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Period 7 Time of wigs and revolutions

Thinking about state and society in the Enlightenment

Now you learn at home and at school that you have to form your own opinion. In the past, this was often punished. History was changed by the 18th century philosophers.

The lighting is perhaps the most important event in the 18th century. There was more and more attention for people who thought differently than most people. Previously, people who thought otherwise were usually persecuted by those in power. In the era of wigs and revolutions, this use was gradually reversed. There were many critical thinkers who hated absolutism. They felt that power should not be in the hands of only one person. Because this usually leads to an abuse of power.

The ideas of these critical thinkers were disseminated in cafes, coffee houses and salons. Often the philosophers came there to talk to the visitors. These ideas also often appeared in letters, novels and plays. The audience grew as a result. There were more and more people who took over these ideas.

Important philosophers from history included Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu. Rousseau has contributed to a very important lighting project. Together with other 18th century French philosophers, he compiled the first encyclopedia. For the first time, there was a reference book containing information that had not been written down by the Church. The French government forbids the encyclopedia and has it burned in 1759.

The philosophers in this epoch hoped that with this encyclopedia she could make people think. They wanted everyone to use reason. Reason is another word for logical thinking. The church and the government had the power because they kept the people stupid. For example, they told me that they were chosen by God to rule. Philosophers like Voltaire rejecteded as nonsense. He, and the other great philosophers of his time believed that man could solve many problems by using his mind. By thinking carefully, you could understand and prevent or fight war, disease and abuse of power.

They also believed that all people were equal and free. They felt that you shouldn't judge a person by gender, origin or skin color. This makes perfect sense, but before the enlightenment there had been no one who had dared to express these thoughts out loud. In history, expressing your opinion was often punished. Some philosophers, including Voltaire, ended up in prison several times for spreading these ideas.

The ideas of the philosophers also reached the Netherlands. Absolutism also suffered in the Netherlands. The stadholders had absolute power and abused this. There were also many people who felt that there should be more equality. They felt that Jews, Protestants and Catholics should all have the same rights. They also wanted more freedom of speech. From 1781 onwards, these people came together and called themselves the patriots. They started printing magazines to pass on the lighting ideas. Stadholder Willem V felt threatened by this. This only got worse when some patriots also wanted to fight for their freedom. In 1787 they fought for Utrecht and Amsterdam. The patriots got their hands on Amsterdam. France came to the aid of the patriots and stadholder Willem V fled to England.