Louis XIV., 1661-1715
Intellectual Life
Louis XVI., 1774-1789
Intellectual Life
Louis XV., 1715-1774
the Economy
Louis XV., 1715-1774
Foreign Policy

France under Louis XV. : Intellectual Life

A.) Official Culture

LOUIS XV. and his mistresses MADAME POMPADOUR (1745-1764) and MADAME DUBARRY (1768-1774) were patrons of the arts. VOLTAIRE was hired as court historian in 1745. At Versailles, the botanical garden was established by BERNARD DE JUSSIEU; from 1763 to 1768 Louis had the PETIT TRIANON constructed. Balls were hosted at Versailles; Madame Pompadour had a small theatre built in Versailles where dramas were performed solely for the king, with herself taking the lead role. She also set trends in fashion; the court at Versailles established a REFINED ETIQUETTE, admired and imitated as far as Russia.
Louis XV. forbade the publication of DIDEROT's ENCYCLOPEDIE (1757); ROUSSEAU had to stay in Geneva to avoid being arrested in France.
French ROCOCO ART reached its peak in the second quarter of the century.

B.) Critical Minds

The 18th century is the period of the LUMIERES or entlightened philosophes. The first to mention was Francois Marie Arouet de VOLTAIRE (1694-1778); his major books were CANDIDE (1759) and the HISTORY OF CHARLES XII. (1729) Voltaire advocated enlightened absolutism, in which he saw Swedish king Charles XII. a model to emulate; Voltaire held the position of court historian in Versailles from 1745 to 1749, resided at the court of Frederick the Great in Potsdam between 1749 and 1753.
Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Brede et de MONTESQUIEU (1689-1755) spent many years in England, the political system of which he admired, advocating CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY in his book L'esprit de lois (SPIRIT OF THE LAWS, 1748).
DENIS DIDEROT (1713-1784) is regarded the founder of the school of Encyclopedistes; the object was to separate the knowledge deemed worthy to preserve from tradition regarded arbitrary, man-made, in need of reform. Although he avoided to be openly critical of the political system in France, the publication of his ENCYCLOPEDIE (begun in 1745) was forbidden in 1757.
JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU, a native Genevan, in his DU CONTRAT SOCIAL (1762) advocated the constitution of a democratic republic, thus going far beyond Montesquieu's suggestion.
Jean le Rond D'ALEMBERT (1718-1783), a coeditor of Diderot's Encyclopedie, also made important contributions to mathematics. ANTOINE LAURENT LAVOISIER (1743-1794) is regarded the founder of the science of CHEMISTRY.

C.) The Church

With Cardinal Fleury, a church official for the last time held the officer of prime minister in France. When Louis XV. personally took over the administration after Fleury's death in 1743, this not only meant an end to Fleury's policy of spending control, but also the limitation of church authority; censurship, hitherto a church responsibility, was taken over by the state (now Voltaire's manuscripts could be printed). In 1762 the Jesuit colleges were closed, in 1764 the Jesuits expelled.

Voltaire, from infoplease
Montesquieu, from infoplease, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from infoplease
Denis Diderot, from infoplease, from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
D'Alembert, from infoplease
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, from infoplease
Art periods : Rococo, from Discover France
DOCUMENTS Electronic Texts, from Fondation Voltaire at Oxford University
Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, online edition from constitution.org
Montesquieu : The Spirit of the Laws, 1748, excerpt, from Modern History Sourcebook

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 9th 2004

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