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The Enlightenment

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The Enlightenment

Throughout Europe and the new American colonies in the 18th century there was a great movement in thought. This trend that preceded the French Revolution is known as the Enlightenment. Revolutionary writers and thinkers thought that the past held only darkness and ignorance, they began to question everything. Enlightened thought entered, or intruded, into all aspects of life in the 1700s. Governments were drastically reformed, art and literature changed in scope, religion was threatened, the study of science spread, nature was seen in a new light, and humanity evolved greatly. This new way of thinking was propelled by curiosity and observations of society and nature.

The Enlightenment was a desire for human affairs to be guided by rationality rather than

by faith, superstition, or revelation; a belief in the power of human reason to change

society and liberate the individual from the restraints of custom or arbitrary authority;

all backed up by a world view increasingly validated by science rather than by religion

or tradition. 1

Several individuals have been credited and blamed for leading and contributing to the Enlightenment. These thinkers not only changed their views, but also spread revolutionary ideas to others. These philosophes, Evangelists of science, felt that it was their duty to open peoples’ eyes to new thought. They used every media available to them including word of mouth, pamphlets, letters, journals and books. Philosophes were tired of people accepting anything they were told, consequently a large opponent of the Enlightenment Era was the Church. Knowledge gained through observation of nature slowly replaced blindly accepted religious explanations. The Enlightenment wa...

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...am, they could harness it with the steam engine. Thus, emerged the Industrial Revolution, which would never have been possible had humans not owned the knowledge gained from the Enlightenment.

Literature Cited

1. Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment (New York, Press Syndicate of the University of

Cambridge ,1995), 3.

2. Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner, The Western Heritage, Second Brief

Edition, Volume II: Since 1648 (Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1996), 397.

3. Outram, 58.

4. Kagan, 401.

5. Britannica Online, “The Enlightenment”, wysiwyg://176/http://www.britannica.com/…

article/5/0,5716,108605+8+106072,00.html, 21.

6. Roy Porter, The Enlightenment, (London, The MacMillan Press Ltd., 1990), 3.

7. Kagan, 403.

8. Outram, 62.

9. Jonathon Weiner, Time, Love, Memory (New York, Vintage Books, 1999), 5.
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