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Online Textbook for History 1112

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This lesson covers the major people, events, writings, and art of the time period from 1650-1800 (approximately).  The early emphasis in this lesson is on a brief review of the various beliefs and cultures of Europe from about 1550 to 1750, with particular note on the after-effects of the Renaissance and Reformation.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the rise of modern science and the predominance of a scientific worldview, and how humanity fits into this new view of the universe.
  • Explain the ideologies of Hobbes, Locke, Bacon, Descartes, Kepler, and Newton, and how they heralded both a scientific view of the world and a scientific method for establishing and testing knowledge.
  • Detail European expansion into other parts of the world and explain how these interactions changed the perspective of western civilization.
  • Outline the concept of natural law and natural rights, and how they affected human ideas about culture, government, and economics.
  • Consider the effects of the Enlightenment on later political events of the European nations, such as the rise of liberalism and the decline of “divine right” rule.

Terms to Know

  • Absolutism
  • Adam Smith
  • Aesthetics
  • Alchemy
  • Antoine Lavoisier
  • Aphelion
  • Aristotelian principles
  • Bourbon kings
  • Cardinal Richelieu
  • Catherine the Great (Russia)
  • Constitutional monarchy/constitutionalism
  • Copernicus
  • David Hume
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Deism
  • Denis Diderot
  • Empiricism
  • Enlightened despotism
  • Enlightenment
  • Ethics
  • Francis Bacon
  • Frederick the Great (Prussia)
  • Galileo
  • Heliocentric theory
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Isaac Newton
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Johannes Kepler
  • John Locke
  • Liberalism
  • Logic
  • Louis XIV (France)
  • Mercantilism
  • Montesquieu
  • Natural Law
  • Nicolaus Copernicus
  • Pascal
  • Perhelion
  • Phillip II (Spain)
  • Philosophes
  • Rationalism
  • Realism
  • Reason
  • Rene Descartes
  • Secularism
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Thomas Kuhn
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Tycho Brahe
  • Van Leeuwenhoek
  • Versailles
  • Vesalius
  • Voltaire
  • William Gilbert

Thought Questions

1. How was the Scientific Revolution connected with the Age of Enlightenment?

2. How did Enlightenment thinkers view God?

3. Why did people in western civilization shift their way of thinking during the Age of the Enlightenment?

Discussion Questions

1. Why did Copernicus write to Pope Paul III and make him the focus of his dedication?

2. Copernicus had made an important scientific discovery, but clearly, he was afraid. Explain the background of his model. What did it state, and why did he worry about repercussions? 

3. Examine Newton’s writing and the given explanations. Restate and paraphrase these three laws of motion in your own words. 

  1. Every object in motion will stay in motion unless some outside force acts on this object
  2. Force is equal to the amount of mass and acceleration applied to an object
  3. For a reaction something equal and opposite occurs

4. Explain in your own words what Descartes’ La Géométrie and the use of Cartesian coordinates had an overwhelming effect on the study of mathematics.

5. In your own words, what is the thesis or main idea of Locke's document? Do you agree or disagree with Locke’s thesis? Why or why not?

Further Explorations

The following websites may be useful to you in finding terms, studying for exams, and expanding your knowledge of this lesson's content.

NOTE: From time to time, these web pages may "disappear." Please send an email to if you find broken links, so they may be replaced.