Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Coming of The Enlightenment

Toward the end of the 17th century, Enlightenment thought spread throughout Europe & into the British American colonies lasting well into the 18th century.

Born by scientific advances , particularly those of Isaac Newton (1642–1727), the inductive method of Francis Bacon (1561–1626), and the empirical philosophy of John Locke (1632–1704), the Enlightenment movement emphasized the importance of individual human reason as well as the existence of natural law.

It encouraged literary critics & taste-makers Joseph Addison (1672-1719) & Richard Steele (1692-1729) to publish The Spectator; satirists Alexander Pope 1688-1744) & Jonathan Swift (1667-1745); plus economists (Adam Smith (1723-1790) & Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). In the 1st half of the 18th century, their writings quickly spread to the British American colonies through enterprising booksellers such as young Benjamin Franklin. And more people were learning to read in the 18th century.

Artists inspired by its rationalism & order turned from the florid Rococo toward a more elegant simplicity. At the same time, the discovery of the ruins of the ancient cities Herculaneum (1709) & Pompeii (1748) renewed interest in the arts, literature, and architecture of classical cultures.

At the end of the 18th century, revolutions in France & the British American colonies invited comparisons between classical & contemporary governments. These factors advanced the Neoclassical movement in the visual arts & architecture, and the study of literary classics in Latin & Greek. Young men, and even some women, learned classical languages in 18th century America.