a variety of historical personalities in contact, challenges and conflicts were inevitable since they were and remained parts of human nature. Furthermore, globalization was associated with a rapid pace of social change, which, in the historical context, was very often accompanied by the increased levels of conflict. The early modern period was marked by the emergence of the organized violence phenomenon that did not leave anyone behind and specifically targeted religious ideologies (for example, the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in England). Therefore, it is important to discuss how the religious and imperial expansion challenged the authority of the powerful institutions such as the Catholic Church and find out more about how the asserted power changed or stayed the same over the history.
One of the key examples to consider with regards to the rise of globalization and its impact on the social and political tensions in the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Britain that subsequently led to British Civil Wars. The conflict between Catholics and Protestants in England developed directly from events of the sixteenth century when England abandoned the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope (Prior 34). In part, the abandonment of the Catholic Church and the establishment of the new ideologies were associated with the Protestant Reformation that took place in many European countries during that period. However, it is important to note that the ‘break’ from the Roman authority could not be considered reformative to the fullest extent since the majority of aspects characterizing that period of history came from the dissemination of new ideologies, like, for example, the views on the religion of Martin Luther. Theological radicalism became one of the key causes of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants since the established norms of the ‘justification by good deeds’ rather than ‘the faith alone’ were significantly undermined by the ideologies of the Protestant Reformation.
The English Civil War of 1642-46 marked the first conflict from the series of wars between England, Scotland, and Wales. The key causes were the Charles I’s extension of taxes as well as the Catholic rituals in the Church, which subsequently led to the Parliament revolution. During this period, the conflicting parties (the rising social class and the ‘old regime’) struggled for capturing the legislative authority, fueled by the past contradictions surrounding the ruling of the Church and the ideas of Protestant Reformation. The outcome of the English Civil War was the execution of Charles I and the further intolerance to monarch despotism; however, the key cause – the authority of the Catholic Church’s remained unresolved until the 1688 “Glorious Revolution” which resulted in the emergence of Britain as a Protestant constitutional monarchy (Glozier 32).
When it comes to the preservation of power by a certain institution, Absolutism is characterized by the absolute sovereignty of a monarch or a dictator, a phenomenon, the abolishment of which was attempted in the course of the English Civil Wars. However, the ‘power of one’ preserved in some European countries (especially in France) and flourished in the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries. The key characteristics of the era of Absolutism included the primacy of the King, the culture of power, mercantilism, and the centralized state. The brightest example of Absolutism in Europe was the reign (1643-1715) of King Louis XIV or otherwise known as “Sun King.” In his 1666 memorandum of Kingship, Louis XIV called the king “the principal cause of good work being done […] however skillful and enlightened his ministers are” (“Louis XIV: Primary Source Part One” par. 3).
With regards to exercising absolutism, the Church exhibited the majority of characteristics of absolute power and gave monarchs an authority to rule under God. Despite this, some monarchs not only desired to be the heads of the state but also of the church; this caused the conflict of interest discussed in the context of Catholicism and Protestantism. While in 17th-century England, the times of absolutism were abolished, and the ruling of the country was conducted with the help of the Parliament that did not allow a monarch to dictate all decisions, Louis XIV was the epitome of the absolute ruling. He ordered the building of palaces for himself (e.g., Versailles), encouraged the culture of mercantilism, and regarded himself as the one and only person that knew what was best for the country. As to exercising religion, Louis XIV thought that his authority was significantly undermined by the presence of Protestant minorities, which led him to destroy Huguenot churches. He believed in the idea of one “one king, one law, one faith” (qtd. in Knecht 116) and wanted to prove his authority with regard to all aspects of social and political life.
Therefore, the early modern period of history can be characterized by the loss or acquisition of the authority by powerful institutions. While some countries escaped from totalitarian rule supported by the church and moved closer to what we know today as democracy, others let Absolutism take over and provide a monarch with all of the necessary tools for exercising their power.
Glozier, Matthew. Huguenot Soldiers of William of Orange and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Sussex Academy Press, 2008.
Knecht, RJ. The French Civil Wars, 1562-1598. Routledge, 2000.
“Louis XIV: Primary Source Part One.” Northernhighlands, n.d., Web.
Prior, Charles. A Confusion of Tongues: Britain’s Wars of Reformation, 1625-1642. Oxford University Press, 2012.