2F The Sun King: Louis XIV, France and Europe, 1643–1715

Please note that Summer 2021 will be the final assessment of this component for AS History.

This option provides for the study in depth of a key figure, whose ambitions had a profound impact, not only on France, but on the whole of Europe. It explores the concepts of French absolutism, centralisation, aggrandisement and power. It also encourages an in-depth understanding of the importance of monarchy and social status in the 17th century as well as the glories and perils of personal and state confidence and ambition.

Part one: The Sun King, 1643–1685

The Regency, 1643–1661

  • The French monarchy in 1643: the legacy of Richelieu and Louis XIII; the establishment of the Regency
  • The Minority of Louis XIV: the roles of Anne of Austria and Mazarin; the Parlement of Paris, unrest and opposition; the Frondes
  • France and Europe: the rise of French power at the expense of the Habsburgs; the treaties of Westphalia and the Pyrenees
  • The condition of France at the accession of Louis XIV in 1661: politics, economy and society

The establishment of Absolutism at home, 1661–1685

  • Louis XIV and Divine Right: personality and aims; the restoration of order; the centralisation of royal authority; the role of Versailles
  • Louis XIV and patronage of art, culture and science: the Academie Francaise; the Academy of Sciences; the role of Colbert
  • Finance and the economy: the reforms of Colbert; taxation; trade and communications within France; mercantilism; overseas trade and colonisation
  • Louis XIV and the Church: disputes with the papacy; persecution of Jansenists; policies towards Huguenots and the Revocation Edict of 1685

Louis XIV and Europe, 1661–1685

  • The context of French foreign policy in 1661: Louis XIV’s aims, the extent of French military resources; the Military Academy; the role of Louvois
  • France and Spain: the decline of Spanish military power; the War of Devolution
  • France and the Dutch Republic: relations between Louis XIV and Charles II of England; the Franco-Dutch War; the Peace of Nijmegen
  • France and the policy of Reunions: the drive to annex ‘lost’ territories to France such as Luxembourg, Casale and Strasbourg; the Treaty of Ratisbon

Part two: Louis XIV in decline, 1685–1715 (A-level only)

Challenges at home, 1685–1715 (A-level only)

  • The personal monarchy: the strengths and weaknesses of royal government; the influence of Madame de Maintenon
  • Finance and the economy: problems after Colbert; the costs of war
  • Louis XIV and the Church: Gallicanism; relations with Huguenots; Jansenists and Quietists
  • Pressures from below: social divisions; problems with the regions; discontent and popular protests

Challenges in Europe, 1685–1697 (A-level only)

  • The challenge of William of Orange: the Dutch-English alliance after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688
  • The ‘Grand Alliance’: the League of Augsburg and the anti-French alliance between Protestant states; the Empire and Spain
  • The Nine Years War: outbreak, course and outcome; the war in Europe; the war in North America, the Caribbean and Asia; the Peace of Ryswick 1697
  • The new balance of power: the position of France in relation to the European powers by 1697; the impact of years of war on France’s economic and military resources; the prospects of future wars

France defeated, 1697–1715 (A-level only)

  • The issue of the Spanish Succession: the aims and policies of France; the international response to French claims; the outbreak of war
  • The War of the Spanish Succession: the war in Europe; the war in North America, the Caribbean and Asia
  • The Treaty of Utrecht and its impact on the balance of power in Europe
  • The legacy of Louis XIV by 1715: the last years of the reign; the problem of the succession; the annulment of the King’s will and the formation of the regency of Orleans