Seeds of the Enlightenment

The growth of science and philosophy in Elizabethan England fertilized the soil for the Enlightenment to to take root there. The horrors of the Thirty Years War and the English Civil provided a catalyst to many to reconsider the relationship between religion and civil society and the individual and society.

The initial seeds of the Enlightenment can be traced to the Rennaissance. During the Rennaissance, Europe re-discovered lost knowledge from Rome and Greece and developed a spirit of inquiry that would ultimately lead to the Enlightenment.

Under Elizabethan rule England grew and prospered into a major power as the United Kingdom. But there were other critical activies that set the stage for the Enlightenment. Men such as Francis Bacon, John Dee, and Sir Walter Raliegh and others worked to free the mind and establish mathematics and science as legitimate subjects rather than as some saw them, "black magic". The plays of William Shakespeare provided keen insights into the human condition and psyche.

At the same time, there was a flowering of intellectual inquiry and humanism in Bohemia. The area centered around Prague was a relative oasis of religious toleration where many sects coexisted in relative harmony. In the build up to the Thirty Years War, however, there was increasing strife, until the crown was offered to Frederick, Elector of the Palatinate in the midst of a growing rebellion against Catholic rule. Frederick's assumption of the crown was the match that lit the power keg and started the Thirty Years War.

Interestingly, Elizabeth Stuart, the eldest daughter of James VI and I, King of Scots, England and Ireland, married Frederick before he took the crown in Bohemia. When the couple moved to Bohemia and ruled during the winter, they cemented a link between England and Bohemia. When the war broke out many Bohemian intellectuals and freethinks fled to the relative safety of England.

Unfortunately, England was soon caught up in its own civil war that ostensively pitted the Parliamentarians against the Royalists. However, also had its own religious roots between the Puritans and the established Church of England. Like the Thirty Years War, it was a destructive and bloody affair. When it finally ended with the Restoration and England breathed common sigh of relief that the war was ended.

While extremely destructive, both wars set the stage for the Enlightement as philosophers endeavored to find ways to prevent similar wars and religion lost its chokehold on European society. This was especially true in England, given its history dating to the Magna Carta and the evoling sense of the rights of Englishman. Thus, England proved to be fertile soil for the ideas and the principles of the Englightment and passed these along to its colonies in America.

Copyright Greenman House 2014| Contact Greenman House