The Enlightenment and its competitors
The Enlightenment meant very different things in different parts of the continent and even as between different individuals in the same country. In some areas and in the work of some writers it took a form which was radical, aggressively critical, and contemptuous of the past and particularly of the religious assumptions which had done so much to shape the history of Christian Europe. In France, the source of the Enlightenment in its most radical and uncompromising form, the growth of mysticism and irrationalism was especially remarkable. The generally un-French and strikingly moderate character of the Aufklarung in Germany was to have enormous long-term importance for the country's history. It helps, in particular, to explain the weakness throughout the nineteenth century of German liberalism as a political force. The Enlightenment in Italy and the Spain drew sustenance from the fountain-head in France that in Russia was very largely German in inspiration.