Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, was the period of time between 1650 and 1780 when European thought stressed reason, science, and individualism over the forces of authority. Numerous thinkers pushed the boundaries of philosophy, economics, and science, including Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, John Locke, Voltaire, David Hume, and Sir Isaac Newton.
The actual dates for the Age of Enlightenment are rough approximations. In other reckoning, it can be said to have succeeded the Renaissance and lasted until the French Revolution. Immanuel Kant sought to answer the question What is Enlightenment? in 1784 by answering that is was the freedom to use one’s intelligence. Many leaders, including Frederick the Great considered themselves to be patrons of Enlightenment thinkers, and have come to be known as Enlightened Despots, as they retained full political control.
The ideals of the American Revolution, especially the Declaration of Independence and the creation of the Republic under the Constitution, can be directly traced to Enlightenment thought. Both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were enamored of French philosophy, and borrowed heavily from Montesquieu and John Locke. The Age of Enlightenment was the birth of the modern world, serving as the foundation of political and intellectual culture in the West.