Modernization and Social Change
The Enlightenment was a period of intellectual and cultural development in Europe that began in the late seventeenth century and lasted through the eighteenth century. Building on the foundations established by the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment encouraged Europeans to view their world from a more rational, goal-oriented perspective, setting the stage for much of the massive social change that took place in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. People during the Enlightenment often referred to their era as the 'Age of Reason'. A good illustration of the difficulty in generalizing about Enlightenment thinking can be seen in comparing the contributions of two eighteenth-century figures, the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Scotsman Adam Smith. Enlightenment thinking motivated people to come up with new and useful ideas in all sorts of fields, from politics to education to science to literature, helping to make European society more innovative and dynamic.