Monday, September 28, 2009

WH II 29 September 2009


Current events:

Dennis, the Constitutional Peasant (courtesy of Monty Python)

In a humorous fashion, the British comedy group Monty Python contrasts the divine right of kings, in contrast to a government of the people. The philosophical differences between monarchy and rule by the people are explored in this comedy sketch.

We can review the results of the Quiz.

Today's lesson plan and HW is available on the blog:


The Shanawiki page ( has updated class information.

The online version of the Textbook is available.

LibraryThing has bibliographic resources.

I moved the "Blog Archive" to the top right on the blog page so it should be easier to find the daily lesson, HW, and other class material.


Focus Question (Honors students should be able to add detailed, specific, examples in answering this question) to be added (first come, first serve) on our Shanawiki page.

As Enlightenment ideas spread across Europe, what cultural and political changes took place?

New Ideas Challenge Society

Enlightenment ideas spread quickly through many levels of society. Educated people all over Europe eagerly read not only Diderot’s Encyclopedia but also the small, inexpensive pamphlets that printers churned out on a broad range of issues. More and more, people saw that reform was necessary in order to achieve a just society.

During the Middle Ages, most Europeans had accepted without question a society based on divine-right rule, a strict class system, and a belief in heavenly reward for earthly suffering. In the Age of Reason, such ideas seemed unscientific and irrational. A just society, Enlightenment thinkers taught, should ensure social justice and happiness in this world. Not everyone agreed with this idea of replacing the values that existed, however.

Writers Face Censorship

Most, but not all, government and church authorities felt they had a sacred duty to defend the old order. They believed that God had set up the old order. To protect against the attacks of the Enlightenment, they waged a war of censorship, or restricting access to ideas and information. They banned and burned books and imprisoned writers.

To avoid censorship, philosophes and writers like Montesquieu and Voltaire sometimes disguised their ideas in works of fiction. In the Persian Letters, Montesquieu used two fictional Persian travelers, named Usbek and Rica, to mock French society. The hero of Voltaire’s satirical novel Candide, published in 1759, travels across Europe and even to the Americas and the Middle East in search of “the best of all possible worlds.” Voltaire slyly uses the tale to expose the corruption and hypocrisy of European society.

Satire by Swift

Jonathan Swift published the satirical Gulliver’s Travels in 1726. Here, an illustration from the book depicts a bound Gulliver and the Lilliputians, who are six-inch-tall, bloodthirsty characters. Although Gulliver’s Travels satirizes political life in eighteenth-century England, it is still a classic today.


What did those opposed to Enlightenment ideas do to stop the spread of information?

Post detailed, specific examples to our Shanawiki page.

Arts and Literature Reflect New Ideas

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.

From Grandeur to Charm

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.

Louis XV and his court led a much less formal lifestyle than Louis XIV. Architects and designers reflected this change by developing the rococo style.

Rococo art moved away from religion and, unlike the heavy splendor of the baroque, was lighter, elegant, and charming. Rococo art in salons was believed to encourage the imagination.

For example, we can consider: "Rococo Art." We will examine this art in more detail (see below).


Rococo art was an important element of French culture during the ancien regime. The style is highly suggestive of the attitudes and atmosphere in the royal court during the period leading up to the French Revolution. In this activity you will read about four rococo painters and how they experienced the shift from rococo to neoclassicism, and from the ancien regime to the era of the French Revolution.

Destination Title: "Ancien Regime Rococo"


Start at the Ancien Regime Rococo Web site.

* Read the introductory section, taking notes as you go.
* Click on the links to read about the rococo artists Fran├žois Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard.

In particular, consider Fragonard's, "The Good Mother." Fragonard can be contrasted with an earlier related painting, Rembrandt's, "Holy Family." We will consider the similarities and differences between the two illustrations.

Rembrandt's, "Holy Family," is an excellent portrayal of an earlier time.

After considering the link, "Ancien Regime Rococo," we can pick up the lesson from the previous material.

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 had a vast audience in the upper class and with the growing middle class as well.

The Enlightenment Inspires Composers

The new Enlightenment ideals led composers and musicians to develop new forms of music. There was a transition in music, as well as art, from the baroque style to rococo. An elegant style of music known as “classical” followed. Ballets and opera—plays set to music—were performed at royal courts, and opera houses sprang up from Italy to England. Before this era, only the social elite could afford to commission musicians to play for them. In the early to mid-1700s, however, the growing middle class could afford to pay for concerts to be performed publicly.

Among the towering musical figures of the era was Johann Sebastian Bach. A devout German Lutheran, Bach wrote beautiful religious works for organ and choirs. He also wrote sonatas for violin and harpsichord. Another German-born composer, George Frideric Handel, spent much of his life in England. There, he wrote Water Music and other pieces for King George I, as well as more than 30 operas. His most celebrated work, the Messiah, combines instruments and voices and is often performed at Christmas and Easter.

Handel, Hallelujah (4:07)

Composer Franz Joseph Haydn

Haydn, The Bird, 4th movement, (3:34)

was one of the most important figures in the development of classical music. He helped develop forms for the string quartet and the symphony. Haydn had a close friendship with another famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart was a child prodigy who gained instant celebrity status as a composer and performer. His brilliant operas, graceful symphonies, and moving religious music helped define the new style of composition. Although he died in poverty at age 35, he produced an enormous amount of music during his lifetime. Mozart’s musical legacy thrives today.


Rococo Reaction

The Novel Takes Shape

By the 1700s, literature developed new forms and a wider audience. Middle-class readers, for example, liked stories about their own times told in straightforward prose. One result was an outpouring of novels, or long works of prose fiction. English novelists wrote many popular stories. Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe, an exciting tale about a sailor shipwrecked on a tropical island. This novel is still well known today. In a novel called Pamela, Samuel Richardson used a series of letters to tell a story about a servant girl. This technique was adopted by other authors of the period.


How did the arts and literature change as Enlightenment ideas spread?

Post detailed, specific examples on our Shanawiki page.

Enlightened Despots Embrace New Ideas

The courts of Europe became enlivened as philosophes tried to persuade rulers to adopt their ideas. The philosophes hoped to convince the ruling classes that reform was necessary. Some monarchs did accept Enlightenment ideas. Others still practiced absolutism, a political doctrine in which a monarch had seemingly unlimited power. Those that did accept these new ideas became enlightened despots, or absolute rulers who used their power to bring about political and social change.


Enlightened Rulers in the Eighteenth Century

Go online to,, for an audio guided tour and related questions. The text in the audio is on the page as well. Enter web Code: nap-1721, in each of the two boxes listed there.

Easy-to-Use Web Codes


To use a Web Code:

1. Go to
2. Enter a particular Web Code.
3. Click on GO!

There are three questions there, listed below:

Map Skills: Map of Eastern Europe

Although the center of the Enlightenment was in France, the ideas of reform spread to the rulers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia.

1. Locate

(a) Paris (b) Prussia (c) Austria

2. Location

Which enlightened despot ruled farthest from Paris?

3. Draw Conclusions

According to the map, approximately how much of Europe was affected by the Enlightenment?

Frederick II Attempts Reform

Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great, exerted extremely tight control over his subjects during his reign as king of Prussia from 1740 to 1786. Still, he saw himself as the “first servant of the state,” with a duty to work for the common good.

Frederick openly praised Voltaire’s work and invited several of the French intellectuals of the age to Prussia. Some of his first acts as king were to reduce the use of torture and allow a free press. Most of Frederick’s reforms were directed at making the Prussian government more efficient.

To do this, he reorganized the government’s civil service and simplified laws. Frederick also tolerated religious differences, welcoming victims of religious persecution.

“In my kingdom,” he said, “everyone can go to heaven in his own fashion.” His religious tolerance and also his disdain for torture showed Frederick’s genuine belief in enlightened reform. In the end, however, Frederick desired a stronger monarchy and more power for himself.

Catherine the Great Studies Philosophes’ Works

Catherine II, or Catherine the Great, empress of Russia, read the works of the philosophes and exchanged letters with Voltaire and Diderot. She praised Voltaire as someone who had “fought the united enemies of humankind: superstition, fanaticism, ignorance, trickery.” Catherine believed in the Enlightenment ideas of equality and liberty.

Catherine, who became empress in 1762, toyed with implementing Enlightenment ideas. Early in her reign, she made some limited reforms in law and government. Catherine abolished torture and established religious tolerance in her lands. She granted nobles a charter of rights and criticized the institution of serfdom. Still, like Frederick in Prussia, Catherine did not intend to give up power. In the end, her main political contribution to Russia proved to be an expanded empire.

Joseph II Continues Reform

In Austria, Hapsburg empress Maria Theresa ruled as an absolute monarch. Although she did not push for reforms, she is considered to be an enlightened despot by some historians because she worked to improve peasants’ way of life. The most radical of the enlightened despots was her son and successor, Joseph II. Joseph was an eager student of the Enlightenment, and he traveled in disguise among his subjects to learn of their problems.

Joseph continued the work of Maria Theresa, who had begun to modernize Austria’s government. Despite opposition, Joseph supported religious equality for Protestants and Jews in his Catholic empire. He ended censorship by allowing a free press and attempted to bring the Catholic Church under royal control. He sold the property of many monasteries that were not involved in education or care of the sick and used the proceeds to support those that were. Joseph even abolished serfdom. Like many of his other reforms, however, this measure was canceled after his death.


Why were the philosophes interested in sharing their beliefs with European rulers?

Post detailed, specific examples on our Shanawiki page.

Lives of the Majority Change Slowly

Most Europeans were untouched by either courtly or middle-class culture. 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. Their culture, based on centuries-old traditions, changed slowly.

By the late 1700s, however, radical ideas about equality and social justice finally seeped into peasant villages. While some peasants eagerly sought to topple the old order, others resisted efforts to bring about change. In the 1800s, war and political upheaval, as well as changing economic conditions, would transform peasant life in Europe.

Important Composers included in this section: Bach, Handel, and Haydn, among others. Music is available on Songza.

Bach, Air on the G String (5:21)

Haydn, Deutschland Ueber Alles (3:35), and a bit of trivia about this composition. Do you know which 20th century German political group adopted this song to represent their movement and point of view? Traditional German music was transformed for political and propaganda purposes.


During this time, why did change occur slowly for most Europeans?

Post a detailed answer with specifics on our Shanawiki page.

HW: email me at

1. Does The Magic Flute evoke a different emotion than Eine kleine Nachtmusik? What is the difference between the two pieces?
2. Consider Fragonard's, The Good Mother:

What make this work so charming? What feelings does Fragonard intend to induce in the viewer? Compared to his erotic and "gallant" pictures, what does this work say about French life at the end of the 18th century? Of course, we can only speculate here, but is this painting a foretaste of "bourgeois art?" Is the "good mother" painted precisely because she and her child are radically separated from all the frivolity of the ancien regime?