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Home > History > The Age of Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment

This article discusses the philosophical shifts that occurred in the Age of Enlightenment, and how such shifts impacted the American Revolution.
The Enlightenment

What was the Age of Enlightenment?

The Age of Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason, was a fundamental shift in thinking that occurred in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. It had a profound impact on both the American and French Revolutions, and greatly influenced American founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. Much of John Locke's influence on Jefferson's Declaration of Independence is readily obvious.

How did Society Change?

During this time great thinkers and scientists such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Voltaire, and others, brought about new ways of thinking; questioning the roles of government, the church and monarchies, and championing individual liberties, acquisition of knowledge, and the human ability to reason. New ideas such as religious freedom and the separation of church and state gained traction. People began to question and reject the feudal privileges of monarchs and the dramatic class differences in societies. Scientists such as Isaac Newton proved that much in the universe could be explained through math, physics, and other sciences. In some cases, such as the American and French Revolutions, monarchies were defeated or overthrown completely during the Age of Enlightenment.

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