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Session 2: Absolute Monarchies in France and Russia

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Session 2: Absolute Monarchies in France and Russia

  • Pictures and information on Versailles

  • Internet access

  • Video on Peter the Great

  • Teacher-prepared video-viewing guide (see p. 10)

  • Web site such as “Louis XIV.” http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/17stsimon.html
Instructional Activities

1. Ask students to make a list of those characteristics that they think an absolute monarchy would have. Display their responses. Provide prompts to guide student responses. Answers may include the fact that all power is centralized in one person (the monarch) and a belief in the divine right of kings.

2. Discuss Louis XIV and the obstacles he had to overcome to attain absolutism. Include information on his achievements of subduing the French nobles, gaining control of the Church, and eliminating the legislative body (Estates General). Explain why each of these three achievements represented a victory over an obstacle to absolutism. For example, the nobles had their own taxes and courts, and the king could not be absolute if these practices continued. The Church had its own courts and taxes, and these forms of control would limit the king if they were allowed to continue. A legislature with powers to raise money or pass laws would prevent the power of the king from being absolute.

Schedule a research session for students to research Versailles and prepare a brief essay on how it became a symbol of Louis XIV’s absolutism. If the media center or computer lab is not available, provide resources in class. This could possibly be a graded activity.

Display a picture of Versailles, and ask students to suggest elements or characteristics of the palace that illustrate power. Provide information on its size and cost and the length of time it took to build, as well as other facts that suggest enormous power.

3. Discuss with students the dual goal of Peter the Great of Russia to achieve absolutism and westernize Russia at the same time. Explain that for decades, Russia had closed her western borders, and the people had cultivated eastern characteristics, such as wearing long robes, growing beards, and eating with their hands. Peter, who had traveled to the west as a young man, admired western society. When he became Tsar, he began the process of forcing his people to adopt the culture of western societies. He also built western-style cities, such as St. Petersburg.

4. Distribute copies of the video-viewing guide, and go over it with the students. Then, show the selected video on Peter the Great. Have students use the video-viewing guide while watching and immediately following the showing in order to summarize important points, make connections, and draw conclusions.

5. Direct students to write a brief essay explaining why they think Peter had “Great” as part of his title. Responses may include that he created a more modern nation, expanded land size, expelled Sweden from the continent, and westernized Russia.

6. Ask students what impact absolute monarchies had on their countries in this time period. Responses may include the following:

  • Conflicts with other countries for power

  • Conflict over trade throughout the world

  • Desire for power on the part of certain groups

  • Little or no say in government by the common people

  • Large bureaucracies to run the country

  • More centralization

  • More unity

  • Large armies

Session 3: Absolute Monarchy in England


  • Internet access

  • Rules for a mock trial

  • Copy of the English Bill of Rights

  • Web sites such as the following:

English Bill of Rights. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/england.htm

“William III and Mary II.” http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon51.html

Instructional Activities

1. Discuss the development of absolutism under the Stuart monarchy. Divide the class into groups of three or four, and instruct each group to list things they think made the English kings absolute. Possible responses may include the following: Ruled for many years without parliament; often dismissed parliament; imposed taxes on the people in violation to the Magna Carta; denied habeas corpus to the nobility. Have students search the Internet for the comment of James I about the divine rights of kings.

2. Discuss how Cromwell came to power and the reasons for the execution of Charles I. Assign a group of students to prepare an “indictment” of Charles I. Then, conduct a mock trial of Charles I, and have students research their roles before playing them.

3. Explain how political parties came into existence during this time period. Explain that the Tory party supported the king’s policies and the Whig party supported parliament. Ask students to share two reasons they might have supported the Tories at this time and two reasons they might have supported the Whigs. Possible reasons for support of the Tories might include that clergy and military income came from the monarchy, and that it initially appeared as though the king would win. Possible reasons for support of the Whigs might include illegal taxation and strong support of the rule of law.

4. Discuss with students reasons for the Restoration, such as the following:

  • Cromwell had no true successor.

  • Cromwell’s rule had also been dictatorial.

  • Charles’s children may have learned a lesson about fairer ways to rule.

5. Explain the reasons for the Glorious Revolution, such as the following:

  • Charles II proclaimed he was a Catholic and could not be head of the Church of England (the Anglican Church).

  • Charles II was ruling like a dictator.

  • Charles II violated the agreement that he would not be an absolute monarch.

6. Discuss how William and Mary’s rise to power established a constitutional monarchy in England as the powers of parliament increased with the signing of the English Bill of Rights.

7. Obtain a copy or summary of the English Bill of Rights (see Web site listed above). Instruct students to explain in a brief essay how the various points lessened absolutism in England.

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