The 18thC western philosophical movement stressing the importance of reason over tradition to advance knowledge and to prefer intellectual debate. It marked a new beginning in the scholarly and popular conception of the individual’s relationship to God and the world around him, interacting with a resurgence of scientific knowledge, claiming the right to free thought and personal development, and seeking to redress the intolerance and oppression of the established Church and State.

One of the key Enlightenment texts is Encyclopédie. (1751-72, in 17 volumes, 25,000 copies sold before the French revolution of 1789), published in France and edited by Diderot, including entries by a wide range of influential contemporary luminaries (Descartes, de Spinoza, Isaac Newton, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu…). These ideas spread from Europe to the United States through thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, encouraging the American Independence.

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