In what ways were the revolutions, expanded literacy, and political ideas linked? (The Earth and Its Peoples, 581)
The revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were directly influenced by political ideas of Enlightenment intellectuals and their students. New ideas were developed by, and extrapolated from, individuals such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet). A growing literacy amongst the people of Europe and the greater western world led to increased questioning of government, the communication and discussion of ideas in public venues, and ultimately said revolution. The scientific method was applied used to dissect the trappings of society, government, and the human mind.
The debt incurred from foreign wars by Great Britain, France and the Netherlands earlier in the century set the stage for the European and American revolutions later. After the Seven Years war, Britain had amassed about £137 million in war debt. These obligations had to be fulfilled somehow, however, the minds of awaiting public now held new ideas, which made them wary of new taxes, and question the very purpose of government and its role in society. In the old rule, or “Ancien Regime” as it was known in France, aristocrats, monarchs, and the Church dictated the structure of society and the aspirations of the state. Now, it was up to the individual to determine his/her own destiny, by choosing free will, and by teaching oneself about the arts, sciences, and anything else that could benefit oneself or society.
The expansion of literacy in the 18th century, stemming from the Enlightenment movement, shaped Europe and the world in a great and lasting manner. Without the invention, adoption, and evolution of the printing press in 1440, it is doubtful that the Enlightenment movement would have ever occurred, or at least occurred on the scale that it did, during this time. The production and consumption of written works was paramount to the propagation of Enlightenment throughout Europe, the major catalyst of change at the time. Important features of the movement during the period included the establishment of coffeehouses and salons as centers of learning and news, the creation of debating societies, and the formation of the Republic of Letters, an informal collection of cultures and countries who used written communication to facilitate debate. The increasing organization of intellectuals transformed the movement and the situation of western societies. A shining example of the reach of Enlightenment is Benjamin Franklin, an author, inventor, and political theorist of Pennsylvania. Franklin was admired in European circles for his utilization of scientific methods and realization of human potential in various fields, including political theory.
These factors both directly and indirectly caused the American Revolution (1775-1783), the French Revolution (1789-1799), and the Haitian Revolution...