Absolutism and Enlightenment

Required reading

Dena Goodman, “The Rise of The State: The Republic of Letters and The Monarchy of France,” The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Ithaca: Cormell University Press, 1994)

Elizabeth Mancke, “The Language of Liberty in British North America, 1607-1776,” in Exclusionary Empire: English Liberty Overseas, 1600-1900, ed., Jack P. Greene (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Laszlo Kontler, “What is the (Historians’) Enlightenment Today?” European Review of History, 13:3 (2006): 357-71.

Seminar Topic

Class discussion will focus on the Enlightenment origins of the Age of Revolution, examining how concepts of revolution, natural rights and liberty were understood throughout the Atlantic world on the eve of the revolutionary period. In particular, the seminar will assess the ideas of Rousseau and Locke and the political theories which organized eighteenth-century European societies.

Questions to consider

  1. According to Mancke, what did liberty mean to those living within the British Empire in the eighteenth century? Was liberty a singular concept or did it have various implications?
  2. What was the republic of letters and how was it a creation of Enlightenment culture?
  3. What was the relationship between intellectuals and the state in the ancien regime according to Goodman?