The Age of Enlightenment and how it effects the Steampunk Genre

Historian Keith Thomas says the Enlightenment has always been contested territory. He says that its supporters:

hail it (The Age of Enlightenment) as the source of everything that is progressive about the modern world. For them, it stands for freedom of thought, rational inquiry, critical thinking, religious tolerance, political liberty, scientific achievement, the pursuit of happiness, and hope for the future.
Extract from the Wikipedia

The Age of Enlightenment is considered by Western Society to be the the era from the 1650s to the 1780s, when cultural, artistic  and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis and individualism over the traditional institutions of authority, such as the Monarchy. Groups like the Kit-Cat Club of Britain were working to improve the political agenda in relation to all the fine arts, increasing private patronage of artists, writers and intellectuals over patronage by the nobility. This was the era when the issues pertaining to women’s right were first being broached in a public arena.

Left-looking half-length portrait of a woman in a white dress

Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley and the writer of the ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’.

The Age of Enlightenment gave rise to increasing popularity of scientific Rationality. It was the leading proponents of the Enlightenment that encouraged the concept that Education was (and still is) a basic right for men and women, rich and poor. Education was seen as the main method for increasing the viability of civilization, and to assist in increasing civilization’s prosperity through technological innovation. With increased prosperity, the poor and the working class would need not resort to stealing and other crimes to merely survive.

It was upon the strong foundation of the Enlightenment that the Industrial Age rose. It changed the social order and gave rise to the Middle Class, the main beneficiaries of the Industrial Age. It has to be remembered that the culture and technology of Victorian age didn’t just pop into existence like Athena popping from Zeus’s forehead. The Victorian and Edwardian eras need to be considered in the context of the proceeding, as history is constantly threading new beads onto the thread of time, changing the patterns.

As a writer, I have done a lot of research in the Victorian era. The more I research, the more I realize I have to spread my net to really understand any era.


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Filed under Historical Personage, History, Research, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre

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