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Political doctrine and practice of unlimited, centralized authority and absolute sovereignty, especially as vested in a monarch. Its essence is that the ruling power is not subject to regular challenge or check by any judicial, legislative, religious, economic, or electoral agency. Though it has been used throughout history, the form that developed in early modern Europe (16th–18th century) became the prototype; Louis XIV is seen as the epitome of European absolutism. Religious authority was assumed by the monarch, who became the head of the church as well as the state, on the basis that the right to rule came from God (seedivine kingship). See alsoauthoritarianism, dictatorship, totalitarianism.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on absolutism, visit Britannica.com.