Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment (or often just The Enlightenment) is a rough period from about 1600-1650 to 1800 in which Europe rose in prominence, strength and especially in knowledge. Roughly speaking it was when ideas and events that were forming in the Renaissance came into their own. Maritime trade steadily improved thanks to steady improvements in the art of shipbuilding and navigation, to the point the era is often known as/overlaps with the Age of Sail, as well as new ideas on how to get a voyage off the ground as joint stock companies began to grow. Instead of a ship's captain financing a long voyage or having a patron who funded it, both of whom could be ruined by failure, hundreds of people could invest in a company with a fleet of ships spreading the risk about. This coincided with an increase in the population due to the introduction of New World Crops and other such improvement in agriculture. Both of which led to the growth of cities and the rise of literacy and the merchant classes. People to whom education was of a paramount import both for practical reasons (writing contracts, keeping inventory, managing a business empire, keeping track of world events that they could capitalize on, having a career in law) and because this could be a way of accessing the nobility by marriage who could overlook commonerhood in one with a pile of money and could act in accordance with their increasingly complex fashions and etiquette which often involved studying the Classical Period.
The result of which was that there was a growing class of wealthy people that had been politically sidelined around Europe reading up on the latest developments, sharing their ideas through letters, meetings and books and responding to others. Many of them began to question the established order of things and old dogmas such as the notion that the path to knowledge was through revealed truth and submission to religious and monarchical authority simply because they were in power. From the classical age they drew upon ideals of reason, logic and discussion but rather than just blindly accepting the words of Aristotle or Plato or replicating the "pure discussion/rhetoric" form of philosophical discourse and began backing up their claims with systematic observation and review by their peers. From their works and experiments gradually saw a new surge in Natural Philosophy which would gradually give rise to Modern Science and with it breakthroughs in in engineering.
Their efforts generated useful results in a variety of fields, which got them more patronage from the established powers. Many of the Monarchs of the time were keen on this whole Science thing and wanted in on it for practical and political gains. Who would not want to have an Enlightened Monarch with a keen eye to modernization? That said, the Merchant class was also extending its reach into the political sphere and promoted the idea that everyone (for a certain value of everyone) had rights. In England due to political dealings and dynastic squabbles the House of Commons rose in prominence in the British Government (though they did build on the precedents of previous times) by 1689. These ideas would be taken further a century latter in England's colonies during the American Revolution and further still in the French Revolution.
This has been a rather rosy description of this period so far, though there is a fair deal that should not be overlooked. Spain and Portugal both ruled over huge chunks of South America setting up garrisons, missions, mines, plantations and ports and little else to suck the regions dry of resources while the Dutch did similar horrible things to monopolize spice production. The notion of Racial Slavery arose as well as racial psuedosciences as a formalization of prejudices continuing trends starting in the Renaissance. The assholish racism due to arbitrary differences thing started here, rather than the entirely practical resource related hatred. Nations got into wars specifically to impose bullshit tariffs on each other to screw each other over. The dominant economic outlook was mercantilism, which basically said that trade was a Zero Sum Game in which someone always got screwed over so a country should always seek to screw over everyone else.
One particularly low part of the period was scurvy. This "disease" killed millions of sailors, and nobody could identify the cause. Today we know that scurvy is not a disease at all, and it is really a lack of Vitamin C, but it took till 1753 for James Lind to publish a paper on how citrus fruit and acidic foods cured and prevented scurvy and even then he wasn't entirely sure why this worked. Even then it would not be till the early Industrial Revolution that sauerkraut (which is preserved with salt and fermentation instead of heat) was issued to prevent it. We now know scurvy affected sailors because they ate entirely preserved food and, in addition to the general difficulty in preserving fruits and vegetables long term, heat, key to most preservation, destroys vitamin C. Further, vitamin C dissolves in water and is lost if the cooking water is discarded, which means even if you did have preserved food with vitamin C, boiling vegetables (one of the most common preparation methods) outside of a stew/soup will kill the nutrition value. Still even if the exact reason why was unknown, citrus fruits were eventually carried by ships to ward off scurvy. The general fruit of choice were lemons except for the British whose colones instead grew... Limes, hence why the British even to this day are known derogatory or semi-derogatory as "Limey."
"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
- – United States Constitution: Section 9, Article 8
From 1607 to 1776 England (both in terms of the English Crown and English People going to lands claimed by the Crown) had established a series of colonies on the eastern coast of North America which grew in population, wealth and general capacity. After the Seven Years' War for a variety of reasons which ranged from new taxes levied on the colony that they had no say in to pay for the entirety of said war, mercantilist policies in which Colonists were forbidden from trading with anyone other than the British home islands and could not have any industry of their own, treaties with natives whose land the colonists wanted for themselves, the quartering of soldiers in people's homes and laws which allowed Catholics to hold public offices in newly conquered Quebec unrest gradually built until it came to a head with the outbreak of war between the Colonials and the English Government and its loyalists. The Colonials threw together a rag-tag government to train and mobilize and support a new army with support from the French and eventually managed to win out against the English forces and achieve independence. After a bit more political shuffling when it became obvious that a loose confederacy would not work the United States of America was formed.
The important fact of this was that the new United States of America was a nation which was fundamentally built on Enlightenment ideals. Socially not much changed in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution, the 13 Colonies was controlled by an elite of wealthy men which were subject to the crown but mostly handled local affairs on their own with some representative government and afterwards the early US was controlled by the same elite of wealthy men alongside some representative government without having to deal with crown officials. However the system of government which was created was one which broke with the longstanding European tradition of hereditary monarchy backed by the church. The British had already employed some of these in both the Home Islands and those ideas were transplanted to American in the graftings, especially the Magna Carta, but America's Founding Fathers had no truck with kings or lords or the idea that the right to rule was bestowed on them by God which made them fundamentally better human beings. Instead governments should be accountable to their people, and the Constitution and its appended Bill of Rights would be the ultimate law of the land that no ruler could overturn.
This is not to say that they got everything right the first go. The Franchise was still limited to only White Men and even then there would be some residual property requirements which would not fully fade away until about 1830 and the issue of Slavery in particular would fester until it came to the head in the Civil War. Even so the US would be a prototype which many people would seek to emulate elsewhere politically to various degrees.
Situation in Europe
Europe experienced drastic changes in this period in both positive in negative ways. Christian world dominance and rapid rise of European powers that began with Age of Colonialism was practically cemented in this time-period. New colonial powers, such as England, France and Netherlands started to participate in colonial expansion along more traditional powers of Spain and Portugal.
This is also the time when the stagnating rival of European powers, the Ottoman Empire started its steady decline after Suleiman the Magnificent. The fact that they had a civil war due to a lack of succession protocols was a part of this, as was general conservatism, a bureaucracy which became increasingly prone to thinking exclusively in religious terms, a corrupt military and the rise of their European rivals. So naturally, everything changed when Absolutism kicked in. This is also the period when Tsardom of Russia emerged and with claim on being the Third and Final Rome, began giving regular beatings to Ottomans to centuries to come. Much of the crisis also had to do with mismanagement and general non-uniform administration and maltreatment of Christian population. Also, despite being called "Turkey" anachronistically and historically, the Ottomans were an extremely elitist state, where even the word "Turk" was associated with nomadic Turkoman or Anatolian peasants and was used in a context like we use word "retard" nowadays. Due to this, the court elite were alienated from the population of the Empire and ended up having revolts every time they didn't win a war, and had to raise taxes.
Undoubtedly, the star of Age of Enlightenment was France, which emerged as a global player and a place where practically every relevant ideology at the time originated From. First thing to note is the aforementioned Absolutism under Louis XIV, who curtailed the nobles and expanded French influence throughout the world by both wars and diplomatic pursuits. Overtime, however, absolutism practically beget ideas of Enlightenment, conceptualized by the French philosophers that opposed tyrannical rule of the monarchs, rather supporting more democratic and free states.
That is to say, not everything was all well and good at the time. Wars became more massive and deadly with more use of gunpowder. Numerous countries such as England experienced civil turmoil. Courtly lives in numerous countries such as France became vain and luxurious while lives of general population didn't change as much, causing discontent amongst the populace. And finally, the latter combined with Enlightenment, led to the events mentioned below.
The French revolution came about from various reasons; be it from the spreading of new ideas to natural disasters and mini Ice Age that increased the price of grain. However, the lion's share of the fault came with the generally decadent court life. In a financial report by Jacques Necker, minister of Finance under Louis XVI, the largest part of the state expanses were for the pensions and salaries of useless nobles, financed by taxes and works of peasants and serfs that lived like shit. France faced a large financial crisis at the time, amplified by the country's participation in numerous wars.
To deal with the issue, Louis XVI invited the traditional organ representing entire nation, the Estates General, to assemble. However, there was a simple problem with the organ: it was retarded. French society was divided into three estates: Nobles, Clergy, both of which were one to two percent of the population, and Third Estate. And each got one vote. So yes, 98% of population could not overcome the rest by voting. With that being said, some of the Nobles and Priests were also discontent with this illogical system, so when the Estates General failed, some joined the Third Estate that refused to disband. That, and the dismissal of lowborn Necker led to unrest, revolt and culminated with the storming of Bastille, signaling the French Revolution.
That is to say, at first, revolutionaries had a simple goal: establishment of a constitutional monarchy, and they guaranteed the safety of the king. However, the strong negative and outright menacing reaction from neighboring monarchies combined with the fact that Louis XVI was a fucking moron that tried to flee the country led to complete abolition of the monarchy and trial of Louis that led to his execution being decreed with one vote deciding everything. Numerous revolutionaries actually opposed the execution, mostly citing that this would lead to wars with neighboring countries.
However, a more serious concern was the fact that it would set a VERY negative precedent in general and would mark the start of much, much, much more political executions and repressions. This fear turned out to be justified, as after Louis XVI's execution, everything went downhill: The guillotine chopped off heads of numerous revolutionaries on flimsy pretense, peasants and workers lynched former nobles, militant anti-Christians desecrated churches and cathedrals and strove to remove all Christian influence, which only reinforced the hatred from pious Christian population towards the revolution which deepened the chasm in society and in general chaos took over the country. It became obvious that an iron fist was needed to bring back stability and order and such appeared, namely from a certain Corsican manlet.
Napoleon Bonaparte came in power as a Consul after the coup d'etat, declaring "Gentlemen, Revolution is over", marking the beginning of the Napoleonic era. Sadly nowadays the much more noble deeds of Napoleon are ignored. He stabilized the country, created an effective administration, ended oppression of Christianity as well as reverting several retarded reforms such as an autistic calendar, and, for Americans' eternal despair, adopted and spread the metric system. His Magnum Opus was the Napoleonic Code that forms the legal basis for numerous modern day countries. On a personal level, he is known to be honorable and respecting even to his enemies. One example is his admiration to Pyotr Bagrationi, a Georgian general that served under the Russian Empire and engaged Napoleon in Borodino.
However, he is mostly remembered for his utterly devastating wars of conquests. He invented new doctrines of warfare that concentrated on extensive usage of artillery. Later, he abolished the republic and proclaimed himself Emperor. under his rule, France engaged in numerous wars against virtually every one else in Europe, with intervention in Spain, continental blockade of Great Britain or war with Austria that abolished the Unholy German Abomination (aka. Holy Roman Empire). The most disastrous of Napoleonic wars was the invasion of the Russian Empire. While both sides engaged in battles at first, Russians eventually turned to scorched earth policy, burning their own farms and settlements to the ground and when Napoleon finally reached Moscow, he took an empty and burned city. Out of supplies, tired and being raided by Russian guerillas, Napoleon's Army, originally consisting of 650k men, returned to France with 70k. With his magnificent army gone and France drained of manpower, the French army was finally defeated by a coalition of forces at Leipzig despite the Emperor's determination.
Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was first exiled on Elbe, but after the whole 100 days accident, Napoleon was exiled to island of Saint Helene, where he spent rest of his life. Once the man that shook the very foundations of the continent, he now lived in exile and disgrace with his pride and confidence shattered. In exile, formerly atheistic Napoleon finally reconciled with the Church. When talking about religion, he also talked about how his mighty Empire founded on military prowess was shattered in pieces, while Christ's Empire founded on love with millions still ready to die for Him, basically stating that all his efforts and dreams were brought to naught. This marked the start of Congress of Vienna and subsequently, New Epoch.
Europe After Napoleon
With dawn of the Epoch, the Continent and the world was considerably changed. In this period, Europe became the dominant power of the world, but it was also devastated by constant turmoils. With the development of more efficient gunpowder and adoption of Napoleonic tactics, warfare tactics completely changed, became more deadly and unforgiving, with devastating forces of artillery being used more rapidly. The new ideologies shook the old regimes and the French Revolution sparked later revolutionary and civil movements in other countries throughout XIX century. The Congress of Vienna formalized the rule of five major powers throughout the world. After the Napoleonic Wars, although she retained her core territories, France became extremely weakened and was slowly overshadowed by the United Kingdom that was entering its Golden Age.
- This period in military history has been called "the Age of Lace Trimmed Warfare". Between muskets and field cannons, armor was gradually discarded by most soldiers while the idea of giving every soldier in your army clothes that are all the same gradually caught on. The fancier the better, since an army which still looked well dressed after a month on campaign was obviously disciplined and professional; iconic examples included the French musketeers and the English redcoats. Big blocky formations gave way to lines of soldier two or three ranks deep at most which could bring as many muskets to bear as possible supported by cavalry with sabers and pistols.
- During this period was fought the Seven Years' War, the first global conflict which saw fighting on every continent save Australia and Antarctica.
- Pretty much everywhere in the world would be affected in some way by European powers by end of the Age of Enlightenment. India would fall under the control of the British East India Company, China's economy would become reliant on Western silver, Africa would be affected by the Slave Trade and the Americas and eventually Australia would be colonized and settled. Even the Japanese who closed themselves off adopted a surprising amount of Western ideas through the Dutch in what's known as Rangaku.
- Speaking of the British East India Company, corporate warfare and piracy were rife in this era, and the line between the two was vanishingly thin. The distinction between pirate and privateer was often a matter of one's point of view, and even the proper navies were down for a bit of prize taking. The various trading companies were practically real-life Rogue Trader dynasties, with the power to raise armies and wage war in the name of profit. For example, in 621.M2 the VoC executed Exterminatus on the Banda Islands so they could import more cooperative slaves.
- In England and France at this time a few engineers were looking into more effective ways of producing thread, making cloth, casting iron for cannons and sowing seeds with various contrivances. One particular issue they had to deal with in England in particular was the matter of fuel. Wood was becoming scarce during the Enlightenment as more people were burning it and more ships were being built. To save on wood, people began burning coal in large quantities instead, but their mines had a nasty tenancy of flooding. In 1712 Thomas Newcomen made an machine which burned coal to pump them out, which James Watt would refine and improve on fifty years later.
- Crops that originated in the New World included the potato, tomato, corn, pineapple, pumpkin, peppers, tobacco, vanilla and chocolate (among others). While not a crop, all but one species of cactus (which doesn't even look like a cactus) are native to the New World. If you see these in something set before this era or cactus in a European/Asia/African desert, call someone a hack.
The appeal of the Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment is a prelude to the modern world. Its basic ideas were taking shape and growing but are not quite there yet, are still largely overshadowed by the Ancient Regime (the old order of things with kings, nobles and the Church) and they were still constrained by many limitations which had been the case since the Bronze Age. Scientists (sometimes organized into bodies such as the Royal Society) were uncovering the world's secrets and making important discoveries in the areas of biology, astronomy and physics while kings set their sights on building empires on which the sun would never set and you had grand financial chicanery such as the South Seas Company, but people still relied on guys with ox carts to bring in their daily grain and take away their crap, law enforcement was handled by gangs of thugs hired out by rich people to keep the riff-raff away from their properties and in many places when people built buildings they still used literal rule of thumb. In spite of that there was a notion of historical transformation about. By the 18th century, a people had become cognizant that they had in many ways surpassed their ancestors in numerous fields both practical and theoretical, some of whom could see that greater achievements still were yet to come.
As for a specific of the era this was a high point for the idea of Absolute Monarchy. Realms where power had been consolidated in thrones to be distributed for good service to among nobles which had become less subordinate rulers and more components in the apparatus of government. With this came the idea of the Enlightened Monarch, an educated and cultured man or woman who'd be up to date on natural philosophy with the strength and power to rationalize his/her kingdom, do away with superstition and bring in a new age of elegant humane efficiency.
This is also the height of the Age of Sail. Of tall ships of the line bristling with cannons, fast frigates and pirate ships raiding merchantmen on the high seas with all the action and swashbuckling therein. It's also a time of global reach, where a poor farmer's son might travel to burgeoning colonies, the ports of rival nations and to distant foreign parts with strange ancient civilizations if he spends time on a ship. The battles of the day with their line infantry, cuirassiers with a brace of pistols and sabers and field artillery are distinctive. The epoch was known for its massive battles and advance of artillery.
The inspiration derived by Napoleon deserves a separate mention. His entire history, from humble beginnings to expedition in Egypt to coup d'etat to becoming the Emperor that trashed everyone and everything on its path to final exile, despair and disgrace served as a great great inspiration for people throughout centuries.
Enlightenment inspired Games, Factions and Settings
While not set in our world but the Age of Sigmar, the lore of the Kharadron Overlords follows a certain pattern which caters to the Age of Enlightenment, with the coming of Chaos and the abandonment of their gods and allies being something akin to the religious wars, plagues and social strife which ravaged Europe during the late medieval ages, many duardin were forced to migrate to new territories, like the Europeans of the early modern age these refugees were forced to reevaluate their beliefs and culture, and, like them, they made a titanic intellectual leap, putting their faith no longer in traditional religious systems and absolute monarchs, but in technological development and plutocratic meritocracy. During the five centuries of the Age of Chaos the Kharadron Overlords not only survived the onslaught of the Dark Gods but thrived, building sky-cities and floating ports, developing scientific weaponry and tools based on the substance known as aether-gold and establishing tradelines among them, by the beginning of the Age of Sigmar they are arguably the most technologically advanced race of the setting, with energy-projected weaponry, armoured airships and a set of laws which allows them to pull back from doomed battles and democratically choose or demote, without shame or blood, their own leaders.
|Historical Time Periods|
|Premodern:||Stone Age - Bronze Age - Classical Period - Dark Age - High Middle Ages - Renaissance|
|Modern:||Age of Enlightenment - Industrial Revolution - The World Wars - The Cold War - Post-Cold War|