Revolutions Scientific, Enlightenment, American, French Study Guide revolution: a change or overthrow of a government, social institution, way of thinking, etc. Scientific Revolution (1600-1800)

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Scientific, Enlightenment, American, French

Study Guide
REVOLUTION: A change or overthrow of a government, social institution, way of thinking, etc.
Scientific Revolution (1600-1800)

  • A period of rapid change in scientific discoveries

  • Human ability to reason was glorified; experimentation and observation

  • New ideas challenged the teachings of the Church

Early Scientific Thought – prior to the Scientific Revolution, scientific thought was based on:

  1. Religious teachings (Catholic church)

  2. Superstition

  3. Geocentric View (Galen, Ptolemy, Aristotle)

New Ideas

  1. Copernicus

    1. Heliocentric view – sun is center of the universe; earth revolves around sun.

    2. Fear of punishment from Church – not published until after death

  2. Brahe/Kepler

    1. Astronomical observatory

    2. Uses math to prove earth revolved around sun moving in ellipses (ovals)

  3. Galileo

    1. Invented telescope; proved Copernicus

    2. Catholic Church - obstacle to spread of ideas

      1. Forced to recant views; house arrest

  4. Francis Bacon – scientific method

    1. Observation, hypothesis, test, conclusion = Scientific law if holds true

  5. Rene Descartes – scientific method

    1. Truth reached through reason and logic, “I think therefore I am”

  6. Isaac Newton

    1. Laws of Gravity, physics, laws of motion, calculus

Enlightenment (1600s to 1800s)

    • Rapid advancements in science led other philosophers to challenge ideas in politics, economics, & society

    • Led to changes in governments in many countries as people questioned the authority of Absolute Monarchs = many countries change to Constitutional Monarchies


Divine Right of Kings – Monarchs get their power directly from God and that power can’t be challenged

Social Contract – an agreement between the government and the people

Natural Law – a moral code that applied to everyone, including kings

Natural Rights – rights belonging to all humans from birth including life, liberty, property

  • Life – no one should harm another person

  • Liberty – the right to be free to act or believe in something without being stopped by force

  • Property – no one should harm another person’s possessions


  1. Hobbes

    1. Idea of social contract; man is selfish and needs government

    2. People do not have the right to rebel against their government

    3. Ideal form of government = Absolute Monarchy

  2. John Locke

    1. Idea of a social contract between the government and citizens

    2. Natural rights and limited government

    3. People can overthrow their government!

  3. Montesquieu

    1. Power should be equally divided among the branches of government – legislative, judicial, executive

    2. Separate powers eliminate tyranny

  4. Voltaire

    1. Freedom of speech, the press, religion

  5. Denis Diderot

    1. Encyclopedia: collection of enlightenment ideas

  6. Wollstonecraft

    1. All people are equal, focus on women and education

  7. Rousseau

    1. People are born good and society corrupts them

    2. People give up their individual rights to the will of the majority (majority rules)

  8. Adam Smith

    1. Father of Economics

    2. Laissez Faire: no government involvement in the free market

Forms of Government

  1. Absolute Monarchy – king/queen, hereditary rule, no citizen participation

  2. Constitutional Monarchy – king/queen, shared power with legislature, some citizen participation

  3. Parliamentary Democracy – legislature is selected by the people, legislature selects the leader (prime minister)

  4. Dictatorship – one leader with absolute power; power usually achieved through force

Spread of enlightenment ideas

  1. Philosophers – books, pamphlets, essays

  2. Salons – gatherings in wealthy homes to discuss and debate enlightenment ideas

  3. Censorship – limited information

American Revolution and French Revolution:



What were the causes?

How did each declare independence?

What type of government did each create?

Who were the leaders?

What was the end result of each revolution?

What was the impact of each revolution?

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