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Age of Enlightenment

Highlighting the Age of Enlightenment's ideologies

The Georgian era was the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. During the 1790s, an unseen war began as what would become the Romantic Movement crept in to combat Reason with Emotion.

The Early Enlightenment: 1685-1730

The High Enlightenment: 1730-1780

The Late Enlightenment and Beyond: 1780-1815

The Romantic movement: 1798-1837

The Enlightenment touched every aspect of life, from science to politics. Our heroes and heroines in historical romances would have been brought up with Enlightenment ideologies, but some might have felt the early pulls of Romanticism—which Jane Austen warns against (think Elinor vs Marianne in Sense & Sensibility).

Let’s highlight a few features that might give insight into the thoughts, perspectives, and worldviews of our storybook protagonists.


  • Age of Thinkers and idealists

  • Questioning of traditional authority

  • Promotion of egalitarianism

  • Optimistic outlook

  • Promotion of inclusivism

  • Rational questioning is vital to problem solving

  • Progress can be made through dialogue

  • People and society can and will improve by educating themselves and thinking critically

  • Intellectualism is superior to emotionalism

  • Virtue is attractive; vice is odious

  • All problems can be resolved with rational planning

  • The mysteries of the universe can be understood with practical, logical, rational, and reasonable study

  • Education, discussion, and research are paramount

  • New scientific discoveries are important for society, specifically those based on empirical observation

  • Decisions should be made rationally after applying reason and logic

  • Everyone should aim to develop socially, psychologically, and spiritually

  • If a person can reason for himself, he is equal and has natural rights, and thus he can self-govern

  • Immaturity is a choice, and is defined as the inability (or refusal) to use reason and one’s own understanding, preferring blind trust in someone else’s guidance and rule


A few names you might recognize:

  • Voltaire

  • Rousseau

  • Hobbes

  • Diderot

  • Hume

  • Locke

  • Wollstonecraft

  • Kant

  • And so many more!


In many ways, this Enlightened man was the new Renaissance man. There are ample differences between these two, but the similarities are astonishing. Something especially interesting with both of these is the emphasis not only on the mind but also the body. The body should be a finely tuned instrument, a temple, a showcasing of what man could accomplish, and a representative of divinity. Physical fitness was of the utmost importance, as the Enlightened man and the Renaissance man, both, would strengthen and improve their body alongside their mind. In essence, they would embody the Vitruvian Man--the architecturally perfect man.

A terrific source to check out is this discussion from Stanford:


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