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“An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”  

John Locke

John Locke (1632–1704), the noted English philosopher, scientist, and political theorist, was one of the leading intellectuals of his age and one of the most influential architects of the ... More

Declaration of Independence  

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was born to a distinguished and wealthy family in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1743. After attending the College of William and Mary and studying law, he served six years ... More

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen  


Like the American Declaration, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a stirring statement of Enlightenment principles concerning both the individual’s role in the state ... More

The Declaration of the Rights of Woman  

Olympe de Gouges

Women were not included among the new officeholders of Revolutionary France, nor were they members of the National Assembly, which supposedly represented all members of the country’s Third ... More

Discourse on Method  

René Descartes

René Descartes (1596–1650) is often called the “father of modern philosophy” because his systematic method of radical doubt led to a questioning of all forms of knowledge based on ... More

Federalist NO. 10 (The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection)  

James Madison

James Madison (1751–1836) was one of Virginia’s leading patriots during the Revolutionary War, was elected fourth president of United States, and led the nation during the War of 1812 with ... More

The General HIstory of New Spain  

Bernardino de Sahagún

The document included here contains descriptions of the monumental and agonizing events of the Spanish conquest of Mexico from the Aztec perspective. It was compiled at the behest and under ... More

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano  

In 1789, Olaudah Equiano published his autobiography, titled The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, written by himself. The title is most ... More

Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina de’ Medici  

Galileo Galilei

This famous letter is often cited as an early sign of Galileo’s inevitable conflict with church authorities over the Copernican system of planetary motion—and the theory’s theological, as ... More

Notes On The State of Virginia  

Thomas Jefferson

In 1781, while recovering from a fall from his horse, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) penned his Notes on the State of Virginia, a wide-ranging critical assessment of conditions in his home ... More

Reflections on the Revolution in France  

Edmund Burke

Born in Dublin to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, Edmund Burke (1729–1797) struggled to build a political career in Georgian England. Having established a reputation for ... More

Rights of Man  

Thomas Paine

As a young man in England, Thomas Paine worked a series of low-paying, menial jobs, from most of which he was quickly fired, being perceived as an uncooperative “troublemaker.” In 1774, at ... More

The Slaving Voyage of the Albion-Frigate  

Jacques Barbot

Jacques Barbot (also known as James Barbot) was born around 1650 to a Protestant family in Saint-Martin on the Ile de Re, near the French seaport of La Rochelle. Little is known about his ... More

Speeches and Letters on the Haitian Revolution  

Toussaint L’Ouverture

Toussaint L’Ouverture was the founder of the second independent nation in the New World and the leader of the most successful slave revolt in Western history. He was born on a plantation in ... More

“The Jamaica Letter”  

Simón Bolívar

Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), the eventual liberator of northern South America from Spanish control, was born in Venezuela but profoundly influenced by the culture of peninsular Spain and the ... More

“The Moral and Political Principles of Domestic Policy”  

Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), known to his contemporaries as “the Incorruptible,” remains one of the most controversial figures of the French Revolution. To his enemies, he was viewed ... More

“Torture,” from the Philosophical Dictionary  


Voltaire (the pen name of François-Marie Arouet) epitomized the Enlightenment. His Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary), the first edition of which appeared in 1764, ... More