The Enlightenment


The Enlightenment (Age of Reason) was a revolution in thought in Europe and North America from the late 17th century to the late 18th century. The Enlightenment involved new approaches in philosophy, science, and politics. Above all, the human capacity for reason was championed as the tool by which our knowledge could be extended, individual liberty maintained, and happiness secured.

More about: The Enlightenment


  • 1605
    Francis Bacon publishes The Advancement of Learning, the first in a series of works expounding his scientific method.
  • 1620
    Francis Bacon publishes Novum Organum, outlining the fundamentals of his scientific method.
  • 1623
    Francis Bacon publishes his De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum, which further outlines his new scientific method.
  • 1626
    New Atlantis by Francis Bacon is published. It describes a utopian state where Bacon's scientific method is employed.
  • 1637
    Philosopher René Descartes writes his Discourse on the Method.
  • 1641
    Philosopher René Descartes writes his Meditations, a discussion of his Cartesian theory and God's existence.
  • 1644
    Philosopher René Descartes writes his Principles of Philosophy, an examination of the relationship between the body and soul.
  • 1651
    Thomas Hobbes publishes his Leviathan.
  • 1677
    Ethics by Baruch Spinoza is published.
  • 1686
    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz publishes his Discourse of Metaphysics.
  • 1687
    Isaac Newton publishes his laws of motion and universal law of gravity in Principia.
  • 1689
    John Locke publishes his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Two Treatises on Government, and Letters on Toleration.
  • 1710
    George Berkeley publishes A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.
  • 1713
    George Berkeley publishes Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous.
  • 1721
    Montesquieu publishes his Lettres persanes (Persian Letters).
  • 1726
    Francis Hutcheson coins the term "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" in his Inquiry Concerning Moral Good and Evil.
  • 1734
    Voltaire publishes his Letters on England.
  • 1740
    David Hume publishes his A Treatise of Human Nature.
  • 1748
    David Hume publishes his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.
  • 1748
    Montesquieu publishes his The Spirit of the Laws where he outlines his separation of powers.
  • 1750
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes his First Discourse.
  • 1751
    The monumental Encyclopedia, edited by Denis Diderot, is published.
  • 1751
    David Hume publishes his An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.
  • 1751
    The Catholic Church adds Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws to the Index of Forbidden Books.
  • 1755
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes his Second Discourse.
  • 1756
    Voltaire publishes his Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations.
  • 1757
    David Hume publishes his Dissertation on the Passions.
  • 1759
    Voltaire publishes his Candide.
  • 1759
    Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments is published.
  • 1759 - 1797
    Life of the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
  • 1762
    Voltaire publishes his Treatise on Tolerance.
  • 1762
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes The Social Contract.
  • 1762
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes his treatise on education Émile.
  • 1764
    Voltaire publishes his Philosophical Dictionary.
  • 1766
    Voltaire publishes his Ignorant Philosopher.
  • 1773 - 1774
    Denis Diderot spends five months advising Catherine the Great.
  • 1776
    Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations is published.
  • 1776 - 1788
    Edward Gibbon publishes his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  • 1781
    Immanuel Kant publishes The Critique of Pure Reason.
  • 1788
    Immanuel Kant publishes The Critique of Practical Reason.
  • 1789
    Jeremy Bentham publishes his thoughts on utilitarianism in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.
  • 1790
    Edmund Burke publishes his Reflections on the Revolution in France.
  • 1791
    Thomas Paine publishes his Rights of Man part 1.
  • 1792
    Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is published.
  • 1792
    Thomas Paine publishes his Rights of Man part 2.
  • 1794
    Thomas Paine publishes his Age of Reason part 1.
  • 1795
    Thomas Paine publishes his Age of Reason part 2.
  • 1796
    Thomas Paine publishes his Agrarian Justice.
  • 1821
    Rameau’s Nephew by Denis Diderot is first published.
  • 1830
    D’Alembert’s Dream by Denis Diderot is first published.