7.1 The Enlightenment - T -

AGE 7. The Time of Wigs and Revolutions
7.1 The Enlightenment 

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AGE 7. The Time of Wigs and Revolutions
7.1 The Enlightenment 

Test your knowledge

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

What is this lesson about?
In Lesson 6.4, you read about the Scientific Revolution. Scientists used observation and experimentation to gain knowledge, and logic and reasoning to reach acceptable conclusions. This new way of thinking inspired many great thinkers in the eighteenth century to question all aspects of life. This resulted in a movement called the Enlightenment, so named because it would rid the world of dark ideas such as ignorance, irrationality, intolerance and inequality.

Slide 2 - Tekstslide

Main Questions

  1. What is the difference between the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution?
  2. Why did Enlightened thinkers often come into conflict with the people in power (clergy and nobility)?
  3. Who were the most influential Enlightenment philosophers and how did their ideas have an impact on our world today?

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

people in this lesson
John Locke
Adam Smith

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

Word Duty


Enlightenment: movement of thinkers striving to end the world of dark ideas such as ignorance, 
irrationality, intolerance and inequality.
Rational optimism: the belief that a rational way of thinking and ideas could bring about 
progress, making life better for mankind 
Basic human rights: a right that every person has and which has to be respected, even by kings. 
Atheist: someone who does not believe in the existence of any God.
Deist: Someone who believes in a God that created the universe according to natural laws, but does not interfere with humans.
Trias Politica: the idea that the power of the state should be divided into three different parts 
Free market economy: economic system with little or no government interference allowing competition between sellers, while the amount of buyers dictates the size of the market.
Salon: meetings where members of the upper class would meet and have scientists and philosophers speak about their work and ideas 
Encyclopedie (encyclopedia): a collection of knowledge on as many subjects as possible

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Important dates in this lesson:

No specific dates you should learn, except that the Enlightenment thinkers lived in the 18th century.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Different from the Scientific Revolution 

During the Scientific Revolution, scientists tried to use scientific methods to explain the working of the world, nature, the universe.
This was revolutionary, but it was mainly applied to sciences. Ordinary people did not see any changes to their lives.
The Enlightenment continued to evolve from these new scientific views, theories and methods. The difference here is that 18th century thinkers used the methods of the Scientific Revolution, but they tried to apply them on other topics, such as politics, economy, religion and social issues.
They believed that if they, like the scientists before them, could find strict “natural laws” to explain the workings of the economy, or politics, that they could “enlighten” the world;  solve all problems and make the world a better place.

A Philosopher giving a Lecture on the Orrery, in which a lamp is put in the place of the sun, 1764-66, Joseph Wright of Derby, Derby Museums,

Slide 7 - Tekstslide


In the eighteenth century thinkers and scientists called themselves “les Philosophes”, the philosophers. This title was not new, but it showed their interest beyond the world of natural science, because the word 'philosopher' means “lover of knowledge” - not limited to science. 
The Enlightenment philosophers believed that their rational way of thinking  could bring about progress, making life better for mankind.

Diner of Philosophers

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

This positive outlook on life 
is called rational optimism
The philosophers also thought that every person has basic human rights, which had to be respected, even by kings. 
The problem with this way of thinking was that it automatically led to criticism of the current social, political and economic situation. This criticism was directed mostly at the people in power, being the clergy and the nobility. Therefore the clergy and nobility often tried to ban books with Enlightenment ideas, which made these works even more popular for those who sympathised with the ideas.

A bookseller in London in 1750. Because of the explosion of intellectual activity, publishing was ‘booming business’ these days. Drawing by an unknown artist.

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Enlightenment and Religion

Enlightenment philosophers were generally opposed to the Catholic Church and organized religion in general. Especially in France, the center of the European Enlightenment, the Catholic Church was seen as an oppressor -- along with the nobility -- of individual freedom and reason because of its rules and insistence on being the only source of truth.

Yet enlightenment thinkers were not true atheists, (= people who do not believe in any God). Rather, most were deists -- they believed in a God that created the universe that is governed by natural laws. These laws made it unnecessary for God to further meddle in human affairs. 
In the following slides we are going to take a closer look on some of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, in 1776.
The founders of the the declaration, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were both deists

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Spreading the Enlightenment

The works of Enlightenment writers reached a greater audience than scientific or philosophic works had done before in the Early Modern Age. The use of the printing press made it possible to create the first mass media. Newspapers and pamphlets were quite popular, especially in the cities. The Enlightenment ideas were also discussed in public meeting places like coffeehouses and salons.
These salon meetings were meant for the upper class. People would host these meetings in the salons of their houses and invite scientists and philosophers to speak about their ideas and works. 

Another way the Enlightenment ideas were spread was by a group of Enlightenment writers led by Denis Diderot, who decided to try and gather as much knowledge as possible on all kinds of topics and publish it under the name Encyclopedie ('encyclopedia').

madame Geoffrin
a statue of Voltaire, who was in exile at that moment.
Baron de Montesquieu, whose idea of the Separation of Power (Trias Politica) is still being used in modern western democracies.
Denis Diderot (1713 - 1784). Painting by Louis-Michel van Loo (1767)
Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts) was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It had many writers, known as the Encyclopédistes. It was edited by Denis Diderot and, until 1759, co-edited by Jean le Rond d'Alembert.

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  • wrote more than two thousand books and pamphlets on all sorts of topics
  • was very critical towards the catholic church and the French king.
  • because of this he was put in prison and later exiled from France
  • his ideas were important in the French Revolution

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

John Locke

  • He believed that "all people are created equal"
  • All people have natural rights that nobody can take away, like: life, freedom and the right to own property
  • He was against absolutism. He believed that a government is a social contract between the government and the people. And if a ruler is a bad ruler, the people have the right to overthrow him.

Slide 13 - Tekstslide


  • He is famous for his theory of the Separation of Powers (Trias Politica):
  • The power of the state should never be in the hands of one person.
  • therefore power should be split up into three seperate parts, being:
  • the legislative (making laws), executive (carrying out the laws) and judicial (providing independent judgement) branch.
  • his ideas are still used in most constitutions all over the world.

Slide 14 - Tekstslide

Adam Smith

  • Scottish economist. Wrote the book "Wealth of Nations"
  • Believed that the economy works best if there is Free Trade.
  • A government should not interfere in the economy.
  • He was against mercantilism.

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"fill in the gap" summary

Slide 16 - Tekstslide

Upload a picture of the (printed and) finished summary.

Slide 17 - Open vraag

Write down a question about something from this lesson that you don't understand.

Slide 18 - Open vraag

you can use the next video as a visual overview of this lesson

Slide 19 - Tekstslide

Slide 20 - Video