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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 18: Toward a New World View in the West

As the title of this chapter suggests, Europeans, at least the more privileged classes, developed a new world–view during the eighteenth century. As future chapters will demonstrate, this new outlook had a profound effect on political, economic, and social developments in Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As Europe's contacts with other civilizations and societies increased, this new world–view also shaped world history. The introduction to this chapter in McKay, A History of World Societies (Fifth Edition), asks you to contemplate the following questions:
  • Why did this momentous change occur?
  • How did this new world–view affect the way people thought about society and human relations?
  • What impact did this new way of thinking have on political developments and monarchical absolutism?
These activities will assist you in your efforts to respond to these questions.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • Most historians refer to the eighteenth century as the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. For a good definition of the term read the first two paragraphs of Seventeenth Century Enlightenment Thought.  Then read about the  Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment. According to these sites, what ideas emerged in the Western world during the eighteenth century, and what were the effects of these ideas?
  • One of the most important thinkers of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment was John Locke.  Unlike many of the his contemporaries, who hoped to improve society through science, Locke hoped to do so by reflecting on government. For example, consider his theory of the proper role of government as outlined in An Essay concerning the true original, extent and end of civil Government (1690).
  • Another philosopher not mentioned in the article, Benjamin Franklin, spent much of his time on more practical matters, such as bettering the daily lives of ordinary people through technological improvements. For example, see Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man: Inventor. Yet each shared a common goal: they both wanted to improve the world around them using a similar approach. They are just two examples of the "philosophes" of the eighteenth century. To better understand this description, go to Denis Diderot: "The Philosophe". What, according to Diderot, did all philosophes have in common? What were their shared goals and assumptions? What were their obligations to society? Pay particular attention to the end of this document.
Activity Two:
  • What led Locke, Franklin, and Diderot to develop this new attitude? According to McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), a major factor was the scientific revolution that occurred between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The scientific revolution rejected traditional European concepts of the universe. Read about Claudius Ptolemy and Copernicus (make sure to view the images of both astronomers' models of the universe. How did Copernicus's model of the universe differ from Aristotle's? According to McKay, why were Copernicus's ideas so revolutionary? (See pages 572-574.)
  • Other scientists elaborated on Copernicus's theory in the seventeenth century and developed a new view of the universe. Read The Cosmos as "Mechanism". What does the title of this essay mean? How might a European scientist in the twelfth or thirteenth century have defined the cosmos? What were the roles of Galileo, Descartes, and Newton in developing and promoting the concept that the universe operated like a machine? Don't just focus on their theories but also consider how they promoted these theories. How did Locke bring the "human mind into this mechanical world"? In other words, how did he apply the principles of Galileo, Descartes, and Newton to the human mind?
  • Read "Causes of the Scientific Revolution" in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition) (pages 575–577). Compare and contrast this text to The Origins of the Scientific Revolution. Make a list of all the causes McKay and the author of the web site offer for the scientific revolution. After doing so, which cause do you think was most important? Defend your answer.
Activity Three:

As the first activity stresses, the men and women who attained the new world–view in the eighteenth century all shared a common goal in that they sought to improve the world around them. Many philosophes' activities varied throughout their lives. Some focused on science, others on philosophy. Some pursued both lines of inquiry. As a result, their recommendations for how to reform their world often changed and evolved. The philosophes also did not agree on how best to improve any particular situation. What they did share was the assumption that progress was possible. One way of exploring the diversity of ideas is to explore the lives of two philosophes not covered in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). You have already been introduced to one, Benjamin Franklin, in the first activity. The other, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, is probably less familiar. Although Franklin and Leibnitz lived in different parts of the world and at different times, each embodies the Age of Enlightenment. Their goals and the methods they used to obtain these goals were similar, even if they reached different conclusions and focused on different problems.

Do you agree with this statement? To help you formulate your opinion, answer the following questions. Where were these men from? Where did they receive their education? Using today's terminology, how could we classify each man's intellectual pursuits and activities? For example, were they historians, mathematicians, political scientists? What major contributions did they make to the world? Did they propose any radically new ideas? Did they invent anything important?

Activity Four:
  • Learning about Franklin and Leibnitz helps explain how the ideas of the Enlightenment spread throughout the European world in the eighteenth century. Both men symbolize the development of a common culture among the educated elite, regardless of nationality. Who influenced the work of these men? How did they in turn expose their own discoveries and views to others? Were they members of any organizations? Did they found any? Did either man have any sponsors? Who were they? How do the lives of Franklin and Leibnitz explain how a common world–view emerged among the educated elite of the European world?
Activity Five:
  • In the fourth activity, you discovered that government often played a role in the spread and development of enlightened thought among individuals. As you learned in the activities for Chapter 17, "Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Europe, ca 1589–1725," specifically Activity Three, governments were taking a more active role in shaping the minds of their citizens. This trend continued in the eighteenth century. Leibnitz, for example, was a member of many national academies. Why did governments create these institutions? What was their purpose? For further insight, see Russia in the Age of Enlightenment: Intellectual Life.
Activity Six:
  • Many monarchs in Europe were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment. Some even tried to govern according to those principles, with the full support of many philosophes. To learn more about this movement, read Absolute Monarchy and Enlightened Absolutism. Who were the principal "enlightened"? How did their policies reflect enlightenment principles?
  • Arguably, Frederick the Great of Prussia best symbolized the "enlightened monarch." For more on his life, go to Fredericus Rex: Prussia's King Frederick the Great. After clicking your way through the entire essay, explain the role Frederick believed a monarch should have in a country's development.
  • For Frederick's own words, see Frederick II (1740–1786: Essay on the Forms of Government. Who helped influence these ideas? With which philosophes did Frederick communicate? Could Frederick the man, not the king, be considered among the educated elite of the European world? According to this author, did he succeed in achieving his enlightened goal? For another view, see The Rise of Prussia.
Activity Seven:
  • After completing these activities and reading Chapter 18 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), review the questions posed at the beginning of this exercise. Identify which question or questions each activity addresses. Can you answer all the questions thoroughly?