The Enlightenment is often associated with its political revolutionsand ideals, especially the French Revolution of 1789. The energycreated and expressed by the intellectual foment of Enlightenmentthinkers contributes to the growing wave of social unrest in France inthe eighteenth century. The social unrest comes to a head in theviolent political upheaval which sweeps away the traditionally andhierarchically structured ancien régime (the monarchy,the privileges of the nobility, the political power of the CatholicChurch). The French revolutionaries meant to establish in place of theancien régime a new reason-based order instituting theEnlightenment ideals of liberty and equality. Though theEnlightenment, as a diverse intellectual and social movement, has nodefinite end, the devolution of the French Revolution into the Terrorin the 1790s, corresponding, as it roughly does, with the end of theeighteenth century and the rise of opposed movements, such asRomanticism, can serve as a convenient marker of the end of theEnlightenment, conceived as an historical period.


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