Enlighten Yourself



9 Questions

What was the central doctrine of the Enlightenment?

Who were some important intellectuals of the Enlightenment period?

What was the role of science in Enlightenment discourse and thought?

Who were some of the enlightened despots of the Enlightenment period?

What was the significance of the American Revolution and the French Revolution to the Enlightenment?

What was the focus of the Scottish Enlightenment?

What was enlightened absolutism?

What was the significance of the Haitian Revolution to the Enlightenment?

What was the focus of the Han Learning movement in China?


The Age of Enlightenment or the Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that occurred in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, with global influences and effects.

The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on the value of human happiness, the pursuit of knowledge obtained by means of reason and the evidence of the senses, and ideals such as natural law, liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state.

Philosophers and scientists of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffeehouses and in printed books, journals, and pamphlets.

The central doctrines of the Enlightenment were individual liberty and religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Church.

The concepts of utility and sociability were also crucial in the dissemination of information that would better society as a whole.

The Enlightenment was marked by an increasing awareness of the relationship between the mind and the everyday media of the world, and by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism, along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy.

Important intellectuals of the period included Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Cesare Beccaria, Denis Diderot, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Hugo Grotius, Baruch Spinoza, and Voltaire.

Science played an important role in Enlightenment discourse and thought, with many Enlightenment writers and thinkers having backgrounds in the sciences.

Most societies were granted permission to oversee their publications, control the election of new members, and the administration of the society.

The Enlightenment brought political modernization to the West, in terms of introducing democratic values and institutions and the creation of modern, liberal democracies.

Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau agreed that a social contract, in which the government's authority lies in the consent of the governed, is necessary for man to live in civil society.The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement in Europe in the 18th century that emphasized reason and individualism over tradition and faith. It was characterized by the rise of scientific inquiry and empirical observation, the development of new political ideas such as natural rights and the social contract theory, and the promotion of religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.

Two prominent thinkers of the Enlightenment were Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, who both developed social contract theories that rested on the presupposition of natural rights.

Enlightenment political thought was dominated by social contract theorists, but some, such as David Hume and Adam Ferguson, criticized this camp.

Enlightened absolutism was a form of government in which monarchs were seen as the key to imposing reforms designed by intellectuals. Enlightened despots included Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia, Leopold II of Tuscany and Joseph II of Austria.

The Enlightenment has been frequently linked to the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789, both of which were influenced by Thomas Jefferson.

Enlightenment scholars sought to curtail the political power of organized religion and thereby prevent another age of intolerant religious war.

The Enlightenment took hold in most European countries and influenced nations globally, often with a specific local emphasis.

The existence of an English Enlightenment has been debated by scholars, but the principles of sociability, equality, and utility were disseminated in schools in the Scottish Enlightenment.

Slavery frequently showed the limitations of the Enlightenment ideology as it pertained to European colonialism, since many colonies of Europe operated on a plantation economy fueled by slave labor.The Enlightenment Around the World

  • Scotland was a major center for the Enlightenment, with a network of institutions supporting intellectual and economic development.
  • Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson played a significant role in bringing Enlightenment ideas to the New World.
  • Prussia led the way among German states in adopting Enlightenment ideas, with significant political and administrative reforms.
  • Weimar Classicism was a cultural and literary movement that synthesized Romantic, classical, and Enlightenment ideas.
  • Italy had centers of Enlightenment in Naples and Milan, with leading intellectuals such as Antonio Genovesi and Pietro Verri.
  • Spain's Bourbon Reforms led to structural changes, including the curtailment of church power and the promotion of freer trade.
  • The Haitian Revolution combined Enlightenment ideas with the experiences of the slaves in Haiti, leading to the abolition of slavery in France.
  • Portugal's Enlightenment was heavily influenced by Prime Minister Marquis of Pombal, who implemented economic policies and urban planning.
  • António Vieira was a significant figure in Portugal's Enlightenment, denouncing discrimination against New Christians and indigenous peoples in Brazil.
  • The Portuguese royal family was evacuated to Brazil during the Napoleonic invasion, leading to the Liberal Revolution of 1820 and the return of the monarchy.
  • Russia's Catherine the Great was influenced by Enlightenment ideas and sought to modernize the country, promoting education and the arts.
  • China had a significant cultural movement known as the "Han Learning" movement, which emphasized the importance of classical texts and scholarship.
  • Japan's Edo period saw the emergence of a "floating world" culture, with a focus on pleasure and entertainment, but also significant cultural and artistic achievements.Enlightenment ideas spread throughout Europe and beyond in the 18th century, promoting reason, education, and individualism. The movement was led by key figures such as Voltaire and Catherine the Great. In Russia, the Enlightenment promoted modernization and attacked serfdom. In Poland and Lithuania, the Enlightenment was focused on the arts and education, with leaders promoting tolerance and education. In China, the ideals of society were reflected in the reign of the Qing emperors Kangxi and Qianlong. Japan saw a fusion of Confucian and Enlightenment ideas, while Korea was influenced by China and Japan. In India, Tipu Sultan was an enlightened monarch, and the Bengal Renaissance led to Enlightenment reforms. In Egypt, the Islamic religion became a reference point for Enlightenment ideas. The Ottoman Empire saw Enlightenment influences in the Tanzimat period of reform. The Enlightenment has been a contested period, with supporters hailing it as progressive and detractors accusing it of naïve optimism. Enlightenment historiography began in the period itself, with definitions varying widely. The time span of the Enlightenment is contested, with scholars expanding the period and examining how Enlightenment ideas spread globally. Modern study has focused on how Enlightenment ideas interacted with indigenous cultures and social conditions.


Test your knowledge of the Enlightenment with this quiz! From the key figures of the movement to the spread of Enlightenment ideas around the world, this quiz covers it all. Challenge yourself to see how much you know about the values, principles, and impact of this influential period in history. Keywords: Enlightenment, reason, individualism, social contract theory, natural rights, democracy, tolerance, global influence.

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