Enlightenment and Political Transformations in Europe

Topics: Age of Enlightenment, Voltaire, Thomas Paine Pages: 4 (1555 words) Published: June 2, 2013
Political System Transformation in European and Euro-American Societies

The Enlightenment is well known to be an important cultural and intellectual movement that revolutionized the lifestyle of several European and Euro-American people during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It brought changes on the scientific, economic, and religious field. However, the field that resulted mainly affected by the Enlightenment was the political realm. Many important European philosophers like Thomas Paine started to dispute monarchical power arguing that laying total authority over the hands of a king was “an imposition to posterity” (Document 41, page 187). Moreover, philosophers like Marquis de Condorcet emphasized the fact that everyone regardless of their social standing deserved to be treated equally before law (Document 35, page 163). These new political ideals of Enlightenment were spread through treatises, poems, hymns and even republican dramas that also reached and impacted Euro-American people. As a result of these flows of political ideas, European and Euro-American societies started to develop new concepts on their understanding of sovereignty that was based on the notion that authority does not rely only on kings and that their authority derives from the consent of the common people. Before enlightenment took place, Europeans believed that their own political salvation lay in centralized monarchy, but, this positive notion on monarchy and absolutism gradually changed. At first Europeans defended absolutism through the publication of treatises that addressed the authority and duties of a king. For example, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, who was a famous French churchman, he wrote the treatise called Politics Derived from the Words of Holy Scripture in which he stated that “God established kings as his ministers, and reigns through them over the peoples” (Document 30, page 147). Jacques defends absolutism by making a strong emphasis on the fact that the...
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