The Enlightenment was a period of time during which western culture was marked by revolutions in science, philosophy, society and politics from the middle of seventeenth century through to the eighteenth century.
It was during the Enlightenment that the Medieval world view was swept away and the modern world was ushered in. This period culminated historically in the political upheaval of the French Revolution. This replaced the previous worldview in France with the Enlightenment ideals of freedom, equality, liberalism and human reason.¹ Elements of the Enlightenment included rationalism, skepticism, subjectivism and the science of man.
The Enlightenment began with the scientific revolution of 16th and 17th centuries. From this, philosophy emerged as an independent force with the power to destroy the old and construct the new instead of just a facet of theology.¹
Three major political revolutions took place in the West during Enlightenment: the English Revolution, The American Revolution and the French Revolution. Our sections on the French Revolution and the American Revolutionary War go into greater detail.
The English Revolution of 1688 saw the overthrow of King James II of England. The American Revolution of 1775-83 created the United States of America out of the thirteen North American Colonies. Finally, the French Revolution of 1789-99 destroyed old ideas about the monarchy and hierarchy in the country and throughout the continent.
All of these events were hugely influential in their respective countries both then and today but also to the rest of the world. We still feel these legacies today in an increasingly secularized and meritocratic society.