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IHSP Credits
Enlightenment Political Thought

[Note: Crib Sheets are meant as review aids for a particular period/theme. They are not complete overviews!]

The French Enlightenment


  • Reason
  • Toleration
  • Natural Law
  • Change and Progress as good things
  • Deism.
English Precursors
  • John Locke
  • Sir Isaac Newton
Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet) 1694-1778
  • Ecrasez L'infame - anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism
  • Letters on the English 1733
  • Lettres Philosophiques 1734
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Newton 1738
  • Candide 1759
  • Dictionnaire Philosophique 1764,
Denis Diderot 1713-84 Jean le Rond d'Alembert 1717-83
  • The Encyclopedia 1751-72 17 Vols

English Political Thinkers

Thomas Hobbes 1588-1662
  • Leviathan 1651, (cf. Machiavelli 1469-1527)
  • "the life of man is nasty, brutish, and short"
John Locke 1632-1704
  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 1690
  • Two Treatises of Civil Government 1690
  • A Letter Concerning Toleration 1689
Adam Smith 1723-90 (Scottish)
  • The Wealth of Nations 1776
  • Laissez-faire economics

French Political Thinkers

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu 1689-1755
  • Persian Letters 1721
  • The Spirit of the Laws (De l'esprit des lois) 1748
  • Idea of climate and political form
  • Theory of separation of powers
Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-78
  • Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences 1750
    -opposes idea of progress!
  • Discourse on the Origin of Inequality 1755
    -caused by property
  • Emile 1762
  • -love your child
    • On the Social Contract (Du Contrat Social) 1762
      Ideas of
      SOCIAL CONTRACT - between people not between people and government.
      GENERAL WILL - the basis of political decisions - not the same a majority opinion
      SOVEREIGN POWER - basis of the right to govern.
Enlightened Despotism
  • Austria: Maria Theresa 1740-1780, Joseph II 1780-1790
  • Prussia: Frederick the Great 1740-1789
  • Russia : Catherine the Great 1762-96
  • Division of Poland:
    these monarchs divided Poland between them in 1772,1793,1795.

© 1997, Paul Halsall,