Enlightenment Absolutism of the 16th and 17th centuries MiChael Tarpey, Kevin Pimental, Frank Stigliano, AntoniO Orta

Background- The Enlightenment Period saw a drastic advancement on the intellectual and reasoning capabilities of man. This was in part sparked by the Philosophes, or the intellectuals of the Enlightenment. Individuals in began to express this in their daily lives, but later on the enlightenment rulers used these ideas

The minds of many people coming together is what ultimately caused the period of revolution and enlightenment.

With the advancement of knowledge came the advancement of power, and deciding how to use this knowledge came in many different forms, but ultimately resulted in the same policy of the previous century, absolutism. To keep full control, a country needed to decide if they wanted to enlighten their people, and this decision usually fell to the absolute ruler. This power can be seen in different ways from the three countries of Russia, Prussia, and Austria.

Enlightenment- The period during the 1700's when the philosophers believed they could apply the scientific method and use reason to explain human nature in a logical sense.

Absolutism- The principle or the excersizing of complete and unrestricted power in government.


Was very difficult to rule because different nationalities, languages, religions, and cultures existed throughout.

Empress Maria Theresa (conservative and not open to philosophes ideas) had many administrative reforms.

  • She centralized her empire in order strengthen the Hapsburgs and grow/order her army to a considerable size.

Maria Theresa wanted to improve the state after she lost Silesia in the War of Spanish Succession.

Joseph II (Maria Teresa’s son) Tried to control the Catholic Church, yet at the same time allowed the Protestants and Jews to practice freely.

  • One of Joseph's main implemented reforms was that he freed the peasants from working in the field (landlords and serfs didn't like this).

A great example of Maria Theresa's absolutism came from her priority of the Catholic faith

  • She made Catholic education her #1 priority and implemented many Catholic reforms.


Catherine II the Great was the major absolute figure of Russia at the time.

  • Before she had real power in Russia, Catherine read Enlightenment writings, especially those of Voltaire. She eventually invited him to Russia. She allowed the Encyclopedia in Russia, spreading vast knowledge throughout her country.

She invited the French philosopher Diderot to Russia

  • She did nothing that he suggested, knowing that her success depended on the support of the Russian nobility.

Catherine was primarily guided by a concern for the power and well being of her states. So she expanded the Russian territory drastically, paving the way for the next ruler, Pugachev.

  • Emelian Pugachev took over the throne of Catherine and stopped Catherine’s reforms and all the things she implemented in Russia. This virtually made everything she had done unimportant.

A great example of Catherine the Great's absolutism was seen in her waging of war between the Ottomans

  • She succeeded, and then continued to enlighten the country with the sciences.


Frederick II, also known as Frederick the Great was in favor of the Enlightenment after the seven years war. He was friendly with Voltaire, who was in his court for some time

  • Frederick believed the king should be the “first servant of the state”

He raised the army to 200,000 men and kept an eye on the bureaucracy

Prussia’s army was the most important institution of the state because of its size.

Frederick II ended the torture of prisoners (except for treason and murder).

  • He also limited the freedom of speech and of the press, along with tolerating just about every religion there was.

Frederick avoided additional reforms, yet managed to keep the social structure constant at the same time

  • One of his most famous quotes was when he said, "I must enlighten my people, cultivate their manners and morals, and make them as happy as human beings can be, or as happy as the means at my disposal permits."

A great example of Frederick's absolutism came from his parents and how he grew up.

  • His father made him watch his friend get decapitated as a punishment for trying to flee to England.

Some other Enlightenment figures that didn't rule or show their absolute beliefs included people like Rene Descartes. They influenced the people not with laws, but rather with ideas and philosophy.

  • Rene Descartes proved his importance with his concept of "I think, therefore I am" and his idea of rationalism. Rationalism was what the entirety of philosophy was based on and ended up influencing the people of Europe drastically. For his acheivements Descartes is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy."


Frank Stigliano- Austria and Enlightenment philosopher info

Michael Tarpey- Backgorund information and formatting/videos

Kevin Pimental- Prussia and gathering of outside information

Antonio Orta- Russia and organization of presentation

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