Why Is Enlightenment Important to American History?

Enlightenment is a philosophical movement that emerged in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. It emphasized reason, individualism, and skepticism.

Enlightenment thinkers believed that through reason, individuals could understand and improve the world around them. This movement had a profound impact on American history, shaping the country’s founding principles and values.

The Influence of Enlightenment on American Revolution

The ideas of Enlightenment played a significant role in the American Revolution. The colonists who were seeking independence from Great Britain were inspired by the Enlightenment thinkers’ ideas of liberty, equality, and democracy. They believed in natural rights that every individual was entitled to- life, liberty, and property- which they were being denied under British rule.

John Locke’s theory of government played an essential role in shaping the American Constitution. Locke believed that people are born free and equal with natural rights that should be protected by a government elected by citizens. This idea was reflected in America’s founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Enlightenment Ideas Shaped American Culture

Enlightenment ideas also influenced American culture beyond politics. The movement emphasized rationality over superstition, resulting in advances in science and technology. Benjamin Franklin was one of the most famous Americans who embraced these ideas; he was a scientist, inventor, writer, diplomat, and one of the founding fathers of America.

The spread of Enlightenment thinking also led to reforms in education as more Americans began to believe that education was essential for individual freedom and progress. Thomas Jefferson believed strongly in this idea; he founded the University of Virginia as an institution where students could learn about science, philosophy, law, and other subjects.


In conclusion, enlightenment is important to American history because it shaped America’s founding principles such as liberty, equality and democracy which are still upheld today through democracy- a government elected by citizens. Enlightenment ideas also influenced American culture and helped shape the country’s educational system. As a result, the movement’s impact is still felt today in America and around the world.