INTRODUCING THROWBACK THURSDAYS! In this (hopefully) weekly feature, I’m going to (hopefully) help you be better at History!

Lately I’ve been helping my dad (World History teacher) with his lesson plans. And I’m loving it! History can be interesting if you don’t let textbooks crush your spirits. So my goal has been to write up summaries that are easier to read and remember and (hopefully) are more entertaining.

I have a lot of hope.

And it occurs to me that perhaps those of us who are no longer in school (or aren’t required to take history classes anymore) could benefit from some refreshers. And since my dad’s 10th graders seem to appreciate these notes,  I’m just going to share some them here for your edification.

Let’s just jump right in to chapter 18 on Conflict and Absolutism in Europe! (Background info: the Reformation has ended in Europe, which was when Luther said excuse me, here are some ideas that could make Catholicism better and the Church said NOPE and Protestantism was born and then European countries spent decades fighting about whether they should be Protestant or Catholic and whether or not to allow religious groups that were not essentially state-sponsored. It was a messy, chaotic time with lots of war in the Holy Roman Empire, but much of it ended with the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 which allowed each prince to make their own call on religion. OK, here we go…)

After the Peace of Augsburg (which was the peace settled after fighting between Holy Roman Emperor Charles V – Catholic – and the Protestant princes in Germany, allowing the princes to choose between Lutheranism or Catholicism), Charles V split his empire. His brother, Ferdinand I got those areas of Germany, plus parts of Austria and Hungary (the Holy Roman Empire). His son, Philip II, got Spain, parts of Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain’s holdings in the Americas. Philip II wanted to maintain his power, so he insisted on strict conformity to Catholicism and strong authority of the monarchy – so you can see that his allegiance to Catholicism was more about power than faith and beliefs. Under the rule of “the most Catholic king,” Spain basically tried to eliminate Jews, Muslims, and Protestants.


The nobles in the Spanish Netherlands weren’t super excited about Philip’s strength and control in the region, so they resisted. Philip tried to eliminate Calvinism and the resistance, leading to 40 years of violent struggle which ended in a truce. The northern provinces basically declared their independence as the United Provinces of the Netherlands and remained a major global power for the 1600s (think: Dutch East India Company, spice trade, early colonies in the Americas).

Meanwhile, over in England, King Henry VIII had switched to Protestantism so that he could get a divorce and hoped his new wife would have a son. When he died, his 9 year old son, Edward VI, took over but sadly he died before he turned 16. In the meantime, because he was so young, “rule passed to a regency council dominated by Protestants, who attempted to establish their faith throughout the country” (per wikipedia). Upon his death, Edward’s sister (Henry VIII’s and Catherine of Aragon’s daughter) Mary took over. She switched England back to Catholicism and ordered over 300 Protestants to be burned as heretics (leading to her nickname “Bloody Mary”). So even though England had been ready to return to Roman Catholicism, her tactics pushed people back toward Protestantism.

Side note: Why did Mary switch back and why was she so intolerant of Protestants? Oh! Maybe because she was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon who was kicked to the curb by Henry VIII because she didn’t have a son. So maybe there was more family loyalty and bitterness behind the decision than anything relating to religious beliefs? Plus her cousin was Charles V who ruled the Holy Roman Empire! AND she married his son, Philip II, who became “the most Catholic king!” It’s alllll starting to make sense. It’s like an episode of Empire!

When Queen Mary Tudor died, her half-sister Elizabeth took over, effectively ending ties with Philip II and Spain. Prior to her death, the two sisters did NOT get along. Again, this tension could be related to Henry VIII’s marital decisions. She was a more moderate ruler than her father and Mary. Elizabeth tried to keep Spain and France from getting too much power to tip the balance in Europe, but Philip II was greedy and decided to invade England and try to overthrow Protestantism. But England was able to defeat Spain. Philip spent too much on war and was bankrupt. Uh oh. England and France now had the power in Europe.

To be continued…

Sources: World History and GeographyWorld History: Perspectives on the Past, and the internet.



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