3. Age of Exploration/ New Monarchs: Has the concentration of power in the hands of a centralized government been a good thing for Western society?
**Page said I was Locked out, can't work on #5, but refer to my printed answers on the handed in sheet. Thanks! (Ellie Sheild)
Yes, I think the concentration of power in the hands of a centralized government, specifically in the hands of government presided over by a "New Monarch," was mostly beneficial to western society. Several examples support this claim, most notably Spain. Spain was for a long time the cultural and economic hub of the Western world. Not so coincidentally it was also one of the first nations to, under Ferdinand and Isabella make a concerted effort to consolidate power in the central government led by a monarch. In a time where national identities, stark religious differences, and large disparities of wealth and social class threatened to cause war and revolt at any moment, it was absolutely imperative that a central government serve as a common bond to prevent warfare among disparate people. After all, while war rages, cultural, social, and political development is often put on hold. The states, therefore, that, like Spain, were able to prevent warfare by uniting under a central government, were able to develop socially, culturally, and politically. Thus centralization of governments under a "New Monarch" was absolutely necessary to Western society. -Caroline
Yes, I think the concentration of power in the hands of a centralized government, specifically in the hands of government presided over by a "New Monarch," was mostly beneficial to western society. Several examples support this claim, most notably Spain. Spain was for a long time the cultural and economic hub of the Western world. Not so coincidentally it was also one of the first nations to, under Ferdinand and Isabella make a concerted effort to consolidate power in the central government led by a monarch. In a time where national identities, stark religious differences, and large disparities of wealth and social class threatened to cause war and revolt at any moment, it was absolutely imperative that a central government serve as a common bond to prevent warfare among disparate people. After all, while war rages, cultural, social, and political development is often put on hold. The states, therefore, that, like Spain, were abl
Yes, centralized governments allow for the coordination of economic and foreign policies, which has overall benefited the western world. In terms of economics, a centralized government allows for the coordination of national policies that benefit everyone, instead of regional policies that may benefit some, but not benefit all. For evidence, look towards the federal reserve. The federal reserve coordinates macroeconomic policies to change the money supply in order to adjust inflation rates to affect aggregate demand. By having a centralized bank, we allow for the coordination of these fiscal policies, as apposed to different agencies and different currencies within one country vying for power and control. Look towards the inefficiencies of having different state currencies pre-civil war. On foreign policy, its much easier for a nation to negotiate with another nation through one centralized government, instead of having to negotiate with multiple fragmented agencies that would have different aims and different goals. The centralized government provides for a unified policy stance which helps negotiate international initiatives. Fragmented intra-state would never be able to coordinate effectively on international initiatives and thus would never be able to establish international laws and international norms.-David Farrow
Throughout history (not only during the Age of Exploration) it is not difficult to see the benefits of strong organization. Not only are the economic benefits apparent, as David has shown, but benefits arise from simply having a uniform legal code, a key factor of sovereignty. Perhaps the largest benefit of this uniformity is the curbing of lawlessness that was so prevalent in the medieval age. Collective security is one of the most important reasons for organization. While there are certainly circumstances under which the centralization of power has been taken to extremes (and individual rights have been heedlessly trampled in the name of consolidating authority), a strong central authority is absolutely necessary for societal advancement. With lawlessness and anarchy curbed and stimulus provided to enterprising and creative minds, societies can flourish. In addition to the absolutely necessary component of stabilization (and thus providing a stable floor/fertile soil from which entrepreneurs and intellectuals can grow their ideas [this was terrible, I know]), a strong central government provides key services for the strengthening of industry, growth of affluence, and the general heightening of a standard of living. These services are likely ones we take for granted, such as roads (transportation services are key to intranational trade, or trade between states), clean water, and waste removal. However, without a stable, centralized society, these services would be impossible to manage (after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the aqueducts, and roads broke down without maintenance). Finally, the more people you have working together, rather than locked in a struggle for dominance over a territory that has no clear rule established, the more progress can be made. This is simply a matter of where attention is being focused. Infighting amongst small localities can be damaging to all (this can be seen from an economic standpoint during the Articles of Confederation period, where states clashed with exorbitant tax rates). Cooperation can be just as important as competition in a free market. -DavisHeniford
I think the consolidation of power, causing a centralization of power, has benefitted Western society. The political stability of the great monarchies of England and Spain allowed for economic development, specifically through exploration. In addition joint-stock companies—arguably a sixteenth-century-version of modern public companies in the stock market—, the destruction of the guild promoted a newfound spirit of capitalism. A profit-driven economy emerged, fueling the competition not only between individuals within a state but also between nation-states. It is through this competition, spurred by capitalism, that advancements and very modest globalization took place, both of which have been a good thing for Western society. -Meaghan
The establishment of strong centralized governments has benefited Western society. I’m always wary of big government, but historically speaking the growth in the power of governments has had numerous benefits. Chief among these is the establishment of infrastructure and national services. In a modern context, developments such as roads, a national currency, surplus farming, and national defense enable people to spend time on other pursuits. When your basics needs are taken care of, time can invested on other developments such as technology and medicine. The centralization of governments was crucial to the establishment of the global world we have today. However, now that our world is globalized, perhaps the age of strong central governments has passed and it is time to return to smaller and cheaper national leadership. (Connor Haines)
Yes: the consolidation of power in the hands of a centralized government has helped the Western world prosper. Centralized governments, seen in the form of monarchs during the 1500s and 1600s, allowed for economic unification through capitalism and the power to explore the New World through the consolidation of resources. HOWEVER, in many cases the consolidation of power in a centralized government can endanger the rights of the minority, usually a religious minority in terms of European history. While the power of the centralized government in Spain was able to create religious unification, and thus a better-woven cultural identity in Spain, it was done at the expense of the Jews and Muslims. The expulsion of the culturally rich Muslims and the highly educated Jews also had repercussions for Spain. (KatieMayo)
Yes. I do believe it is a good thing that power is concentrated in the hands of a central government rather than a dispersed government. As in the case with the Holy Roman Empire and Charles V, a decentralized government is not adequate enough to rule over the people and establish economic provisions outside the European realm. In the case of Charles V, he was the ruler over 300+ diverse principalities and seven different electors. He ultimately failed in his leadership when he failed in his fights against Martin Luther and ultimately had to abdicate the thrown in 1556. Coincidently his power most came from Spain, a successful New World power that was united under one centralized government. France, England, and Spain were all New Monarchs united under a centralized government with a King.
I believe a consolidation of power has been good; however, not too much power should belong to a single source, especially in a country like the one we have now. Overall, the idea has benefitted our society because it established principles regarding leadership and stability, I will point out however that the examples we have analyzed in class (for the most part) are smaller landmasses, rather than larger spread areas like where we live today. Also that the larger controlled bodies we have studied thus far, such as the Holy Roman Empire under Charles V and Spain under Phillip II, have suffered because of the amount of different people and different cultures underneath one umbrella too large and too powerful to see every opinion. I recognize however the massive leaps in economic stability and fluidity of foreign affairs that benefits from a centralized government with enough control to unite its provinces but not too much government as to overlook large proportions of its people.
Absolutely; the monarch’s consolidation of power completely transformed Western society. I’ll note the connection between the consolidation of power and the extreme growth of nationalism, which is important because it has an effect on how countries interact with one another. Monarchs often doubled as ambassadors, as the identity of the monarch could summarize that of the country they rule. I also think that if a monarch gained favor with subjects through being more relatable, it would be easier for them to consolidate power. Elizabeth is the best example of this and notably, the connection she creates with her people becomes part of England’s nationalistic fabric. -Tahira
Yes. I do believe it is a good thing that power is concentrated in the hands of a central government rather than a dispersed government. As in the case with the Holy Roman Empire and Charles V, a decentralized government is not adequate enough to rule over the people and establish economic provisions outside the European realm. In the case of Charles V, he was the ruler over 300+ diverse principalities and seven different electors. He ultimately failed in his leadership when he failed in his fights against Martin Luther and ultimately had to abdicate the thrown in 1556. Coincidently, his power mostly came from Spain, a successful New World power that was united under one centralized government. France, England, and Spain were all New Monarchs united under a centralized government with a King. When power is in the hands of one centralized force, the expansion is easier through trading expeditions and competition is spurred by other rival centralized powers. The King can rally his people around one common goal of gold, glory, and gospel, rather than depending on a plethora of different people in the decentralized states to make decisions. Furthermore, decisions can be made more attentively when there is one body in charge rather than a whole pack of differing opinions. If the New Monarchs were not centralized powers, such as Spain, and did not strive for exploration around the world, then the Western civilization would not have as much inspiration and intuition to explore the world as well. (Lauren Burton)
I think that a centralized government consolidating its power is indeed a positive change, because it generally means less chaos and random violence (see the fragmented medieval kingdoms) and therefore more time for the people to focus on exploration, new inventions, and intellectual and cultural developments. It also unifies the people around a central idea - "For the glory of (insert country name here)" - and this sense of nationalism can inspire the people to reach for new ideas and methods as they compete to make their own country the best. However, there is a limit to the amount of power a state should try to accrue: if the government oversteps its boundaries and tries to restrict personal liberties, innovation will cease to occur and indeed the state may regress. An organized and yet free and open state is the best for spurring its people towards exploration and invention. (Jane Wester)
It definitely is advantageous for the overall good of the country to have a strong centralized power, because without a firm grip on all of the parts of one's realm, the country might become totally divided, even in cases of language, like in the Netherlands. In the Case of the Netherlands, it is a perfect example of a ruler like Charles the Fifth, then Phillip the Second, who were completely out of touch with the people in the Netherlands, more focused on the issues in Spain. Also, in France, there was a long string of very powerful Kings, and they were able to make many steps towards turning France into a more powerful nation, especially with King Francis I, who got the right from the Pope to appoint his own bishops. This just shows how the Kings are not only taking on a larger secular role, but also a religious role, and how it benefited France. However, if you look at the Italian city-states, who weren't under any kind of centralized control, you see basically constant warfare among the city-states between 1494 and 1559, as well as random wars with surrounding countries that left the Italian States in complete disorder. A more extreme example would be with Poland, which had hardly any secular control resting with the King, and as a result actually disappeared off of the European map for a good bit. (Carter Wiles)
I feel that the formation of a strong centralized government has certainly benefitted western society. One can see that the countries who never united under a nationalistic purpose fell apart. The Papal States showed little form of organization, and inner fighting between Florence and Milan led to their ultimate demise. In addition, the countries who were most united had the opportunity to be the most successful when it came to exploration. The desire for a strong central government also calls for the necessary power over the nobility. The Court of Star Chambers in England and the weakness of the Estates General allowed the leaders of the government to take advantage of these faults. This has benefitted western society since countries grew to have clear defined rulers as opposed to disorganized nobles running provinces. Unity under one government, preferably with checks and balances such as Parliament, makes for a stronger defense and provides the opportunity for economic success through trade and new discoveries. (Robert Jessell)
While there are benefits that come from the centralization of power, mainly the survival of the states that did this (a pretty important advantage), I believe that the losses out-weigh the benefits. I am a believer in the concept of Subsidiarity, which is the idea that administration on the most local level possible will generally be the most effective and least wasteful. While there are pluses to the consolidation of power, such as increased national defense and success in the Age of Exploration, there were losses in terms of individual freedoms and effectiveness in ruling. The expulsion of the Muslims and Jews from Spain is an example of how minority rights had to be sacrificed for a centralized government to affectively coalesce its citizens. Also, the failure of the Spanish under Philip II to control the Netherlands is an example of a central authority failing to deal with more local matters effectively. While Charles V had left the Dutch alone for the most part, and they had effectively dealt with their own affairs, Philip tried to take control, and was royally rewarded. Of course, certain things, such as military, should be centralized, as it is ineffective for a king to have to rely on nobles to supply troops. Matt Borin
Yes, the centralization of power in the western world has been extremely valuable because it lessoned the tensions both inside of states and in Europe as a whole. By reducing the power and greed of the nobility, the noble conflicts died down and the central monarchy became the military force. Because the state could purchase troops and train them, the state military was more loyal and refined. As for trade, because the nobility was no longer consumed with a power struggle, they could invest money into trade areas while at the same time other areas of the economy flourished because government money was being used for works, not death. As for nations as a whole, a central government united common people, people that would work together to advance society. These societies created larger cities, therefore larger industrial areas, and therefore a larger need for innovation, and by current western standards, innovation is a measure of the standard of living. (Louis Stephens)