Europe and the World History Term Paper

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At the end of the 1600s and into the 1700s, the scientific revolution significantly impacted the way that Western cultures perceived the world. During the previous Middle Ages, people rarely understood the causes of their experiences. Without any obvious explanations, they attributed occurrences to God, superstition, or mysterious forces. Now, however, people began to recognize that nature followed established rules of order such as Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. Ignorance was unaccepted as people emphasized using reason to answer questions in science, as well as in society, religion and politics. Especially in the areas of philosophy, human sciences and culture, this time period was called the Enlightenment, or breaking from the past and replacing the obscurity, darkness, and ignorance of thought with the "light" of truth. The Enlightenment intellectuals in the last decades of the 18th century believed that slavery had to be reformed and ultimately eliminated. They clearly saw that the daily resistance of slaves through poison, suicide, abortion had to be stopped (Dubois, 58). Jean-Jacques Rousseau concluded in the Social Contract: "Man is born free but everywhere is in chains." It is demonstrated in this paper that such a philosophy significantly impacted the rise of revolutions in France and Haiti.

Term Paper on Europe and the World History Assignment

In the first phase of the French Revolution, the dominant philosophy followed Baron de Montesquieu, who claimed that a liberal constitutional monarchy was the best system of government for a people who prized freedom. He based this on the grounds that dividing the sovereignty of the nation between several centers of power provided a permanent checks-and-balance system to keep them from becoming despotic. As Rousseau replaced Montesquieu, the former's meaning of liberty replaced the latter's. Montesquieu saw freedom as being free in doing what one chooses, so long as it was lawful. With Rousseau's philosophy of freedom, there was no doubt of people dividing and diminishing sovereignty, because they were to keep sovereignty in their own hands. (Cranston). In large part, his literary works and beliefs heralded in the second phase of the Revolution.

Rousseau's thoughts were based on the idea of the "social contract," where government and authority acted as a mutual contract between the authorities and the governed. Those governed agree to be ruled only so their rights, property and happiness would be protected. Once rulers no longer protected the ruled, the social contract was broken and people could choose other governors. Rousseau warned the French of the danger of the "plague that the representatives themselves have become more servile than the electorate" and thus became the chief prophet of the Revolution (Belloc 10).

In 1793, the Committee of Public Safety led by Maximilian Robespierre sought to replace Christianity with its own state "Cult of the Supreme Being." The Committee issued an edict declaring that the duties of mankind were "To detest bad faith and despotism, and to punish tyrants and traitors." To put down this revolt, Robespierre initiated mass executions known as the Reign of Terror.

Previously, Robespierre was friends with the revolutionary Georges Jacques Danton. Well-known as a spokesman of the people, Danton was living in solitude in the French countryside, but he returned to Paris to challenge Robespierre's violent rule and call for the people to demand their rights.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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