The Age of Enlightenment is usually said to have ended with the French Revolution, which it helped to bring about. Indeed, some see the social and political ferment of this period as being responsible for the Revolution. While embodying many of the ideals of the philosophes, the Revolution in its more violent stages, from 1792 to 1794, served to discredit these ideals temporarily in the eyes of many European contemporaries. To conservative minds the Enlightenment was too radical, while romantic writers and artists of the following period found the Enlightenment without passion or soul and heedless of the individual.
Yet the Enlightenment left a lasting heritage for the 19th and 20th centuries. It marked a key stage in the decline of the church and the growth of modern secularism. It served as the model for political and economic liberalism and for humanitarian reform throughout the 19th-century Western world. It was the watershed for the pervasive belief in the possibility and the necessity of progress that survived, if only in attenuated form, into the 20th century.
Age of Enlightenment is a term used to describe the trends in thought and letters in Europe and the American colonies during the 18th century prior to the French Revolution (1789-1799). The phrase was frequently employed by writers of the period itself, convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and a respect for humanity. The period (age of enlightenment) also often is referred to as the Age of Reason.
The Eighteenth Century Abolitionism in Europe and the European Colonies were indeed almost as strong as that in the Americas. In Europe, Great Britain had the strongest abolitionist movement. The major turning point in its development came in 1787 when Evangelical Christians joined Quakers in establishing the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Led by William Wilberforce, an Evangelical member of the British Parliament, and Thomas Clarkson, a Quaker skilled in mass organization, the society initiated petition drives, mass propaganda efforts, and lobbying in an attempt to end British involvement in slave trafficking. Although opposed by English merchants, West Indian planters, and King George III—who equated abolitionism with political radicalism—the society nevertheless managed to achieve its goal. In 1807 the British Parliament abolished the slave trade and the British, through diplomacy and the creation of a naval squadron to patrol the West African coast, began forcing other European nations to give up the trade as well.
Abolitionism fared less well in continental Europe in the 18th century. Antislavery societies in continental Europe were narrow, ineffective, elitist organizations. In France, Jacques Pierre Brissot, a supporter of the French Revolution, established the Société des Amis des Noirs (Society of the Friends of Blacks) in 1788, but this group failed in its effort against the slave trade. Despite its complete lack of success, the French antislavery effort was the strongest in continental Europe. In essence the Eighteenth Century Abolitionism in Europe and the European Colonies were one of mixed effectiveness as some countries fared better than others in terms of achieving their goals.