Bruce Morrison » Enlightenment and Revolution, 1550–1789

Enlightenment and Revolution, 1550–1789

Enlightenment scientists and thinkers produce revolutions in science, the arts, government, and religion. New ideas lead to the American Revolution.


Section 1: The Scientific Revolution

Section 2: The Enlightenment in Europe

Section 3: The Enlightenment Spreads

Section 4: The American Revolution


Section 1: The Scientific Revolution

In the mid-1500s, scientists begin to question accepted beliefs and make new theories based on experimentation.


The Roots of Modern Science


The Medieval View

  • Most knowledge in Middle Ages comes from Bible, Greek/Roman sources
  • Supportsgeocentric theory—moon, sun, planets revolve around earth

A New Way of Thinking

  • Renaissance prompts new ways of thinking (1300–1600)
  • Scientific Revolution—new way of viewing natural world—based on observation, inquiry
  • New discoveries, overseas exploration open up thinking, new developments in astronomy, mathematics

A Revolutionary Model of the Universe


The Heliocentric Theory

  • Widely accepted geocentric theory challenged as inaccurate
  • Copernicusdevelops heliocentric theory—planets revolve around sun
  • Later scientists mathematically prove Copernicus to be correct


Galileo’s Discoveries

  • Italian scientistGalileo Galileimakes key advances in astronomy - makes discovery about planet surfaces, supports heliocentric theory


Conflict with the Church

  • Church attacks Galileo’s work, fears it will weaken people’s faith
  • Pope forces Galileo to declare his and other new findings are wrong


The Scientific Method


A Logical Approach

  • Revolution in thinking leads to development of scientific method -series of steps for forming, testing scientific theories


Bacon and Descartes

  • ThinkersBaconand Descartes help to create scientific method
  • Bacon urges scientists to experiment before drawing conclusions
  • Descartes advocates using logic, math to reason out basic truths


NewtonExplains the Law of Gravity


Newton’s Theories

  • English scientistIsaac Newtondevelops theory of motion -states same forces rule motion of planets, matter in space, earth
  • Motion in space, earth linked by the law of universal gravitation -holds that every object in universe attracts every other object
  • Newtonviews universe as a vast, perfect mechanical clock


The Scientific Revolution Spreads


Scientific Instruments

  • Scientists developmicroscope, barometer, thermometer
  • New instruments lead to better observations, new discoveries


Medicine and the Human Body

  • Andreas Vesaliusimproves knowledge of anatomy
  • Edward Jennerproduces world’s first vaccination—for smallpox


Discoveries in Chemistry

  • Robert Boyleargues that matter is made of many different particles
  • Boyle’s law reveals interaction of volume, temperature, gas pressure


Section 2: The Enlightenment in Europe

A revolution in intellectual activity changes Europeans’ view of government and society.


Two Views on Government


New Ways of Thinking

  • Scientific Revolution spurs reassessment of many prevailing ideas - Europeans seek insights into society during 1600s, 1700s
  • Leads to theEnlightenment—a movement stressing reason and thought


Hobbes’s Social Contract

  • Hobbesdistrusts humans, favors strong government to keep order
  • Promotessocial contract—getting order by giving power to monarch


Locke’s Natural Rights

  • PhilosopherJohn Lockesays government gets power from the people
  • Stresses that people have a right to overthrow an unjust government


The Philosophes Advocate Reason


Beliefs of the Philosophes

  • Thephilosophesare French social critics in the mid-1700s
  • Value reason, nature, happiness, progress, liberty


Voltaire Combats Intolerance

  • Voltaire—influential philosophe, pen name of François Marie Arouet
  • Publishes many works arguing for tolerance, reason
  • Makes powerful enemies and is imprisoned twice for his views


Montesquieu and the Separation of Powers

  • Montesquieu—French writer who admiresBritain’s government system
  • Favors separation of powers to keep one body from running government


Rousseau: Champion of Freedom

  • Rousseau—philosophe who favors individual freedom, direct democracy
  • Views social contract as agreement by free people to form government


Beccaria Promotes Criminal Justice

  • Italian philosopherCesare Beccariaworks to reform justice system
  • Calls for speedy trials, greater rights for criminal defendants


Women and the Enlightenment


Views on Women’s Education Change

  • Many Enlightenment thinkers take traditional views of women’s role
  • Prominent writerMary Wollstonecrafturges greater rights for women:

-argues women need quality education to be virtuous and useful

-urges women to go into traditionally male professions like politics

  • Some wealthy women use their status to spread Enlightenment ideas


Legacy of the Enlightenment


Role of the Philosophes

  • The philosophes are not activists, but inspire major revolutions


Belief in Progress

  • Scientific breakthroughs show human capacity to improve society


A More Secular Outlook

  • New knowledge of the world leads people to question religious ideas
  • Voltaire and others criticize beliefs and practices of Christianity


Importance of the Individual

  • People place more emphasis on individual rights, abilities
  • Reason becomes a central concept for philosophers, rulers


Section 3: The Enlightenment Spreads

Enlightenment ideas spread through the Western world and profoundly influence the arts and government.


A World of Ideas


Intellectual Life in Paris

  • Parisbecomes center of the Enlightenment during 1700s
  • City is home tosalons—gatherings where thinkers discuss ideas


Diderot’s Encyclopedia

  • PhilosopheDenis Diderotbegins publishing Encyclopedia in 1751 - set of books to which Enlightenment thinkers contribute essays
  • Encyclopedia articles anger French government, Catholic Church
  • Encyclopedia helps spread Enlightenment ideas acrossEurope


New Artistic Styles


Neoclassical Style Emerges

  • Pre-Enlightenment art style isbaroque—grand, ornate design
  • Enlightenment style isneoclassical, based on Greek/Roman themes


Changes in Music and Literature

  • Classicalmusic emerges; lighter, more elegant than earlier style - led by composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
  • Novel emerges; works of fiction with detailed plots and characters
  • Samuel Richardson’s Pamelaconsidered first true English novel


Enlightenment and Monarchy


Enlightened Despots

  • Spirit of the Enlightenment prompts rise ofenlightened despots- monarchs who embrace Enlightenment values to strengthen their rule


Frederick the Great

  • Frederick II, king of Prussia, reforms education and justice system
  • Grants religious freedom, abolishes torture, fails to end serfdom


Joseph II

  • Joseph II ofAustriaallows freedoms of worship and the press
  • Abolishes serfdom, but the practice is reinstated after his death


Catherine the Great

  • Catherine the Great—enlightened ruler ofRussia, 1762–1796
  • Seeks to abolish capital punishment and torture, but effort fails
  • Responds to peasant revolt by giving nobles more power over serfs


Catherine Expands Russia

  • In foreign affairs, Catherine successfully expands Russian empire
  • Gains port access forRussiaby seizing northern coast of Black Sea
  • Seizes large parts ofPoland, increasing empire’s size


Section 4: The American Revolution

Enlightenment ideas help spur the American colonies to shed British rule and create a new nation.


Britainand Its American Colonies


The American Colonies Grow

  • American colonies grow large and populous during 1600s, 1700s
  • Colonies thrive economically through trade with Europe -Britain’sNavigation Act restricts that trade (1651)

- other trade laws add restrictions, taxes

  • Colonists identify less and less as British subjects


Americans Win Independence


British–Colonial Tensions Arise

  • Britain, American colonies winFrench and Indian War in 1763
  • Britaintaxes colonists to help pay war debts
  • Colonists argue that British cannot tax them without their consent


Growing Hostility Leads to War

  • Colonists protest tea tax with “Boston Tea Party” in 1773
  • Colonists meet inPhiladelphiato address British policies (1774)
  • British and Americans exchange fire atLexingtonand Concord in 1775


The Influence of the Enlightenment

  • Colonial leaders push for independence, rely on Enlightenment ideas
  • Declaration ofIndependence—document justifying colonial rebellion
  • LeaderThomas Jeffersonwrites Declaration, uses ideas of Locke


Success for the Colonists

  • Despite British military might, colonists have advantages:

-motivating cause of freedom

-French assistance

-war’s expense for Britain

  • British surrender atYorktownin 1781; colonists win the war


Americans Create a Republic


A Weak National Government

  • Articles of Confederationset government plan for new republic
  • Articles create legislature only, no executive or judicial branches
  • Result is weak national government fails to provide unity and order


A New Constitution

  • Leaders call Constitutional Convention in 1787 to revise articles
  • Group instead creates a new government under U.S. Constitution
  • Constitution contains many political ideas of the Enlightenment


The Federal System

  • Constitution creates three branches of government
  • Provideschecks and balances—ensures branches share power equally
  • Promotesfederal system—power divided between nation and states


The Bill of Rights

  • Some fear too much national power, few protections of rights
  • Leaders win support for Constitution by adding a Bill of Rights- ten amendments to Constitution that protect freedoms