The Age of Enlightenment


Sir Isaac Newton

January 4, 1643 - March 20, 1727

Isaac Newton was an English scientist and mathematician. He is seen as a large influence on the Enlightenment due to his discovery of the law of gravitation. This law, he discovered, extended farther than earth and kept planets in an even orbit. He also demonstrated and experiment that showed that light as we see it is fact filled with color. This led to many discoveries about the workings of vision.

The Great Plague of London

1665 - 1666

The Great Plague of London was a two year period of devestation. Rats infected by fleas bit people and thus, the fever and sickness spread. This plague was the last major breakout of the bubonic plague to happen in England.

Fire of London

September 2, 1666 - September 5, 1666

The fire of London devestated for 3 days. It started in the King's Bakery near London Bridge. The summer had been hot, and the wooden houses were dry as tinder. People began to abandon the city and attempt to get to the Thames to leave by boat. By September 4th, half of London had succumbed. By the 5th when the flames were put out - by blowing up the remaining buildings in the fire's path - only a fifth of London remained. Though much was destroyed, the fire did some good in cleansing much disease from the streets of London.

Jonathan Swift

1667 - 1745

Jonathan Swift was an Irish essayist, author, and satirist. He was born in Dublin, Ireland -after the death of his father two months previously - to an impoverished mother. Seeking the best for her son, she sent him to live with his uncle Godwin Swift who enrolled him in Kilkenney Grammar School, which was maybe the most prestigious shool of the time. Swift advanced in his scholarship and eventually moved to England after the beginning of the Glorious Revolution (in which the king of Ireland, England, and Scotland was overthrown.) It was there that he published one of his most famous works: Gulliver's Travels. After several years, Swift returned to Ireland, and it was there that he wrote 'A Modest Proposal.' Swift died in 1745 after having had a stroke three years previously.

The War of Spanish Succession

1701 - 1714

The war of Spanish Succesion began after the death of Charles II. A treaty was signed and it was agreed that his lands would be given to Prince Joseph Ferdinand. Everything began to go terribly wrong after Prince Joseph Ferdinand's death in 1699. After this, a second treaty was made that decree the succession of Archduke Charles (the son of Emperor Leopold I). Leopold opposed his son only having sections of the Spanish land and refused to sign the treaty. Charles bequethed the lands to Phlip duc d'Anjou (the grandson of Louis XIV). This launched an anti-France movement that culminated in treaties with France and the equal division of the land of Charles II.

Anton Wilhelm Amo

1703 - 1753

Amo was a Ghanaian philosopher who became famous in Germany for his philosophical studies. He was the first intellectual of African ancestry to study in Germany. For years, he was a philosophy professor, until a shift in politics made his job far more difficult, and he returned to Ghana, where he later died.

Catherine the Great

1729 - 1796

Catherine the Great became empress of Russia in 1762 and under her Russia expanded and modernized following the Western Europeans. In her abismal marriage, Catherine the Great exposed how much power she had. She conspired to force her husband (Peter III) to step down from the throne, after which action, he was strangled to death in the care of Catherine's co-conspirator. After assuming the throne, Catherine began to appease the military and Church, who Peter III had alienated. She made efforts for the people of Russia through the "Nazak" which called for an end of capital punishment and torture and declared every man equal. She would later recant many of these improvements and turn completely in policy. Catherine the Great expanded the Russian border into Poland and had to form a treaty with Turkey to gain even more land. She pushed for education reform and wrote a collection of memoirs herself. She was a true example of a woman who would not be pushed aside and would in some ways grow her country.

A Modest Proposal


Expansion of Dutch Colony in Africa

Approx. 1743

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the East India company began to flourish. The Dutch decided to make expand the port at the Cape in the South of Africa. This led to an increase in the slave trade.

Olaudah Equiano

1745 - 1797

Olaudah Equiano was the son of a chief of the Igbo people in West Africa. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery when he was young. In his autobiography in 1789 he reminisced about the wonders of Africa.

Voltaire Publishes 'Candide'

January 1, 1759

Voltaire grew up during the rule of Louis XIV in a poverty stricken France. After college, Voltaire's works rapidly rose to popularity, but not everyone appreciated his satires and he was sent to the Bastille for satire of the government. After leaving prison, Voltaire continued his writing and eventually wrote his signature work 'Candide'. Candide satirized many Enlightenment ideals and the movement in general.

The Founding of the Royal Society


The Royal Society was a large source of scientific exposition during the Enlightenment. This group of scientists who had once been in the dark began to perform experiments for general viewing, which people were more than happy to join. This group included scientists who are now seen as pillars of modern science.

American Revolution

1775 - 1783

The American Revolution was a battle between England and it's - then - colonies in the West. The colonists sought freedom from English oppression and fought what seemed like a losing battle. After nearly a decade of battles, the colonists won the war and signed the Treaty of Paris, which decreed America's freedom from England.

French Revolution

1789 - 1799

The French Revolution was a bloody time period in which the rebels of France were enraged by their nobles careless expense and lack of concern for the common people. During this battle, the Bastille was stormed as citizens sought protection against military forces through arming themselves. This event is marked as the begining of the French Revolution. In this time, nobles were slaughtered by the dozens and rebels took precarious control. In 1795 the National Convention approved a new constituion and any resistance was crushed by the army led by Napolean Bonaparte. The revolution finally ended when Napolean declared himself France's "first consul."

Olympe de Gouges Publishes Declaration of Rights of Woman.


The femenist and activist Olympe de Gouges published the Declaration of the Rights of Women and female citizens to show that women were equal and not only men had rights. In this work De Gouges pushed for women to be included in the National Assembly and outlined in 17 articles, the basic rights of women including the right to liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression; the right to participate fully in the making of laws that they are to abide by; the right to participate at all levels of government; and the right to voice opinions in public. More radically, Article nine gave a woman the right to publicly name the father of her children and to be entitled to pass along property to those children. This was controversial because it meant that men who had children out of wedlock would be held accountable. Just two years later, De Gouges was tried for treason and executed.

Thomas Paine Publishes The Age of Reason


This work by Thomas Paine clearly shows the divide between Enlightenment England and the past medieval times. Previously, it had been largely accepted that the Christian Bible was true and consisted of rules for human life. The skepticism that Paine has for any one religion (particularly Christianity) was becoming more and more popular. The idea that God and the Bible are unreasonable and thus untrue emerged from the newly discovered laws of science that seemed to show that humans could dicipher the codes of the world.