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The Enlightenment

In the period known as The Enlightenment, Eighteenth-century Europe saw remarkable cultural changes characterized by a loss of faith in traditional religious sources of authority and a turn toward human rights, science, and the so-called "democratic republic".

One of the influences on the Enlightenment consisted of reports of Catholic priests on China which served as a model for a secular enlightened despot.

In his famous 1784 essay "What Is Enlightenment?", Immanuel Kant defined it as "man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity" ("der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit").

The upheavals of the Enlightenment led directly to the American Revolutionary War as well as the French Revolution and significantly influenced the Industrial Revolution. Enlightenment ideas were also strongly influential in the Constitution of the United States.

The Enlightenment was also marked by the rise of capitalism and the wide availability of printed materials. The French encyclopedia (L'Encyclopédie) combined free-thinking articles with technological information.

The effect of the enlightenment upon the European Jewish community resulted in the Jewish Haskalah movement.

The concept of a single, Europe-wide movement may of course be challenged in detail: it does reflect a cultural dominance of French thought. One may also pursue the German, Scottish and other national movements.

Important figures of the Enlightenment era include:

See also French materialism, Protestant Reformation.

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