The struggle for sovereignty within and among states resulted in varying degrees of political centralization.
Chapter 11 - Late Middle Ages
Chapter 12 - Renaissance
Chapter 16 - Scientific Revolution
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Concept Overview: Three trends shaped early modern political development: (1) from decentralized power and authority toward centralization; (2) from a political elite consisting primarily of a hereditary landed nobility toward one open to men distinguished by their education, skills, and wealth; and (3) from religious toward secular norms of law and justice.
One innovation promoting state centralization and the transformation of the landed nobility was the new dominance of firearms and artillery on the battlefield. The introduction of these new technologies, along with changes in tactics and strategy, amounted to a military revolution that reduced the role of mounted knights and castles, raised the cost of maintaining military power beyond the means of individual lords, and led to professionalization of the military on land and sea under the authority of the sovereign. This military revolution favored rulers who could command the resources required for building increasingly complex fortifications and fielding disciplined infantry and artillery units. Monarchs who could increase taxes and create bureaucracies to collect and spend them on their military outmaneuvered those who could not.
In general, monarchs gained power vis-à-vis the corporate groups and institutions that had thrived during the medieval period, notably the landed nobility and the clergy. Commercial and professional groups, such as merchants, lawyers, and other educated and talented persons, acquired increasing power in the state — often in alliance with the monarchs — alongside or in place of these traditional corporate groups. New legal and political theories, embodied in the codification of law, strengthened state institutions, which increasingly took control of the social and economic order from traditional religious and local bodies. However, these developments were not universal. In eastern and southern Europe, the traditional elites maintained their positions in many polities.
The centralization of power within polities took place within and facilitated a new diplomatic framework among states. Ideals of a universal Christian empire declined along with the power and prestige of the Holy Roman Empire, which was unable to overcome the challenges of political localism and religious pluralism. By the end of the Thirty Years’ War, a new state system had emerged based on sovereign nation- states and the balance of power.
Sub-Concept 1: The new concept of the sovereign state and secular systems of law played a central role in the creation of new political institutions.
Sub-Concept 2: The competitive state system led to new patterns of diplomacy and new forms of warfare.
Sub-Concept 3: The competition for power between monarchs and corporate groups produced different distributions of governmental authority in European states.