Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu was born in
1689 to a French noble family. "His family tree could be traced 350
years, which in his view made its name neither good nor bad." (The
Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, p. 68) Montesquieu's views started to
be shaped at a very early age. A beggar was chosen to be his godfather
to remind him of his obligations to the poor.
Montesquieu's education started at the age of 11 when he was sent to
Juilly, a school maintained by the Congregation of the Oratory. From
1705 to 1709 he studied law in Bordeaux. "From 1705 to 1709 he was a
legal apprentice in Paris. There he came to know some of the most
advanced thinkers of his time: Fredet, the Abbe Lama, and
Boulainvilliers.(Ibid.). In 1716 Montesquieu got a seat of president a
mortier in the parlement of Guyenne from his deceased uncle. Even
though he did not like his job he believed parliaments were necessary to
control the monarchs.
In 1721 Montesquieu published the Persian Letters, which he began
working on while studying in Bordeaux. The book was a success. In the
Persian Letters Montesquieu showed how relative all of the French values
were. Even though the technique used in this witty book was previously
used by other writers, Montesquieu did a great job making fun of the
European values. At that time he already believed in the immorality of
European practices such as religious prosecution. The book gave roots
for Montesquieu's later arguments and ideas.
When in 1728 Montesquieu, with the help of his Parisian connections he
got elected to the French Academy, he was happy to sell his office of
president a mortier. In the course of the next three years he traveled
all over Europe, visiting Germany, Hungary, England, Holland, Austria,
and Italy. It is not surprising that out of his European tour the
country which had the greatest impact on his later work (just like it
did on Voltaire's) was England. During his stay there he was elected a
fellow of the Royal Society.
After he returned to France the second portion of his carrier had
began. He became a full time writer, traveling between his La Brede
estate and Paris. It is during this period that the C...
... middle of paper ...
...e world will always be remembered.
Montesquieu can easily be considered a model Enlightment figure. His
ideas produce a mild paradox. He wanted change for the better without
crushing the current government. He wanted to educate the people of a
country, but was not a radical, and therefore didn't include the
peasants. He respected reason, and used it to help the mankind by
creating an idle society. He critisised religion, and yet had faith in
God. As a whole he tried to improve things without turning the world
upside down. He was the model figure for the steady advancement of the
1. Hollier, Denis , A New History of French Literature, Harvard
University Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1989.
2. The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, p. 467-476.
3. Loy, John Robert, Montesquieu, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1968.
4. A History of World Societies volume II, Houghton Mifflin Company,
Boston, p. 669-679.
5. Robert Shedlock, Lessons on World History, 1980, p. 38a-38c.
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