Enlightenment and its Rebellious Identity Defining World Influence            During the period between the end of the seventeenth century and the eighteenth century, interest in the acquisition of knowledge began to grow more. Critical thinking, literacy, and belief in basic universal rights and laws spread throughout Europe. This period became known as the Enlightenment.G1  I believe that it was the Enlightenment that gave way to economic and social freedoms throughout the world.

Specifically, the rise of rebellion and calls for freedom in European colonies.G2 G3 G4  With the increase in printed books, knowledge began to spread farther and much easier than previous centuries. Enlightenment philosophers were able to influence the common folk in ideas of liberty, freedom, a statue of merit rather than the inheritance of rule, and religious independence.G5 G6  Scientists, such as Charles Darwin, began to look at animals and humans as a species that evolved thanks to the survival of the fittest. Sciences began to expand away from religious influence and finding studies and knowledge through natural studies. With religious identities, even though some Enlightenment thinkers were atheists, most of them called for religious toleration (Pollard, Rosenberg, Tignor, 513). These calls for religious tolerance had both supporters and deniers. Rulers who were against the idea of religious tolerance and criticizing the church were ostracized or censored.

Rulers who supported the idea did give some religious freedoms to other minority religions, but not fully. Thoughts of religious freedom may have also sparked the idea of freedom of identity, and in turn, the idea of nationalism.G7             The Enlightenment must have played a huge role in colony rebellions throughout both the Americas, Europe, and India.

Where I see the most influence of Enlightenment thinking affecting the ideas of liberty and freedom can be found evidently in the American Revolution. North America grew into a bustling world of economic and social prosperity. Colonies grew to become full-fledge cities, like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, and agriculture was flourishing thanks. With British farmers beginning to move westward, resistance from the French, who colonized west of the British colonies, grew. This dispute led to the beginning of the Seven Years War.

After the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War, anger towards King George III grew after hefty tax increases without representation in British parliament with the excuse that the colonies should pay the people that protected them. Resentment to the crown spread with the help of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlet, which advocated that people had the right to govern themselves. Finally, in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, who took Enlightenment ideas that people had the “natural right” to govern themselves, and that governments should be based on a “social contract in which the law binds both ruler and the people” (Pollard, Rosenberg, Tignor, 536). With the Treaty of Paris in 1783, America finally gained their independence, becoming the United States of America, referring to themselves as a whole country made up of the 13 original states. Following on foot, the French people saw the time to act and declare their freedom from French rule. They too believed they had their own individual rights, and that they were being squandered by the French monarchy.

The French Revolution mirrored the American Revolution almost entirely. The French were angered in the tax raises they faced after France had put themselves in debt after supporting the American Revolution. When brought up to the Estate delegates to vote on the taxes, the 1G8 st Estate (clergy) and the 2nd Estate (the aristocracy) wanted to vote by the estate, leaving the 3G9 rd Estate (everyone else) outvoted no matter the cause. The 3rd Estate, however, represented the largest population of French people, and they wanted to vote individually. They believed they all had the right to voice their opinions as an individual right.

With the French King putting the movement down, French crowds stormed the Bastille, starting the French Revolution. This revolution would become successful for the French people, giving them liberty, and restricting the power of the king.G10 Revolutions stemming from Enlightenment ideas of self-government and identity also made their way to Central and South American colonies. Attempting to find their own right to identify as a people, the Creoles of Spanish America, those who were born and raised in the colonies, began to loathe the Spanish and Portuguese people coming to their country and controlling their lives. Although the Royals in control of Spanish America tried to restrict the publication of books that spread Enlightenment ideas, G11 pamphlets and other forms of literature made rounds throughout the Creole population.

The Creole people, in search of their identity, had begun the downfall of the Spanish and Portuguese rule in the Americas. By the early 1800’s, Mexico and Brazil both gained their independence from their ruling countries, Spain and Portugal respectively.G12 G13 G14 G15 G16 G17 G18 G19 G20             Asian cultures in the East began to feel the effects of enlightenment thinkers as well, mostly their idea of revolution to end their suppressive monarchy rule, along with African societies. Indian cultures, under the colonized rule of Britain, began to oppose their colonial rulers. Rebellion broke out in India after the “greased cartridge” incident, where rumors of pig and cow fat being used as grease cartridges for the new Enfield rifles.

In order to open the cartridges, soldiers had to bite them.  The Muslim and Hindu soldiers saw this negatively, as it was against their religious tradition. The rebellion, although large, mainly stayed within local areas.

By 1858, the British ended the rebellion, taking back control of India. India would not see their independence for several decades. In South Africa, the Zulu warrior Shaka led battles in order to expel foreign influencers out of the country. Fighting both the Dutch and English, Shaka used fierce and brutal tactics to win battles, as well as assimilate his defeated foes into his city-state.

Shaka turned many southern African colonies and states into a unified South African nation, turning away European influences.G21             Although Japan did not see much change during the enlightenment period, countries that had influenced Japan with their ways of freedom of oppression. With Japan being forced to open their ports to more foreign ships, western influences began to spread farther than the Shogunate could handle. The Tokugawa Shogunate crumbled, and a new period, called the Meiji Restoration, began.

The Feudal system ended, and peasants were able to own land, civil service systems began to rise, the Japanese military unified as a single system, and even a Japanese constitution was written, which was influenced by Germany’s constitution. Japan had finally become united as a nation under an elected system. With the Enlightenment period being a time of scientific, political, social, and economic improvements, the influence it had in national development was much more monumental than initially thought. The ideas of basic human rights and self-governance spread around the globe, creating uprisings that would spur whole new nations.

Although the enlightenment period only spanned into the 19G22 th century, its effects on social reform continued in the form of nationalism well into the 20th century. The start of the Enlightenment period was the end of the monarchial world.


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