Question #1

When do you think the Enlightenment happened?

Even those contemporary historians who are happy to talk of a single “Enlightenment” disagree about what the key period we’re talking about actually is. For Jonathan Israel (Radical Enlightenment), it’s the late C17th and early C18th. As he writes, “even before Voltaire came to be widely known, in the 1740s, the real business was already over” [p.7]. Is he right, or not?

Someone who disagrees is John Robertson who has recently published his book on The Case for the Enlightenment” Scotland and Naples, 1680-1760, which restates the case for a “traditional” dating of Enlightenment from the 1740s to the 1780s, replying to Israel with a claim that all that was over by the 1740s “was the radical assault on the foundations of the Christian religion” and “it was over because the authorities, Protestant as well as Catholic, had effectively suppressed it”.

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