In England, Jonathan Swift published Gulliver's Travels in 1726. The story uses fantasy to satirize, or make fun of, English political life.

In a famous scene, Gulliver is bound by the Lilliputians, tiny six-inch-tall characters, and is unable to move. The harder Gulliver tries to break free, the more the Lilliputians attack him. Swift uses the story to comment on the pettiness of nations and their rulers.

Salons Spread Ideas

New literature, the arts, science, and philosophy were regular topics of discussion in salons, or informal social gatherings at which writers, artists, philosophes, and others exchanged ideas. The salon originated in the 1600s, when a group of noblewomen in Paris began inviting a few friends to their homes for poetry readings. By the 1700s, some middle-class women began holding salons. There, middle-class citizens met with nobles on an equal basis to discuss Enlightenment ideas.

Through the salons, Enlightenment ideas spread among the educated people of Europe. Madame Geoffrin (zhoh FRAN) ran one of the most respected salons. In her home on the Rue St. Honoré (roo sant ahn ur AY), she brought together the brightest and most talented people of her day.

The young musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played for her guests, and Diderot was a regular at her weekly dinners for philosophers and poets.

Slow Change for the Majority

At first, most Europeans were untouched by the spread of Enlightenment ideas. They remained what they had always been—peasants living in small rural villages. Echoes of serfdom still remained throughout Europe despite advances in Western Europe. Centuries-old traditions continued to shape European society, which only very slowly began to change.

By the late 1700s, ideas about equality and social justice had finally seeped into peasant villages across Europe. Some peasants welcomed ideas about equality and an end to the old order. Others did not. Upheavals in France and elsewhere quickened the pace of change. By the early 1800s, war and changing economic conditions began to transform life for people across Europe.

Painting of a group of seated men and women engaged in conversations, in a room appointed with paintings, busts, and a desk.

During the Enlightenment, Madame Geoffrin's salons were popular gatherings for intellectual discussions.

Arts and Literature of the Enlightenment

In the 1600s and 1700s, the arts evolved to meet changing tastes. As in earlier periods, artists and composers had to please their patrons, the men and women who commissioned works from them or gave them jobs.

Changing Styles in Art and Architecture

In the age of Louis XIV, courtly art and architecture were either in the Greek and Roman tradition or in a grand, ornate style known as baroque. Baroque paintings were huge, colorful, and full of excitement. They glorified historic battles or the lives of saints. Such works matched the grandeur of European courts at that time.

By the mid-1700s, architects and designers developed a new style that reflected changing tastes. Unlike the heavy splendor of the baroque, rococo art was lighter, more personal, elegant and charming. Rococo furniture and tapestries featured delicate shells and flowers, and more pastel colors were used. Portrait painters showed noble subjects in charming rural settings, surrounded by happy servants and pets. Although this style was criticized by the philosophes for its superficiality, it was popular with the upper and middle classes.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments