• Submitted By: sam79
  • Date Submitted: 10/20/2008 1:00 PM
  • Category: History Other
  • Words: 667
  • Page: 3
  • Views: 1

There were many things happening around Europe prior to the French Revolution of 1789. A succession of wars lead many countries to seek their own independence away from absolute monarch rule and the rise of new powers in Russia, Prussia and Great Britain prevailed. Power throughout Europe was held by privileged nobility where social status and political influence lay with birth rights and hereditary titles. The lower classes were disconcerted with the authority that was being exerted over them. The Catholic Church, which had a strong relationship with the European monarchs, influenced society to the detriment of the lower classes, while the monarchs more often than not, ruled for their own gain. The Age Enlightenment, or the influence of liberal thought, had a massive impact over pre-revolutionary Europe and encouraged a whole new way of thinking.

The term Enlightenment refers to a series of changes in European thought and letters and is usually associated with the 18th century, as it was here that the ideas of the previous 100 years were implemented on a much broader scale. It was a philosophical belief that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition and tyranny and could help build a better world. Enlightenment was about a faith in nature and a belief in human progress. Primarily a French movement, it included figures such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, who were all philosophers (or Philosophes as they were known), and advocated a humanitarian approach by reforming individuals, outdated human institutions and religious belief systems. While all three differed somewhat in approach, they all had a hatred for the old regime and what it stood for.

Voltaire (which was his pen name) actively crusaded against the rule of the church and was imprisoned twice in the Bastille prison for the material that he had written. He popularised Isaac Newton’s science and promoted freedom of press. He wrote thousands of letters, plays,...

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