Enlightenment Definition in World History

The Enlightenment was a transformative intellectual and philosophical movement that emerged in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. It brought about significant changes in various aspects of society, including politics, philosophy, science, and culture. Understanding the enlightenment definition is crucial for comprehending its impact on world history. Let’s explore the meaning and significance of the Enlightenment:


The Enlightenment refers to an intellectual movement that championed reason, rationality, and the pursuit of knowledge as the primary sources of authority and legitimacy. It was a departure from the traditional reliance on religious dogma and absolute monarchy. The Enlightenment thinkers believed in the power of human reason to understand the world, improve society, and challenge established beliefs and institutions.

Key Ideas

The Enlightenment introduced several key ideas that shaped world history:

1. Reason and Rationality

Enlightenment thinkers emphasized the use of reason and rationality to analyze and comprehend the natural and social world. They advocated for critical thinking and empirical observation as the foundations for understanding reality.

2. Individualism and Human Rights

The Enlightenment promoted the idea of individualism, recognizing the inherent worth and rights of each individual. Thinkers such as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued for natural rights, including life, liberty, and property, as well as the concept of social contract between rulers and the governed.

3. Scientific Progress

The Enlightenment celebrated scientific progress and the application of reason to investigate the natural world. Influenced by figures like Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon, Enlightenment thinkers believed in the power of science to improve human lives and unravel the mysteries of the universe.

4. Secularism and Religious Tolerance

Enlightenment philosophers advocated for religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. They challenged the dominance of religious institutions and called for freedom of thought and expression.


The Enlightenment had a profound impact on world history. Its ideas and principles influenced political revolutions, such as the American and French Revolutions, that sought to establish democratic governance and protect individual rights. The Enlightenment also paved the way for significant advancements in science, literature, art, and education.


In conclusion, the Enlightenment was an intellectual movement characterized by a focus on reason, individual rights, scientific progress, and religious tolerance. Its ideas and principles shaped the course of world history, challenging traditional authority and paving the way for the development of modern societies. Understanding the enlightenment definition is essential for appreciating its lasting impact on our world today.