Politics in Minutes (2016)

Enlightenment

The so-called Age of Reason, or Enlightenment, that spanned the 17th and 18th centuries was an extraordinary period of intellectual and cultural activity in Europe. Scientists and philosophers in France and Britain introduced new ideas based on rational thought rather than faith. With this resurgence of philosophical enquiry came a renewed interest in political philosophy and a re-evaluation of the traditional forms of government. The Enlightenment notion of reason as a basis for reform led to an emphasis on the ideals of liberty and justice, and increasing demands for democracy and citizens’ rights.

In France, in particular, thinkers such as Voltaire (pictured) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau advocated a complete change to the old, discredited systems of government, inspiring a movement that culminated in the French Revolution and the formation of the République, and American Independence. Enlightenment ideals sowed the seeds of revolution, but also laid the foundations of modern political philosophy.

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