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The Enlightenment occurred during the 17th and the 18th century, and the 18th century is even referred to as ‘’The Age of Enlightenment’’. The Enlightenment is also known as ‘’The Age of Reason’’, basically it was the time when man started to reject superstitions and instead use reason to discover the world. It was the time when people started to think that reason could be the right way to conquer superstition and fear. What was the impact of The Enlightenment? The Enlightenment began in the 18th century. It was when philosophers examined society from a scientific perspective.

This is why this age is called the Age of Reason. The biggest impact was on how people saw their role in society. It was the ideas of two English philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke that changed people’s views on society. Hobbes thought that for a human to escape from his natural state of mind, he would give up some of his freedom and obey a ruler, and for this the ruler ensured that it would be peace and order. John Locke on the other hand, thought that rulers only could stay in power as long as the people who were ruled would agree.

After Locke died his thoughts and ideas became popular in France, and the French took Locke’s ideas to another level. They became known as the Philosophes, the French word for philosophers. The Philosophes thought that people had the right to believe what they wanted. The most important ideas of the Philosophes were progress, deism and tolerance. 1 Deism is the philosophy of religion. During the middle of the 18th century, the ideas of the Enlightenment spread across Europe.

It was when Philosophes started to travel and meeting with other Philosophes and European rulers, the Enlightenment ideas became more accepted. Many European rulers were impressed with the ideas of the Enlightenment, and some introduced policies based on the ideas that they thought would improve living in their countries. For example in Austria, Maria Theresa and her son, Joseph II tried to go through with policies that were thoughts of the Enlightenment. 3 Joseph permitted freedom of the press, banned torture and put an end to religious persecution. He also gave equal rights to Jews and limited the power of the Catholic Church. But after his death his successors reversed those reforms. Frederick the Great of Prussia was also impressed with the ideas of the Enlightenment.

He stopped the use of torture in legal proceedings and punishments and also the corruption in the legal system. He also introduced actions to protect religious minorities, for example muslims. But he did not protect the jews, he raised their taxes greatly to make them leave the country. 4 The philosophers of the Enlightenment thought that they had found the formula for human happiness, and with this 18th century rationalists thought that they had found the secret of never ending progress. 5 In conclusion, the Enlightenment changed the way people viewed their existence and how societies were ruled.

The fear of god and other superstitions was reduced by the knowledge and reason of the philosophes. Some European rulers introduced the ideas of the Enlightenment in their societies, and thereby made it a better place to live in. List of sources Beers, Burton F, World History Patterns of Civilization. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc, 1986. Hooker, Richard, ‘‘World Civilizations’’. wsu ENLIGHT. June 1999. http://www. wsu. edu/~dee/ENLIGHT/ENLIGHT. HTM Lewis, Hackett, ‘’The Age of Enlightenment’’. History-World Age of Enlightenment. January 2007. http://history-world. org/age_of_enlightenment. htm

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