chapter  6
21 Pages

The state and the Enlightenment

WithSverre Håkon Bagge

Intellectually, the background to the Enlightenment can be traced back to the Renaissance, with its emphasis on the human intellect and criticism of various accepted ideas, held by the Church and other authorities. The Enlightenment is far from being a homogeneous movement; it is a common term for a number of opinions and intellectuals in various parts of Europe. The natural starting-point for a discussion of the practical consequences of the ideas of the Enlightenment is the Glorious Revolution in England. A large part of Germany and particularly Prussia went through a substantial modernization from the mid-eighteenth century onwards but this was a modernization of the bureaucracy rather than the political sector. Maria Theresa reformed the army and the bureaucracy – often inspecting the units on horseback – increased the revenues of the government, improved the bureaucracy, eased the conditions of the peasants and restricted the power of the landowners.