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“A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality”  

Jean Jaques Rosseau

François-Marie Arouet (who published under the pen name Voltaire) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were two of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Both somewhat cynical about the ... More

The Adventures of Telemachus  

Francois Fénelon

A Catholic priest and writer, François Fénelon (1651–1715) was enlisted by the church to preach to French Protestants (Huguenots) in order to bring them back to orthodox belief. His ... More

The Baburnama  


Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483–1530) was born a prince of Fergana in Transoxiana (modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), a region that had been conquered (briefly) by the army of Alexander the ... More

China in the Sixteenth Century  

Matteo Ricci

When European Christian missionaries first came to Ming China, they made very little progress in converting the Chinese, in large part due to their limited training in Chinese language and ... More

Civil Laws According to the Natural Order  

Jean Domat

Jean Domat (1625–1696) was a lawyer and legal scholar who served as Royal Prosecutor in the city of Clermont from 1655–1683, after which he retired to his study and dedicated himself to ... More

The Conquest of New Spain  

Bernal Díaz

In the course of the fifteenth century, the Aztecs conquered an empire centered in the Valley of Mexico (present-day Mexico City, after the drainage of most of the valley) but encompassing ... More

Discourses on Livy  

Niccolo Machiavelli

The humanist and statesman Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) is best known for his Italian treatise, The Prince, on Renaissance city-state rulers—but his Discourses on Livy better clarify his ... More

Emperor Qianlong’s Imperial Edict to King George III  

Emperor Qianlong

The reign of Qianlong (r. 1736–1795) marked both the high point and the beginning of the decline of the Qing dynasty. Several European nations, driven by their desire to corner the market ... More

Examination of Lady Jane Grey, London  

John Foxe

Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary, was born in 1537, the same year as Edward VI, the only surviving son of the king who had sought a male heir so desperately. Jane, ... More

Florence under Lorenzo di Medici  

Francesco Guicciardini

Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540) was a wealthy lawyer with good political connections. Like many such figures in the Renaissance, he also had cultural and intellectual ambitions. In his ... More

Goban Taiheiki  

Chikamatsu Monzaemon

This one-act puppet play is one of the first fictionalized (though only thinly disguised) treatments of a famous event that occurred in Tokugawa Japan in 1701–1703. The historical incident ... More

The Jesuit Relations, French North America  

Anonymous French Missionaries

The Jesuit Relations are the most important set of documents attesting the encounter between Europeans and native North Americans in the 17th century. These annual reports of French ... More

Letter of Nzinga Mbemba (Afonso I) of Kongo to the King of Portugal  

Nzinga Mbemba (Afonso I)

A Portuguese sailor came into contact with the Kingdom of Kongo, which occupied a vast territory along the Congo River in central Africa, in 1483. When he returned in 1491, he was ... More

Letter to Rousseau on the Latter’s “Discourse on the Origin of Inequaliity”  


Voltaire first met the younger Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1754. In 1755, Rousseau had written an essay entitled” The Discourse on the Origin of Inequality among Men” (but renamed by his ... More

Marina de San Miguel’s Confessions before the Inquisition, Mexico City  


The Inquisition was well established in Spain at the time of Cortés’s conquest in the 1520s. A tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition came in the conquistadors’ wake, ultimately ... More

The Mingling of Two Oceans  

Muhammad Dara Shikuh

The eldest son of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, Dara Shikuh was defeated by his younger brother in a struggle for power in 1658. The victorious brother, Muhiuddin, ruled as the ... More

Nahuatl Land Sale Documents, Mexico  


After the conquest of the Aztec imperial capital of Tenochtitlan, Spaniards turned their attention to the productive farmland in the surrounding countryside, which was inhabited by ... More

“Of Tyranny,” Two Treatises of Government  

John Locke

An English Enlightenment philosopher, John Locke (1632–1704) developed ideas of empiricism, liberalism, and classical republicanism—which influenced the American Declaration of Independence ... More

“On Natural Law,” Leviathan  

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was an English political philosopher who examined the idea of a “social contract” existing between a ruler and society. Although he upheld absolutism as a ... More

“On Ruling” and “Valedictory”  


Kangxi was the second Manchu emperor of China. Whereas his father had had to oversee the elimination of the last Ming claimants to the throne and their supporters, Kangxi had to devote his ... More