In the period known as The Age of Enlightenment, Eighteenth-century Europe saw remarkable cultural changes characterized by a loss of faith in traditional religious sources of authority and a turn toward human rights, science, rational thoughts and the replacement of theocracies and autocracies with democratic republicss.

One of the influences on the Enlightenment consisted of reports of Catholic priests in China which served as a model for a secular enlightened despot.

The upheavals of the Enlightenment led directly to the American Revolutionary War as well as the French Revolution and significantly influenced the Industrial Revolution. Enlightenment ideas were also strongly influential in the Constitution of the United States.

The Enlightenment was also marked by the rise of capitalism and the wide availability of printeded materials. The French encyclopedia (L'Encyclopédie) combined free-thinking articles with technological information.

One important response to the Enlightenment within the European Jewish community was the Haskalah movement.

The concept of a single, Europe-wide movement may of course be challenged in detail: it reflects a cultural dominance of French thought. One may also pursue the German, Scottish and other national movements.

Important figures of the Enlightenment era include:

See also French materialism, Protestant Reformation, enlightened absolutism