The Enlightenment

Following the Thirty Years War in Europe, leading thinkers began to question the traditional ideas of nationalism and war. At the same time, new discoveries in science and mathematics finally brought to an end the ascendancy of Aristotle`s views and ushered in a period of rapid advances.

Political philosophers included Locke, Hobbes, and Hume in Britain, along with Descartes, Voltaire, and Montesqieu in France. Isaac Newton revolutionized both mathematics, with his invention of the calculus, and physics through the discovery of universal gravity. These advances led to a greater understanding of mechanics, which in turned produced new technologies for the Industrial Revolution. New thinking lead to the Glorious Revolution, which brought the idea of absolute monarchy to a permanent end in Britain.

The Enlightenment came in many flavors, many of which favored rational thinking over religion. This was always more to the liking of the educated classes than the common people, whose ways of thinking were more in line with the Romanticism that succeeded. However, the event that brought the Enlightenment to an abrupt end was the French Revolution, which in the name of reason instigated terror. In the reaction that followed, reason fell into a decline while the romantic world view came to the fore.