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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, [email protected]

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 5 June 2023 [CV]