Was the Enlightenment for Everyone

The Enlightenment was supposed to be a time of renewal of intellectual ideology, however, this period of time only benefited a handful of wealthy, educated individuals. The Enlightenment is commonly seen as a positive period of time, however there are also many shortcomings of this period of renewal. Wealthy, educated men were among the most advanced during the Enlightenment while slaves and women were at a disadvantage. The Enlightenment was “a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries in which ideas concerning God, reason, nature, and humanity were synthesized into a worldview that gained wide assent in the West and that instigated revolutionary developments in art, philosophy, and politics.

The Enlightenment held many disadvantages, specifically for women and slaves. Throughout this period of renewal and rebirth, slavery significantly increased. During this period of time, people spent less time doing physical labor and more time engendering new ideas, which led to this time period being referred to as the Enlightenment.

This could suggest why slavery increased. While the wealthy and educated spent their time conceptualizing revelations, someone had to be taking care of hard labor chores and field work. There was a lack of rights and freedoms for the slaves, however, the Enlightenment paved way for those rights and freedoms to later fall into place. The Enlightenment can be seen as a period of growth for women as well. During the Enlightenment, people leaned more towards logic and reasoning and away from religion and superstition. The previous religious standings meant women were more domestic, their job was to have children and tend to small chores around the house, often serving for their husbands and families.

During the Enlightenment, however, women were being given more rights and freedoms.

Despite this small leap forward, many men still proposed that all men have inalienable rights and often excluded women from those. Though the Enlightenment greatly benefitted history overall, I do not think it was for everyone. There were brilliant revelations and new ideas, yet inequality still stood.


  1. Duignan, Brian. “Enlightenment.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/event/Enlightenment-European-history.
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