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The Great Awakening and the Enlightenment
Transcript of The Great Awakening and the Enlightenment
17th century America
17th Century America
• During the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries, colonial America began to experience major changes.
• In the North, large cities began to develop as important seaports, while the southern colonies acted as a major contributor to colonial America’s economy.
• As a result of these changes, the colonial population increased exponentially with large numbers of immigrants arriving by the turn of the 18th century.
• In addition to all these economic and demographic changes colonial America also experienced two major revivals that brought lasting effects to religion, government and human nature in colonial America.
The Great Awakening
• The Enlightenment was centered in Europe- but spread to the colonies through books and the travel of wealthy and influential citizens.
• In Europe, the Enlightenment was responsible for inspiring revived interests in education, science, and literature.
• The advocates of this movement stressed the power of humans to reason so as to promote progress.
• Likewise, some clergy adopted a new liberal theology that was known as
• While it began in the 1690s, its heyday fell between 1720 and 1780.
• Locke, Newton and Blackstone figured prominently in England; Hume and Adam Smith in Scotland; Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, Descartes in France; and Kant in Germany.
The Great Awakening
• The Great Awakening was centered in America beginning in the 1720s and peaking between 1740 and 1775.
• Except for the involvement of British evangels in the Colonies, the Great Awakening was an American phenomenon—arguably the first to provide some common experience amongst all Colonies.
• The Great Awakening affected most church denominations and resulted in common views that were shared by colonists in both the North and South-- and across all races.
• The new techniques of revivalism used during the Great Awakening placed an emphasis on itinerant preaching to backcountry settlements and slave communities to bring Christianity to the slaves and to backwoods pioneers.
• Over time this practice would challenge the Anglicanism of Virginia and gave rise to the Baptist religion across the South.
• Indeed, the challenge posed to established churches by new preachers had the positive effect of reinvigorating faith in old churches too.
• When preachers like George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards came to town or to the countryside, a 20-mile radius might travel to hear them speak.
• By word of mouth, the news spread and farmers dropped their work and packed their families into wagons to go hear the Gospel.
• Overall, this movement fulfilled the public’s need for reassurance, direction and religious purpose, which otherwise was missing (especially in the South).
• As a result of the Great Awakening the importance of clergy, and authority in general, lessened and people started relying on their own conclusions.
• With this change the Great Awakening also led to the creation of different sects and denominations, which advocated religious tolerance and the questioning of authority; eventually this made it easier to challenge the authority of the King.
The Enlightenment and Great Awakening Together
The Enlightenment and Great Awakening reinforced one another across the American colonies.
While cooperation between these two movements produced some of America’s greatest institutions of higher learning- more than anything these two movements encouraged man to use logic and reason to ‘shop around’ for beliefs that best suited them.
Without these two movements combined you mos tlikely never see an American Revolution.
• New assumptions dawned upon man’s consciousness, such as: that man had the ability to control his environment; that man possessed immense rational faculty or cognitive ability; that objective Truth existed and that man could approach, if not actually know it completely.
• The Enlightenment challenged the role of religion and divine right- helping Colonial America to see that it was possible to challenge the King and his right to rule.
• The movement also ended up taking a scientific approach to the world and allowed people to see that they were important and had the ability to shape their own lives.
• With this new found belief in place new interests in education, science and literature were stimulated, and as a consequence many new colleges were founded.
fun fact: George Whitefield was cross-eyed
These two broad sets of ideas largely impacted the worldview of 18th century America prior to the American Revolution.
Impact of the Enlightenment
Impact of the Great Awakening
in other words... you cannot actually know everything.