The French Enlightenment, clearing a path to the Revolution of 1789?

Ref: C3841559

The French Enlightenment ('Siècle des Lumieres') was a movement in which attention was drawn away from an automatic belief in the teachings of the Church towards a more liberal, secular approach. The above approach embraced the concepts of: personal autonomy/individuality; scientific methods; social progress. This course will look at some of the major contributors (Voltaire (1694-1778); Rousseau (1712-1778); Diderot (1713-1784); inter alia) to the movement and assess how far they impacted upon the French Revolution of 1789. Keep in mind that none of these so-called 'philosophes' were alive at the outbreak of the Revolution. They are regarded as posthumous heroes of same. Their ideas were expressed in part in the publication of the Encyclopedie. The course is a good opportunity to glimpse a turning point in the formation of the modern world.

Course aim

To give insight into the French Enlightenment of the 18th century and some of the key players in it.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • The course is in English (some French if desired). It is a short politico-economic course, in essence. It is of interest to the general learner in its own right.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • talk generally about the phenomenon of the French Enlightenment.
  • understand the background to the above and see how political ideas were developing in the 18th century.
  • appreciate the work of the major players: Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau.
  • relate the above writers to British Enlightenment writers.
  • carry out further, independent, research on the topic.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • It is to be a discussion group. There will be NO pressure to speak; listening is a valuable skill. However, every comment will be respected.

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • An enquiring mind would be a great asset.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • The opinions and comments of participants will be the paramount learning tool.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • The course would be useful to anyone with an interest in how their world has been shaped.

Download full course outline

The French Enlightenment, clearing a path to the Revolution of 1789? Course Outline

Enrolment Conditions

You can enrol online if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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