The Enlightenment: 1700-1789
European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the "long 18th century" as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change. The Enlightenment produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions. The American and French Revolutions were directly inspired by Enlightenment ideals and respectively marked the peak of its influence and the beginning of its decline.
In this chapter, we will examine the forces that set the stage for the French Revolution of 1789, one of the most significant events in European history. By the end of the eighteenth century, Western Europe had broken with much of its past, and was leading the Continent into a period of tumultuous social, political, and economic changes that were instrumental in the development of the modern age.
By the end of this chapter, you will be able to: * Describe the main tenets of key Enlightenment philosophies and explain how they have shaped Western thought * Assess the impact of modern Western thought on economic and political developments in the West during the eighteenth century * Demonstrate an understanding of key developments in attitudes towards religion and religious observance during the eighteenth century * Assess the influence of key individuals and groups whose ideas during the Enlightenment helped to shape Western attitudes
What is meant by the term ‘Enlightenment’?
* Period in history (eighteenth century) characterized by an increase in ideas aimed at reshaping society and promoting progress * Ideas included the importance of