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Lecture 7

History 1401E Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Montesquieu, Social Contract, Enlightened Absolutism

Course Code
HIS 1401E
Pierre Reynard

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History Lecture #7: Enlightened Absolutism Oct 5
I) Enlightenment RECAP:
Maturing of new out look/world view= enlightenment
Moved European people, thinkers, minds away from tradition,
authority, traditional faith, limits to human knowledge
Understanding that we can question everything, and understand
world around us
We are and will be able in the future to transform world around us
to improve our condition
Raised challenges to establish institutions, tensions between
religion and philosophical/enlightenment thinkers
II) Enlightened Challenges to European Political Structures
Enlightenment shaped this environment for change
Cannot be seen as a cause for the revolution, but made it
POSSIBLE, by making people think that their world can be better
Europe before the revolutions was not a static scleral society
o Every movement had long roots and Europe was made up
of societies that faced a great number of problems
o Also plenty of vitality, dynamic thought and people
Enlightenment favored a thorough questioning of many of the
institutions of European states
o Looked at explanation given originally for various forms of
power, found these explanations to be human rather than
god given
History is not something that’s given, its what we create
Other countries (philosophers discovered) a range of practices,
some better and some worse, were reflecting on nature of
o And nature of links between government and people
o Reflecting of topics for justification for power
Idea of representation
Society through decades come to an understanding of structure
that makes society work
Particular evolution that took place in Europe in 17th-18th century,
number of steps
o Different ways to look at these issues, clear that there is
progression in the ways Europe came to understand these
III) Enlightened Political Thought
-Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): Leviathan (1651)
Argued in the indispensability of a strong government
Lived at a time of civic strife
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