THE 18 TH CENTURY:
THE CRISIS OF THE ANCIEN
Expression used by the French
revolutionaries to describe all they
wanted to destroy. On the other
hand, they wanted to establish:
- A representative government,
elected by the citizens
- A society based on equality of
all the citizens, without
- A productive economy, where
those who had initiative could
make business without
THE ANCIEN RÉGIME:
Society divided into estates
Low production economy:
subsistence agriculture and
a lot of limits to the
development of economic
activities (guilds, interior
customs, a lot of taxes)
Demography: high birth
rates, high mortality rates,
low natural growth
(sometimes zero or negative
Intellectual movement developed in Europe in the 18th century that questioned all the
Ancien Régime principles. it was based on the use of Reason as the best way to know
the world and transform it.
The enlightened philosophers wanted to “illuminate the darkness of the world with the
lights of Reason”. this is why the 18th century was also called the “century of lights” and
the “Age of Reason”
Elitist movement, promoted by educated people
PRECEDENTS (17TH CENTURY)
JOHN LOCKE: English philosopher who
lived the English revolutions of the 17th
century. His ideas are considered to be a
precedent of Enlightenment:
- He criticized absolutism
- He defended the division of powers
- He defended the role of the State as
the guarantor of the citizens rights
ISAAC NEWTON: English scientist who
created the scientific method, based on
observing and checking facts. He
discovered the Law of Universal
“Dare to know”
• Absolute faith in Reason, as the best way of
understanding the world.
• Rejection of everything that couldn´t be
explained through Reason: the authority
principle, superstitions, traditions,
• Optimism and trust in progress.
• Knowledge as the basis of happiness.
• Trust in education considered to be the best
way to improve the living conditions of the
• Religious tolerance: no religion was superior
and Reason was enough to establish a morality
code to determine how to behave.
• Criticism of absolutism and the estate- based
society and defense of freedom and equality of
all the human beings.
• Elitist movement, reserved to educated people
Denis Diderot and Jean Rond D´Alembert compiled all the knowledge of
their time. They asked the main scientists and philosophers to write articles for
The first edition of the Encyclopedia appeared in 1751 and had 35 volumes.
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU
- He defended the social
contract: the agreement the
people and the governors sign
to preserve social order.
- He defended the general will:
power or sovereignty lies on
the people and they should
use it directly, deciding by
themselves (not through
He defended the division of
powers into three institutions
(executive, legislative and
judicial) and insisted on the
necessity of an independent
- that the power of the king had
to be limited by the Parliament,
- a universal tax system
- religious tolerance.
He strongly criticized the
ECONOMIC THINKING: PHYSIOCRACY AND ECONOMIC LIBERALISM
Physiocrats considered agriculture to be the most important economic
activity of a country and they supported private property, free trade, free
industry and were against any intervention of the State in economy
one of the main
Pioneer of economic liberalism
Some European monarchs adopted
some ideas of the Enlightenment
and introduced some reforms in their
kingdoms, but, at the same time, they
tried to preserve their absolute power.
They made administrative, educational
and economic reforms, but without
asking their subjects for their opinion: they
did “everything for the people, but
without the people”.
They didn´t touch the structure of power
or the privileges of nobles and clergy.
This is why the reforms they made were
FREDERIC II OF
INDEPENDENCE OF THE BRITISH COLONIES
OF NORTH AMERICA
Reasons for the colonists´
-No representatives in the
British Parliament: they couldn´t
express their opinion or oppose the
laws against their interests.
-Constant tax increase.
-British trade monopoly over the
colonies: they couldn´t buy or sell
their products to other places.
THE 13 BRITISH COLONIES
The expansion of the ideas of Enlightenment also had an important influence
over the colonists.
BOSTON TEA PARTY(1773)
The revolt started as a reaction against the increase of the tea tax (the revolt
slogan was “no taxation without representation”).
Some colonists dressed as Indians assaulted a British ship of the East India
Company at Boston harbor and threw all the tea cargo away to the sea. The
British strongly repressed the revolt and discontent grew.
REVOLUTIONARY WAR / AMERICAN WAR OF
In 1775 the war between the
British and the colonists started.
The first battles took place in
Lexington and Concord.
France and Spain supported the
colonists againts the British.
The representatives of the
colonists met at the 2nd
Continental Congress and
Lexington and Concord Battles
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
During the 2nd Continental
Congress of Philadelphia the
delegates of the 13 colonies
decided to declare the
independence from Great
Britain. Thomas Jefferson
wrote the text of the
The presentation of the Declaration
General George Washington led
the North American troops. After
some defeats in Saratoga (1777)
and Yorktown (1781), the war
finished in 1783. In Versailles
Treaty Great Britain recognized
the independence of the USA
(United States of America).
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: CONTENT
King George hasn´t fulfilled his
role with respect to the North
All men are equal and free and
have some unalienable rights.
The government ´s role is to
guarantee these rights. If the
government doesn´t do its work,
the citizens are legitimized to
break their ties with the
The colonies have decided to
break their political connection
with Great Britain and become
an independent nation.
THE USA: THE FIRST “REPRESENTATIVE”
George Washinton was the first president of the
In 1787 the USA had the first written Constitution
in history. It included:
Seven articles with the organization of the
new State, based on the principles of
political liberalism (representative
government, division of powers, general will,
The USA was :
- a presidentialist Republic: the president
holds wide powers.
- A federal State: every state has
important powers: own laws, own
courts of justice, own police…
However, a big part of the population was
excluded from these rights: women, poor
people, slaves, native Americans.
In 1791 the Constitution added a Bill of Rights (the 10 first amendments)
The Constitution has been
amended several times.
Nowadays it includes 27
amendments. Some of the
included the abolition of
slavery, the right to vote
for women, for black
people, the prohibition of