18th Century Enlightenment

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18th century European law was in a state of chaos. Often times laws were not even written and court rulings and sentences were seemingly capricious and unfair. Aristocratic privilege and cosy relationships with the church afforded some impunity, while speaking out against corruption and these unfair relationships often invited prosecution. A prominent voice in legal reform was Italian scholar Cesare Beccaria, who questioned how in a so-called enlightened age, such at abhorrent legal bias and cruelty could go overlooked. Beccaria wrote the treatise On Crimes and Punishments in which he called for fair legal conduct to be established based on reason rather than arbitrary decisions. He also campaigned for the right of the public to view trials,…show more content…
In the 1770s dictionaries in French and English introduced the term, which was defined as “the increase of wealth and the refinement of manners.” Enlightenment thinkers were quick to claim that Europe was the most civilized place on the planet. They specifically focussed on the most active areas within the enlightened movement, France, Britain, and Germany. The rest of the world was inherently less civilized, ranging from Eastern Europe's underdevelopment and lack of true culture that Western Europeans saw, to the “barbarity” and “nativism” that they saw in Asia and the Americas. While Europeans had felt culturally superior since Spanish and Portuguese first contact with the native people of the Americas, Enlightenment thinkers were able to define these ideas more clearly. They were also able to provide a scientific veneer, so Europeans could in all good conscience conquer foreign lands and bring civilization to foreign lands. Though ideals of civilization became part of nearly all European societies, this would become especially true in the nineteenth century as European powers, particularly France and England, attempted to justify extending their control and dominance over peoples and colonies all over the
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