18th century  

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Thérèse Philosophe (1748) by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens, original edition
Thérèse Philosophe (1748) by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens, original edition

"Media, as we know it, first emerged at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Papers, journals, broadsheets, all became widely available in the new created public space of the coffeehouse. [...] The popular market for art and literature liberated writers and artists from the need for court patronage. No longer having to please their sponsors, they could experiment, and speak out as brashly as they wished." --Counterculture Through the Ages (2004) by Ken Goffman, p. 162

"Notable works in the 18th century libertine novel tradition include Les Égarements du cœur et de l'esprit (1736) by Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon; Histoire de Dom Bougre, Portier des Chartreux (1741); Le Sopha, conte moral, (1742), Les bijoux indiscrets, (1748) by Denis Diderot; Thérèse Philosophe (1748); Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) by Choderlos de Laclos; and L'Histoire de Juliette (1797-1801) by Marquis de Sade.

Themes of libertine novels were anti-clericalism, anti-establishment and eroticism. The genre reached its apex with Marquis de Sade and ended shortly after the French Revolution."--Sholem Stein

"The 18th century is also known as the "century of lights" or the "century of reason". In continental Europe, philosophers dreamed of a brighter age. For some, this dream turned into a reality with the French Revolution of 1789, though this was later compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror. At first, many monarchies of Europe embraced Enlightenment ideals, but in the wake of the French Revolution they feared loss of power and formed broad coalitions for counter-revolution."--Sholem Stein

"To the revolutionaries, the execution of Louis XVI was a regicide, to royalists, it was deicide."--Sholem Stein

"The dividing line seems to fall in the 18th century; there the origins of Camp taste are to be found (Gothic novels, Chinoiserie, caricature, artificial ruins, and so forth.) But the relation to nature was quite different then. In the 18th century, people of taste either patronized nature (Strawberry Hill) or attempted to remake it into something artificial (Versailles). They also indefatigably patronized the past. Today's Camp taste effaces nature, or else contradicts it outright. And the relation of Camp taste to the past is extremely sentimental." --"Notes on "Camp"" (1964) Susan Sontag

Digesting Duck (1739) by Jacques de Vaucanson
Digesting Duck (1739) by Jacques de Vaucanson
Capriccio with the Colosseum (1743-44) by Bernardo Bellotto
Capriccio with the Colosseum (1743-44) by Bernardo Bellotto
Cenotaph for Newton (1784) by French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée
Cenotaph for Newton (1784) by French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée
The Swing (detail) (ca. 1767) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
The Swing (detail) (ca. 1767) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Imaginary portrait of Marquis de SadeIllustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein
Imaginary portrait of Marquis de Sade
Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein

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The 18th century lasted from 1701 to 1800 in the Gregorian calendar, in accordance with the Anno Domini/Common Era numbering system.

However, Western historians may sometimes specifically define the 18th century otherwise for the purposes of their work. For example, the "short" 18th century may be defined as 17151789, denoting the period of time between the death of Louis XIV of France and the start of the French Revolution with an emphasis on directly interconnected events.

To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the battle of Waterloo in 1815 or even later. During the 18th century, the Enlightenment culminated in the French and American revolutions. Philosophy and science increased in prominence. Philosophers were dreaming about a better age without the Christian fundamentalism of earlier centuries. This dream turned into a nightmare during the terror of Maximilien Robespierre in the early 1790s. At first, the monarchies of Europe embraced enlightenment ideals, but with the French revolution, they were on the side of the counterrevolution.

Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the defeat of France in the Americas in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India. However, Britain lost much of her North American colonies after the American revolution. The industrial revolution started in Britain around the 1770s. Despite its modest beginnings in the 18th century, it would radically change human society and the geology of the surface of the earth.




18th century art

Art in the 18th century was dominated first by Rococo and than by Neoclassicism. The center of the art world shifted from Italy and the Low Countries to France.

After Rococo there arose in the late 18th century, in architecture, and then in painting severe neo-classicism, best represented by such artists as David.

This movement turned its attention toward landscape and nature as well as the human figure and the supremacy of natural order above mankind's will. There is a pantheist philosophy (see Spinoza and Hegel) within this conception that opposes Enlightenment ideals by seeing mankind's destiny in a more tragic or pessimistic light. The idea that human beings are not above the forces of Nature is in contradiction to Ancient Greek and Renaissance ideals where mankind was above all things and owned his fate. This thinking led romantic artists to depict the sublime, ruined churches, shipwrecks, massacres and madness.

The century also saw the rise of academies and the Paris salons.


18th century literature, Thérèse Philosophe
All in all, literature was not so widespread as in the following century, since paper was still quite expensive, see cheap paper.

Literature of the 18th century refers to world literature produced during the 18th century. The 18th century saw the development of the modern novel as literary genre, in fact many candidates for the first novel in English date from this period. Subgenres of the novel during the 18th century were the epistolary novel, the sentimental novel, "histories", the gothic novel and the libertine novel. 18th Century Europe started in the Age of Enlightenment and gradually moved towards Romanticism. In the visual arts, it was the period of Neoclassicism.

Although the modern novel as literary genre solidified, literacy rates were still very low as there was no primary education for the common man.

The English novel became a popular form in the 18th century, with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740). Another very popular form was the Gothic novel (The Castle of Otranto, 1764) and its European equivalents the roman noir in France and the Schauerroman in Germany.

Early European bestsellers were Julie, or the New Heloise by Rousseau and The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.

There was already literature of subversion such as that from Voltaire and Sade and other libertine writers. In the United Kingdom there was the renegade publisher Edmund Curll known for his radical pamphlets and bawdy books.

A good introduction to this period, one which describes the popular literature of that era in France very well, is The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France.


18th century philosophy

18th-century philosophy centers around "The Enlightenment" and its antagonist, Counter-Enlightenment.


18th century architecture


history of feminism

Feminist thought occurred during The Enlightenment with such thinkers as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Marquis de Condorcet championing women's education. Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is one of the first works that can unambiguously be called feminist, although by modern standards her comparison of women to the nobility, the elite of society, coddled, fragile, and in danger of intellectual and moral sloth, does not sound like a feminist argument. Wollstonecraft believed that both sexes contributed to this situation and took it for granted that women had considerable power over men.

Films about the 18th century

Two films about the 18th century in Europe are Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Madness of King George (1994) and Ridicule (1996).

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