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Voltaire (1694 - 1778) was one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment.

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Body of Research In the 1770s, Western Europe was under the influence of the Enlightenment. [See figure I for map of Western Europe] These 18th Century intellectual movements stimulated the outbreak of the French Revolution via spreading ideas of philosophical science and reason a propos the study of human culture and the natural world. At the core of the Enlightenment was the philosophes, a group of professional writers and scientists who advocated reform.13 These thinkers or philosophes of the Enlightenment persistently encouraged that the monarchy should promote the good of all France and not just the specific needs or interests of a particular elite. They challenged the absolute right to rule and promoted ideas for the abolition of the social class system. Their most important political value was liberty and they believed that a strong monarchy was liberty's best defense. These philosophes included Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jacques Necker, Montesquieu, A.R.J. Turgot, the Physiocrats and the Encyclopedists. ...read more.


Montesquieu favored the idea of referendum and, like Voltaire, found the English legal system to be more suitable than that of the French. In 1782, Montesquieu published "The Spirit of The Laws" in which his most important ideas were brought forward. Another important philosopher of the Enlightenment was Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778). The basic idea of Rousseaau, as he expressed it in his famous work Du Contract Social (The Social Contract) was that the general will of the people should be the ruling force in any society.15 His theory of the Social Contract was that once the people of France had expressed their approval of the existence of a monarchy, then those kings and governments should rule solely to protect or endorse the rights or civil liberties of the people. He regarded the best form of government for France as the representative system.16 He believed that only through liberty and an anti-oppressive society, could the most valuable aspects of the peoples' character be displayed. ...read more.


was to revolutionize the economic structure of France. They spread ideas such as freedom of trade and tax reform. The physiocrats encouraged concepts of equal land wealth as they believed that all affluence originated with the land and that only agriculture could enlarge or multiply wealth. Alongside the physiocrats were Jacques Necker and A.R.J. Turgot. Both Turgot and Necker were governmental officials and economists. During his intendancy, Turgot produced a pioneer work in political economy, R´┐Żflexions sur la formation et la distribution des richesses (Reflections on the Accumulation and Distribution of Wealth, 1766). 20 In his analysis of this piece, he attacked the unfair imposition of taxes by the French government by stating that because the sole source of wealth is land, only agricultural products may be taxed. Necker introduced a number of financial reforms, including a more equitable system of taxation and a plan for the funding of national debt. In 1781, he completed the Compte rendu au Roi (Report to the King), a comprehensive analysis of the national finances.21 ...read more.

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