Security of the Political and Social Position of the Nobility in Early Modern Europe

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Security of the Political and Social Position of the Nobility in Early Modern Europe The nobility of early modern Europe were descended on the whole from the mounted knights of medieval armies who had been granted land along with social and political privileges and had subsequently formed a higher social class. Between 1500-1789 the status of the aristocracy came under threat both politically and socially. The rise of ‘absolutism’ within the monarchies of Europe led to the desire of governments to reduce noble power and bypass several of their privileges in order to increase state revenue and centralise governmental control. The growth of the middle classes and the destruction of the feudal system meant that the aristocracy had to dramatically adapt to new social and economic situations. A great difference can be seen between the survival of the nobility in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, the latter maintaining great political control and a substantial section of society. Western Europe saw the decline of the nobility but also its movement towards a new role in society. Scott describes the “three interlocking developments”[1] that constituted the problems of the nobility in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The first was economic as many families experienced difficulties and drew closer in wealth to the aspiring middle classes. The sixteenth century saw prices continue to rise as rulers manipulated currencies and this proved a burden to the nobility who relied solely upon the land for revenue. The aristocracy were losing their traditional authority “politically to the centralising state that was coming into existence ... ... middle of paper ... ...----- [1] Scott, H.M., The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries Vol. 1: Western Europe (1995) p.8. [2] Scott, H.M., The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries p.8. [3] Scott, H.M., The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries p.53. [4] Ruiz, T.F., Spanish Society 1400-1600 (Los Angeles, 2001) p.74. [5] Dewald, J., The European Nobility, 1400-1800 (1996) p.152. [6] Bush, M.L., Noble Privilege (1983) p.1. [7] Bush, M.L., Noble Privilege p.79. [8] Dewald, J., The European Nobility, 1400-1800 p.70. [9] Dewald, J., The European Nobility p.70. [10] Dewald, J., The European Nobility p.71. [11] Beckett, J.V., The Aristocracy in England 1660-1914 (1986) p.350. [12] Kamen, H., Early Modern European Society (2000) p.93.

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