Alliance for Lifelong LearningEnrollCatalogEducational Resources

Learning Guides Back to Learning Guides
The History of Enlightenment France

Dozens of texts from the Enlightenment, including works by Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, are available here from the Internet History Sourcebook.

The Voltaire Foundation of the University of Oxford publishes scholarly writing on the French Enlightenment. This site contains a catalog, full texts of some works, and research information.

Part of Treasures from the Bilbiothèque Nationale de France exhibit at the Library of Congress, this section focuses on the last years of absolutism and the emergence of the Enlightenment during the 18th century.

Washington State University here offers engaging and informative overview essays, a glossary, and a discussion forum about 17th- and 18th-century European thought.


This page, maintained by Jack Lynch of Rutgers University, links readers to hundreds of 18th-century text. It's the kind of resource that makes one love the Internet!

Columbia University offers the full text of Rousseau's treatise on raising the ideal citizen, available in both English and French.

Wollstonecraft took the political arguments of Enlightenment philosophers one step further and applied their theories to women

The ARTFL Project at the University of Chicago offers the 17 volumes of Diderot's Encyclopédie online. Though an excellent resource, it is available only through subscribing institutions.


Peter Gay's volume represents perhaps the standard account of the philosophes, their thought, and their social context. Students might also want to peruse of the classic treatments by and .

The Enlightenment was a hotbed of ideas that paved the way to the French Revolution. But, as Robert Darnton argues, these ideas didn't necessarily originate with great philosophers, as so often thought, but rather with a literary underground of disgruntled hack writers and small-time pirate publishers.

In the art salons where artists converged with art critics and the viewing public, Thomas Crow discovers the rise of a new cultural (and eventually political) force in Enlightenment France: public opinion.

Through an exploration of famous court cases, Sarah Maza exposes how the legal profession politicized French society and lent greater force to "public opinion," a new source of authority that increasingly contested royal power. An interesting complement to Thomas Crow's book, this excellent history is only enhanced by the gossipy and scandalous nature of the material

In 18th-century France, literary salons became Enlightenment salons; Dena Goodman traces the shifts in power and gender roles that accompanied the change

Why were women left out of the political liberties born of the Enlightenment? Geneviène Fraisse finds that the exclusion was a pivotal, rather than incidental, element of Enlightenment thought.

With detailed accounts of their possessions and habits, Daniel Roche explains how the working class of Paris developed a political consciousness in the 18th century.


Special Selections

These excerpts from interdiction proceedings (the process by which people sought guardianship of the insane) provide a fascinating view into the laws and concepts of 18th-century life.

Overviews of works, movements, and artists are accompanied by detailed indices on this website from the French government.


About the Alliance  |  Take a Tour  |  Login  |  Help  |  Home