Enlightenment: Emancipation and Constitution

The Enlightenment was a European movement of thought that made reason and 'natural laws' the basis with which to judge issues of social order, human conduct and religious beliefs. Traditions and the divine rights of the kings were questioned; institutions were put to the test. The movement, which started with the Reformation and Humanist thinking during the Renaissance, culminated in the 18th century (American Declaration of Independence, French Revolution) and laid the foundation for political and social emancipation. The movement's emphasis on reason had great impact on science and education; it triggered changes in all fields of life.


The Restoration of the monarchy in England was accompanied by an awakening of political awareness which advanced political emancipation in England:
In 1689 JOHN LOCKE published his Two Treatises of Government. Important ideas expressed by LOCKE were:

  • the separation of the legislative and the executive powers of the state;
  • the endowment of all men with inalienable rights;
  • the view that governments should be institutions protecting these rights;
  • the right to alter or remove a government if it acted “contrary to the trust imposed in it”.

Also in 1689 the Bill of Rights was passed, guaranteeing the civil liberties of the individual and parliamentary control over the King. The constitutional monarchy was established in England at a time when continental Europe was ruled by absolutism.
Great advancements in science were the introduction of the inductive method (1620, FRANCIS BACON, Novum Organum) and the discovery of the law of gravity (1682, SIR ISAAC NEWTON).

Stand: 2010
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