Rise and FallQuestions
Kennedy's main thesis was similar to one of Machiavelli's. It was that no matter how stable, strong, or secure a republic, empire or state is, it will always fail and make way for a new one to take its place. Chapter one starts out discussing the major power around the year 1500 ad, which is the date commonly chosen to mark the beginning of modern times. At this point in time the Eastern regions of the world were the most prominent. Ming China had the most people, most advanced farming techniques, and the largest armies. Europe was not the most fertile or populated region. Europe had 50-55 million people compared to China's 100-130 million. In the 16th century China began to decline and Japan and Russia were starting to show up on the map. Japan was still under a feudal lordship and spawned many pirates, which troubled China. Japan and Russia also began to strive for technologies like gunpowder. China had been successful so long that in a sense they let there guard down and let the rest of the world pass them by with technology. Europe being ununified was pushed to advance by itself. With so many states struggling to become the almighty superpower, a large focus was set on advance. This caused them to soar in front of the Asians and Russians. These instances support his thesis by representing power changes throughout the world with no one staying "the worlds most powerful" forever.
The Hapsburgs were an aristocratic European family that acquired a large amount of land and tried to maintain it if not expand it for about a 150 year period, 1519-1659. They were primarily in Austria and Spain, but also had claims in The Netherlands, Hungary, Bohemia, Italy, and France. 1519 marked the start of the Hapsburg Empire when Charles V was crowned the first emperor of this land and had gotten most of it from inheritance and dynastic marriages. One of the major advantages that the Hapsburgs had was money. Although they ended up not having enough money for their constant fights, they were better off than most because of their large claims in the Americas giving them vast amounts of silver and gold when most other countries were relying on agricultural economies which yielded little money to spare on wars. Wars were very expensive as well. Although they used simple weapons like pikes, swords, crossbows, and arquebusses, they had to pay for expensive ships and mercenaries.
Although the Hapsburgs were financially sound, they still did not have enough to cover their immense war habit. They were constantly in battle and if they acquired any extra money it would be spent on another war. Another thing that was not in their favor was religion. In their trying to take Germany they were very strongly rejected since the Germans were Protestant and the Hapsburgs were Roman Catholic. The major downfall of the Hapsburgs was that they were essentially taking on all of Europe. Although they were more powerful than some states individually, they could not stand up to the amount of states that they opposed.
The ultimate outcome of the Hapsburg struggle was defeat. They reached a point at which they were in so many fights at once that they did not have the power financially or in brute strength to hold out against so much opposition. At their start in 1519 when Charles V became emperor they faced smaller amounts of opposition because they were not being greedy about expansion. Their goal was to maintain the land that they had and expand if they saw an easy opportunity. Towards the end in 1659 they got greedy. They waged wars on every front to control Europe. The Hapsburgs' militaries lost interest in the wars just as the need for larger militaries emerged. The military went in to revolution, which also drove up the price for war since the armies wanted higher pay. In the end the combination of militaries needing to be 100 times as big and inflation of prices caused the demise of the Hapsburg Empire.