Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

Get access

(1,015 words)

The term “despotism” (from Greek despóteia, “the power of a master [over a slave]”), derived from ancient political theory, in the early modern period came to denote in relation to the constitution the deficient form of monarchy, distinguished both from the “good” form of authority and from the unequivocally bad form, tyranny. Despotism was the self-aggrandizing form of governance over subjects either unwilling or unable to participate in the political process, where the primary concern was the interests of the ruler, taking precedence over the common good.

The term was curr…

Cite this page
Weber, Wolfgang E.J., “Despotism”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 06 February 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_018252>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20170626

▲   Back to top   ▲