The Enlightenment Period started in the late 17th century, and was a time of dramatic progress and innovation in many disciplines, including social and political theory, sciences and economics. It was a time of emergence of many great thinkers like John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and Immanuel Kant. Underpinning most Enlightenment theorising was a growing belief in rationality, where our understanding of the nature world was developed exclusive of religion, and a conviction in the power of social and political structural improvement to overcome human cruelty and violence.
The key philosophes (French Enlightenment thinkers) to be considered are Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau.
De l’Esprit de Lois (‘The Spirit of the Laws’)
Du contrat social (‘The Social Contract’)
Rousseau was a significant influence on Robespierre, as well as Sieyès.
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
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