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Europe in the 18th Century

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

Europe in the 18th Century

One of the defining characteristics of Europe in the 18th century is its descent into gross libertinism. Perhaps this was expedited by the growing use of a sheath of silk or linen for birth control, which got its name from Colonel Cundom of England. Nonetheless, Europe in the 18th century was for the first time ravaged by pandemics of venereal disease spread through rampant promiscuity.

The United States Constitution was signed in 1787—to the horror of European monarchs. The American dollar began to circulate around Europe late in the 18th century.

Scandinavia settled down into an existence of inoffensive obscurity. Spain concentrated on its colonies in South America. Spain was ruled by the Bourbon kings from 1700 to 1808—exactly the period in which it lost all pretensions of being a great and powerful nation.

Venice elected its last Doge (leader) in 1789. Eight years later, Napoleon ended the reign of Venetian Doges that had lasted almost 1100 years.

Europe in the 18th century wilted under a cacophony of criticism designed to undermine its treasured institutions and its religious beliefs. From this anti-crusade we see born modern Atheism and the Secular State—a combination that created the Terror of the French Revolution near the end of the 18th century.



The Enlightenment

One definition of The Enlightenment is a shallow and pretentious intellectualism, combined with an unreasonable contempt for authority and tradition. The so-called "Age of Reason" was also an age of naivety. Many of Europe's intellectuals granted one human faculty—Reason—far too much prominence at the expense of all the others.

The 18th century saw a sharp decline in morality across Europe. It was an age of easy scruples, marked by a relaxation of social—especially sexual—mores. As the century wore on, sexual licentiousness not only increased but philandering became routine and ostentatious. Augustus the Strong, King of Poland, fathered 300 children.

The Enlightenment thinkers suffered under the delusion that Reason alone would uncover natural law, natural morality, and natural religion. David Hume of Scotland (1711-1776) believed that the scientific method should be applied to all human affairs.

The sages of the Enlightenment proved no more objective than the clerical historians they replaced—whom they savagely ridiculed. One bias was simply replaced by another.



John Law

The Scottish financier, John Law (1671-1729), created a fever of speculation by selling paper shares in the future of the French colony of Louisiana. When the bubble burst—as all bubbles do—millions of investors, large and small, were bankrupted.

John Law was an adventurer and a financial wizard. His father was the esteemed goldsmith and banker of Edinburgh. John Law became an apprentice at his father's banking firm at age 14. He grew tall and handsome; became a man about town and heavy gambler; and he killed a man in a duel over a woman.

For this last deed, John Law was forced to leave town. He traveled around Europe, becoming well known in Venice, Hungary, and France, as an expert on European trade.

John Law convinced Louis XIV to grant him a charter for Law and Company—a bank that would issue notes backed by the value of land. This did stimulate rapid growth in industry and trade. The notes themselves quickly increased in value by 15 percent. And thus for the first time, paper notes became a common currency.

This success led to the formation of the Mississippi Company. Thousands rushed to buy stock in it, including many common folk who risked their life savings with the hope of gaining a fortune. John Law's bank began printing far too much paper money. Hard money grew scarce as the wiser people hoarded it. France was drowning in a sea of paper bank notes.

Then came the inevitable panic in which 15 people were trampled to death by mobs rushing on Law's bank to cash in their paper bills for hard currency—of which there was none to be had. The people wanted John Law hung, but the king allowed him to leave the country, and he settled in Italy.

In the meantime, news of the early success of Law's schemes had become the talk of London. Innumerable companies—including the South Sea Company—were launched and "went public." All of them promised huge profits to investors but eventually vanished into thin air to the financial ruin of a multitude of people, rich and poor and everywhere in between.

Despite these early failures; banks, credit, insurance, a national debt, a stock exchange, and speculators had become a part of the permanent landscape in Europe. Jonathan Swift saw all of this clearly as an "irreversible social and cultural transformation" featuring a new kind of wealthy man "whose whole fortunes lie in funds and stocks; so that power, which used to follow land, is now gone over into money."





Maritime Powers

Britain emerged as the foremost maritime power of Europe in the 18th century. It controlled its North American colonies until 1776, and assumed control of India through the East India Company.

Britain controlled most of the Atlantic trade, which was centered on sugar, tobacco, and slaves. Britain had seen its economy boom after it imitated the Dutch by setting up its first permanent institution of public credit, the Bank of England, in 1694.

France also had its eyes on India and North America, having established the city of New Orleans in the latter in 1715. It was inevitable that France and Britain would clash, and when they did superior British naval power would win the day.

The countries of Europe that became maritime powers waxed wealthy, far more than their inland counterparts of Central and Eastern Europe. The founding of St Petersburg in 1703 allowed Russia the access required to dominate trade in the Baltic Sea.






Two of the great figures of Russian history appear in the 18th century: Peter the Great, who reigned from 1682 to 1725; and Catherine the Great, who reigned from 1762 to 1796. Both had huge personalities, as well as extraordinary determination, energy, and physical stature.

Peter the Great was a moral monster. He founded a club he called the All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jesters, which specialized in blasphemy and sadistic torture as amusement. Peter demonstrated a colossal disregard for human suffering. He even laughed while watching his son and heir being tortured to death. He celebrated by throwing a ribald party that evening.

Peter also made it the law that Russian Orthodox priests must betray the secrets they heard in confession. Public flogging for confessed crimes became a daily feature of life in Moscow.

Nonetheless, Peter, who came to power at age 17, brought Russia into the modern world with his ambitious program of Westernizing. He imported a multitude of books from Europe and made French the language of court. He even founded an Academy of Science—though for decades all its members were foreigners as no Russians were as yet qualified.

Through 20 years of war, Peter beat back Sweden and Poland, thus vastly enlarging the size of Russia. Perhaps a million Russians died during these efforts. 500,000 Polish Slavs were forced to move to Russian estates where they were made virtual slaves (Slav serfs) to Russian officers. 300,000 people from other conquered lands were also pressed into servitude. It is from this time that Europeans developed the stereotype of Russians as uncouth drunks. Like all stereotypes this one had its basis in truth.

One of Peter's greatest achievements was the founding of St Petersburg in 1703, which for the first time gave Russia access to trade routes from the Baltic Sea. By the time he died, Russia had a standing army of 300,000 men.

Catherine the Great of Russia was a German princess. She is well remembered for her stunning ambition and gross sexual licentiousness. Catherine surely seized the throne by having her husband murdered. Rumor has it she died having sex with a horse.

Ukraine was subjugated by Russia in the 18th century. Thereafter, its traditions and language were prohibited and its ancient capital of Kiev officially presented as an old Russian city. The empty great plains were now populated with Russian and German peasant immigrants. In 1794, the magnificent port of Odessa was opened on the Black Sea. By this time, Russia had also extended its land all the way across the vast reaches of Siberia to the Pacific Ocean—and was exploring Alaska.





Grigory Potemkin

Field Marshall Prince Grigory Potemkin (1739-1791) was the Governor of New Russia in 1787 when he arranged a bit of a ruse to impress Empress Catherine. Catherine came to see how much progress Potemkin had made since wresting this new province from the Muslim Turks.

Grigory Potemkin took Catherine on a river cruise along which he arranged facades of bustling little villages along the route. The royal barge would round a bend, and actors, dressed up as peasants, would wildly cheer Empress Catherine and her entourage. After the Empress was out of sight, the facades would be moved downriver where the same actors, dressed in different outfits, would once again merrily applaud the voyagers.

Thus "Potemkin Villages" have long been part of Russian deception and disinformation. Lenin and Stalin used them to impress gullible visitors from the West, all of whom were also socialists at heart and therefore wanted to believe what was presented to them: thriving Russian towns full of peasants who were just as happy as clams. But all of them too were actors and there was nothing behind the facades.





The Habsburgs

The Habsburg family was originally from Switzerland, where they were established shortly after the year 1000. In 1278, the Habsburg family moved to Austria as its new rulers and stayed in power for well over 600 years.

Maria Theresa (1717-1780)—besides being the greatest designer of chandeliers—effectively ruled the Habsburg Empire for forty years from Vienna. She was a woman of great conscience who devoted herself to agrarian reforms and relief for the poor.

Maria Theresa also instituted huge improvements in the educational system of Hungary and founded the University of Buda. Her son, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790), is known as "the Great Reformer." He emancipated the serfs, abolished capital punishment, established religious tolerance, legalized Freemasonry, and instituted child labor laws.

The prime beneficiaries of the Habsburg Empire in the 18th century were German aristocrats who established extraordinarily rich estates in Bohemia. The native Czechs were reduced to peasants under their rule. A large Jewish community flourished in Prague.

The Austrians developed a system whereby an elite cadre of professional bureaucrats ran the Habsburg Empire. The University of Vienna saw its greatest purpose in the training of these civil servants to manage the educational system, judicial system, and the economy. Prussia soon copied the setup using the University of Halle.




Prussia rose to power in the 18th century. To stabilize its internal affairs it created a marvelously efficient bureaucratic machine. To protect itself against foreigners it created a huge army with an aristocratic officer corps commanding conscripted peasants.

Frederick the Great ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786. Immediately upon taking the throne he started 25 years of warfare. His opening gambit was to seize the Silesia region of Austria. Frederick was a military genius but he was also a brutal man.

By 1795, Prussia controlled much of Poland. Though Prussia was a German nation of Protestants, 40 percent of the population it ruled were now Catholic Slavs. And a large Jewish community had come under its rule in Poland as well.




Poland had been a sovereign nation under 31 successive kings. By the end of the 18th century it was no more. Poland was carved up and divided amongst the Russians and the Prussians—Austria also grabbed a piece.

Casimir Pulaski valiantly led an army to the field against the Russians to try to save Poland, but to no avail. He escaped to America where he fought in the American War of Independence, saved the life of George Washington, and founded the United States Calvary.





The Great Turkish War

The Muslim Turks (Ottomans) made their last great push to destroy Christian Europe in 1683. They laid siege to Vienna that year—again—but by this time Prussia and Russia had emerged as land powers in Central and Eastern Europe that saw it as their Christian duty to repel the Muslim invaders.

The Ottomans already controlled Albania and had forced its population to convert to Islam. A Muslim army under Albanian leadership first attacked Poland, but it was repulsed by John Sobieski.

The Muslims turned their attention to Vienna. With a fighting force of 200,000 men equipped with outstanding siege equipment and heavy artillery, the Muslim army besieged Vienna, which was poorly provisioned, for two months. John Sobieski, now the King of Poland, rode down with the terrific Polish Calvary and vanquished the Muslims on the 11th of September, 1683.

Thus began a gradual 200-year retreat from Europe by the Ottoman Turks. There followed three Russo-Turkish Wars—the first began in 1735 and the last ended in 1792—in which the Russians were victorious. This is how Russia came to rule the entire northern coast of the Black Sea for the first time.

But much of the region of the Balkan Mountains remained under Muslim rule. Russia managed to help free Greece from Muslim subjugation in 1769, and Serbia was set free in 1813. Bulgaria and Montenegro also escaped from Muslim oppression.

Because of Muslim domination, the Balkan states did not take part in the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment. They remained relatively uncivilized with nepotism lubricated by bribery as a way of life.




Great music was written in Europe in the 18th century. The three giants were Bach (1685-1750); Mozart (1756-1791); and Beethoven (1770-1827). Vivaldi (1675-1741) was the big name composer in Italy; Monteverdi the Italian master of the opera. And in 1741, the masterpiece of Christmas music, Messiah, was composed by George Handel.

Bach was a creator of drama in sound and the master of complexity, who was a genius at adapting music to meaning. Mozart was devoted to orderly form, harmony, and delicacy. Beethoven revolutionized music with his focus on stress and storm.

The overture became the instrumental form to express drama. Its other name was sinfonie. The word orchestra was coined to mean the place in front of the opera stage.

The prime instrument of European music, the violin, was perfected by the Italian master string instrument maker, Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737). All the master violin makers were Italians. Stradivari built violins and other stringed boxes with a power and richness of tone that have not been surpassed.

The violin is an extremely versatile instrument with outstanding melodic qualities. It is ideally suited for solos as well as the natural leader of a string group with viola, cello, and bass. As the common "fiddle," it was also used for folk and dance music. Because it is small, portable, and relatively inexpensive, the violin became the universal workhorse for all types of music, high and low.





The Novel

In 1719, English satirist Daniel DeFoe published what would become the world's first popular novel, Robinson Crusoe. Daniel DeFoe was a genius who created a powerful idea—showing instead of telling.

The other three hugely famous novels of the 18th century are Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift; Tom Jones (1749) by Henry Fielding; and Tristam Shandy (1767) by Laurence Sterne.

Jonathan Swift was a philanthropist who spent his whole life helping whomever he could—men or women, young or old, with or without talent. Swift even defended the Irish against English oppression.

What Swift loved to write about was the individual human being. He wrote that he "hates and detests all nations, professions, and communities. All my love is toward individuals—John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth."

In Gulliver's Travels Swift invents the tribal name Yahoo to wonderfully express human brutishness. The mass behavior of men is what he finds "odious." Swift follows a long line of prophets, poets, and philosophers who express love toward the individual but record the horrors of man's collective pursuits.

Jonathan Swift lived during a time of unabashed political corruption and he was close to powerful politicians. He saw politics as disgusting, full of injustice, betrayal, and jealousy. Swift believed that men should cultivate manners, morals, and sincere devotion to religion.

Swift was not opposed to science, invention, or progress but—since make believe never escaped his lash—he railed against Scientism as an attempt to use scientific methods in realms where it does not belong.



Journalism, Science, Agriculture, Economics, and Government

In the 18th century we see a new social type: the journalist. They see their proper task as to form public opinion. For the journalist and for the public, news must be striking—unexpected or scandalous.

Linnaeus of Sweden (1707-1778) created the first system for classifying plants. Throughout Europe, the 18th century saw a mania for encyclopedias. In 1768, The Encyclopaedia Britannica made its debut in Edinburgh.

In England, what were once open lands were enclosed with fences. This hurt the peasant population but created a prosperous new class of yeoman farmers and gentleman landholders. The English dramatically improved agricultural yields by pioneering methods of drainage, crop rotation, and soil nutrition, as well as plant selection and breeding.

Adam Smith of Scotland founded modern economics. He was the original absent-minded professor, rambling through the streets of Edinburgh, half-dressed, arguing with himself. Smith published his Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 and then his masterpiece The Wealth of Nations in 1776. The latter work of 900 pages explores human greed and how it can be harnessed for the good of all.

Adam Smith posited the existence of "society," in whose mechanisms all people take part. He formulated the laws of the "free market," including production, competition, supply, demand, labor, and prices. His conclusion: "Let the market alone."

The physician John Locke, who was good friends with Sir Isaac Newton, developed the idea of government through a social contract, with the principle of consent, separation of powers, as well as checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.

In Europe in the 18th century, the very concept of history was transformed from a chronicle of events to a science of causation and change. With this came a new idea—Progress. To quote Turgot in 1750: "The totality of humanity . . . moves steadily though slowly towards a great perfection."





Giambattista Vico

Giambattista Vico was one of the towering minds of the 18th century. I would venture to say he would be more famous if not for his first name.

Vico grew up in dire poverty and received hardly any schooling. His poor father sold books in Naples. Vico was an autodidact extraordinaire with an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ. His intelligence enabled him to eventually join the highest circles of learned men.

It was Giambattista Vico who posited that cultures, nations, and civilizations go through cycles: from barbarism to high civilization and back to barbarism. The more shocking part of his concept is that the second barbarism is always far worse than first, because the original barbarians have at least rudimentary virtues but after a high civilization fails there is hardly any virtue left.

According to Vico, the main reason for this is that high civilization creates crowded cities where men lose first their religion and then their morality. Manly courage, duty to one's family, and modesty fly out the window as men come to regard wealth as the measure of all things.



Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) stands as a giant among philosophers. He never once left his hometown of Konigsberg, Germany.

In 1781, Kant published his Critique of Pure Reason, in which he says "I had to abolish knowledge, in order to make room for faith." He believed that Reason must be accompanied by faith and imagination.

Kant also made clear that Art should serve morality and beauty and avoid the portrayal of nasty objects.



The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution refers primarily to the invention of power-driven machinery.

In the 18th century an agricultural revolution vastly increased crop yields. The availability of a plentiful supply of food led to a rise in population, which along with less need for farm workers led to a surplus of labor.

James Watt (1736-1819), an instrument-maker from Glasgow, perfected the steam engine in 1763. Clock-makers soon began to focus their ingenuity on all types of machinery. Then, other key factors came into place—improved methods for mining coal and for producing iron and steel. Hardened steel was needed to make machines and coal to make steam.

The 18th century saw the rise of the factory: a shortening of the word manufactory, which means produced by a man. The factory concentrated large numbers of industrial workers under one roof. The growth in factories meant a growth in large cities—first typified by Manchester, England, where cotton textiles were king.

Huge factories required enormous amounts of capital. Men with a surplus of cash reserves had to be persuaded to invest in projects that might bring great returns but always included immense risks.

The Industrial Revolution took off first only in Great Britain. Why? Britain had political stability, a rapidly rising population, plenty of entrepreneurs, a thriving network of trade, a multitude of sharp merchants, a vast supply of iron and coal, a plethora of skilled artisans, and the most prosperous farmers in the world.



The United Kingdom of Great Britain

In 1692, the Protestant Campbell Clan, backed by the English, slaughtered the Catholic Clan MacDonald at the treacherous Massacre of Glencoe. Thus started a war between the Lowlands and the Highlands—a Civil War that would break the unity of Scotland and leave it vulnerable to English conquest.

The Scots did not go quietly and their repeated uprisings lead to the destruction of the Scottish Highlands civilization. After 1746, the Gaelic language was banished, the native dress prohibited, their organizations dismantled, their leaders driven into exile. Then followed mass migrations of Scots to America, where they soon were more numerous than back in the now nearly empty Scottish Highlands. This area still has such a haunting emptiness to this day.

As for the small kilt we picture when we think of ancient Scottish culture—the "philibeg"—it was invented by an Englishman named Thomas Rawlinson in 1727.

Meanwhile over in Ireland, the English began to deny Catholics the right to hold public office, own property, acquire an education, or marry a Protestant.

The Hanovers of Germany ruled Britain for 123 years (1714-1830), through George I, II, III, & IV. It was these kings who presided over the first Industrial Revolution in the world.



Lloyds of London

Edward Lloyd ran a coffee house in London. Near the dawn of the 18th century, he began to publish a weekly bulletin that featured the latest shipping and commerce news, which morphed into an information service. Soon Lloyd's became the meeting place for merchants, traders, and people in the shipping business. Men began to meet there to form joint-ventures, as well as to buy or sell insurance.

Lloyd's of London issued its first insurance policy in 1774, and would go on to become the largest insurance association in the world. The idea of insurance is to sell security. It was first used for shipping, then for merchant inventories, and soon after for business buildings.

Before long, insurance was used to share the risk of accident, fire, poor health, and loss of life. (In 1693, Edmund Halley had developed the first actuarial tables, which he called "The Degrees of Mortality of Mankind.")




In 1717, London was home to four Masonic Lodges. The four joined together to form a "Mother Grand Lodge of the World" and elect their first "Grand Master." London became the home of an international movement. Paris got its first lodge in 1725, followed by Prague (1726), and Warsaw (1755).

The Freemasons deliberately cultivated an air of mystery about themselves by utilizing secret rituals, signs, symbols, and jargon. The compass and square, the apron and gloves, and the circle on the floor are symbolic of freemasonry's origin in medieval guilds.

The Pope issued Bulls that condemned freemasonry six times from 1738 to 1890. The Vatican considered Masons to be subversive, conspiratorial, and wicked. In the 20th century, totalitarian regimes would prove even more hostile with both Communists and Fascists sending Masons to concentration camps.

Freemasonry has had a distinguished list of members. Just to name a few there have been Churchill, Eiffel, Garibaldi, Liszt, Pushkin, Talleyrand, Wellington, Lafayette, Mozart, Haydn, Burke, Burns, Goethe, Gibbon, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Swift, and Wren.



The Right vs. the Left

The Right versus the Left is a metaphor derived from the 18th century. In France, and in most of Europe, the nobility—the most successful members of society—sat to the Right of the king during assemblies, along with the clergy. The common people sat to the Left of the king. Over time, those sitting to the Right of the king became equated with Godliness, authority, and privilege; while those seated on the Left became associated with those opposed to privilege, authority, and Godliness.

Many countries have sought to maintain an equilibrium between these two sides but according to Karl Marx the center cannot hold, and thus the Left must force the Right to capitulate or the Left will be forced to capitulate. Therefore, according to Marx, consensus, toleration, compromise, and mutual respect must be disdained as a "Bourgeois illusion."

(As a side note, Red was always the color of the Left (for the blood of revolution) and Blue the color of the Right (for conservatism) until this past decade when the American Media pulled "The Great Switch" to disassociate Leftist states from the Red of bloody socialist revolutions that left a hundred million dead in the 20th century.)



Europe in the 18th Century

My primary sources for this Hub are Europe by Norman Davies; and From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 26, 2019:

Lime ~ Thank you ever much for your awesome accolades. I suppose I wrote Hubs for a few years, all in all, publishing almost 300 pieces. How happy I am that you voiced your appreciation for this one.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 26, 2019:

William R Bowen Jr ~ Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I enjoyed your thoughtful remarks. I agree with you about Bach. I was just reading the other day that 90% of all classical music played today is by only five composers. Bach, of course, being among them.

Lime on August 25, 2013:

Wow, fantastic blog layuot! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is fantastic, let alone the content!. Thanks For Your article about LAX: Offering Free WiFi | HotelsVsHomes .

William R Bowen Jr from New Bern, NC on March 12, 2013:

The 18 century--what a rich period. Nice job of providing an overview. So who was the most important of these men for the advancement of mankind? Probably Bach--I think that his contribution to his field surpasses the contribution of others to theirs. Enjoyed reading. Very informative. Voted up.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on September 04, 2012:

phdast7— Your comment prompted me to read this essay again. I must confess that I like it too. :D

I also love old maps! Very much so. As a teenager I used to draw maps freehand, from memory, of the world, the U.S., Michigan, my county, and my hometown.

I appreciate the share very much, Theresa. It is good to make contact again. Thank you for the accolades. I am glad you took the time to read my piece.


Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on September 01, 2012:

James -- A s always, a good and very readbale survey of the 18th century. You mentioned Poland! and almost no one does. I liked that you addressed mopre than politics, but also technology, religion, economics. And what I love the most are the incredible old maps. :) I have a penchant for maps. Great piece of writing. Sharing, of course. ~~ Theresa

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 13, 2012:

sadaf kakar— Thank you very much for the accolades! Welcome to the HubPages Community.

sadaf kakar from earth on March 10, 2012:

awesome indeed. overwhelmed

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 07, 2012:

Cardisa— You are welcome. Thank you very much for coming over here to check it out.

You don't have to look at it, but I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't mention I do have a Hub of 14th Century Europe too. God Bless!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on February 06, 2012:

Thanks for pointing this to me James. Reading this I realized that I meant the 1300s or medieval times. This hub was very enlightening.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 27, 2012:

Derdriu— You are welcome indeed. I am grateful to you for hitting all the good buttons for me, as well as the Voted Up!

That Vico was quite a guy. I enjoyed learning about him and sharing what I learned. I had not heard of him before I researched this article. I always learn much more than I have the space to teach.

I am thrilled at your awesome accolades! Reading your kind comments warms the cockles of my heart. Thank you ever much for this encouraging visitation.

Faihfully Yours,


Derdriu on January 25, 2012:

James A Watkins, What an accurate, ambitious, analytical look at all things European in the 18th century! It's impressive how you cover such a range of relevant topics -- from inventions to literature, music and politico-economics. In particular, you excel at presenting events accurately without getting bogged down in unsubstantiated opinions or sources. It's a most educational, elucidating, enjoyable read which you offer admiring readers.

Thank you for sharing, voted up + all (particularly the observation on the reasons for Giambattista Vico's relative unfamiliarity to many people over time and today),


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 06, 2012:

poetvix— You are most welcome! Thank you for the voted up and for hitting all the "good" buttons for me.

This is a bit of a long Hub. I'll have to come up with a few short ones to balance that out. I don't want to become known as a long-winded gas bag! :-)

I am very appreciative of your compliments. And I surely agree with your astute analysis.

poetvix from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country. on January 05, 2012:

There is so much information here. I must commend you for being able to tie it all together and still keep it interesting. It amazes me to see the parallels between the fall of many of these countries upon a sharp decline in morality and the current situation not only in America but in many places around the globe. Thank you so much for such an interesting and informative read. It really was like a condensed semester long history class. I love it. I had to hit several buttons on this one starting with up!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 05, 2012:

Coolmon2009— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 05, 2012:

itsmonkeyboy— You are welcome. The John Law thing was not the first bubble. The 1637 "Tulip Mania" seems to have been the first "Bubble." But there is much to be learned from the story about John Law. One thing is, we continue to be startled by what really is the same old story, the same old song and dance—as if it was new.

I am glad you enjoyed reading my article. Thank you very much for the visit and your comments.

Coolmon2009 from Texas, USA on January 02, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this well written informative hub; Voted Up

itsmonkeyboy from London, UK on January 02, 2012:

Your hub is full of fascinating information on this period. Something for everyone you could say. I'm wondering if the financial 'incident' with John Law could be compared with some of today's issues, or was this more the start of it? You certainly seem to know your stuff in any case! Thank you for the interesting information.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 30, 2011:

stessily— I did not save my hand-drawn maps. I have never been a saver of anything. For years I traveled in my rock band with everything I owned in two suitcases. I wish I had saved a lot of things I have possessed. I have rarely had much storage space and I used to keep moving quite a bit.

Thank you for this nice note. How gracious you are. I wish you the Best Year ever in 2012.

James :-)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 30, 2011:

Kieran Gracie— How wonderful it must be to "live in the beautiful island of Madeira with my lovely wife Moya."

I had an aviation company for 14 years. We were an FBO, Repair Station, Flight School, Paint and Interior shop, and we sold used jets. I see you are an aviation man. I am well pleased to make your acquaintance.

By the Way—I published a Hub you might enjoy called "Cool Classic Muscle Cars."

Anyway, I digress. :D

You may certainly call my article a "thumbnail." I love your comments, especially this:

"Just look at what is happening in the cities of Britain and elsewhere. Failing moral standards, contempt for religion, disregard for authority and institutions, no value on human life or suffering ...."

Yes indeed.

Thank you for the voted up and interesting. And you are welcome.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 28, 2011:

Sueswan— Why, thank you so much! I appreciate the voted up and awesome and your kind compliments.

James :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 28, 2011:

SanneL— You are most welcome, Sannel. I hope you had a great Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

I surely appreciate the voted up and awesome. Thank you ever much for the lovely laudations as well. You are gracious to offer me such encouragement. :-)


stessily on December 27, 2011:

James, I agree with you about the Victorians; that era was an interesting time, with its discoveries, literature, art, music, etc.

Aha! A fellow map lover and a cartographer to boot! One of the reasons that I love maps so much is that I seem incapable of drawing them! So I admire enormously your youthful passion for drawing your own maps! I hope that you saved them.

Thank you for the reminder about your friend's book on William Wilberforce, one of your many hubs which I treasure for its topic and presentation. "Amazing Grace" is scooted to the top of my film and book lists.

From what I know of your heart through your writing, I am sure that your Christmas was Christ-filled. As this year ends and the next begins, may you continue to enrich lives with your writings.

All the best wishes always, Stessily

Kieran Gracie on December 27, 2011:

My (English) education was sorely lacking in any real European history, so your thumbnail - if I may call it that? - of the 18th century has filled in a host of blanks for me. Many thanks for that.

I found the details of Giambattista Vico particularly fascinating. I had never heard of him, but his analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations is frighteningly apt today. Just look at what is happening in the cities of Britain and elsewhere. Failing moral standards, contempt for religion, disregard for authority and institutions, no value on human life or suffering ....

Definitely voted Up and Interesting.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 26, 2011:

femmeflashpoint— Thank you ever much for the accolades!

I sincerely appreciate the voted up and across. But more than that, your comments have made my day! Really. You have uplifted my soul and given me such encouragement tonight that I cannot thank you enough.

I am well pleased that this article kept you in rapt attention, femme. You are a good egg.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 26, 2011:

drbj— I hope you had a Merry Christmas. And I wish you a Happy New Year and the best of all your heart might desire in 2012.

You have warmed the cockles of my heart with your lovely laudations. I cannot thank you enough for lifting my spirits in this way at this time.

Sueswan on December 26, 2011:

Hi James,

You are a great teacher of history.

Voted up and awesome.

Have a wonderful day.

SanneL from Sweden on December 25, 2011:

James -- You sure put in a lot of work in this one, phew!!

However, brilliant as always! So interesting and you do have a flair of always keeping me hanging on to your words, from start to finish. From this hub I learned more about the entire 18th century than all those hours in history class. Amazing!

Thank you, voted up and awesome.

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas,


femmeflashpoint on December 24, 2011:


You know, something about your writing that I love is your breakdown. Your graphs aren't overwhelming. They're quick and to the point, then on to the next piece of information.

I think you managed to cram the entirety of my European history class into one page that I loved reading. Your way of describing it was much better than any of my school books, and even most of my teachers, with exception to Michael Andry of North Posey Junior High School. I was lucky enough to have him for both years there. I could listen to that guy teach all day and never experience A.D.D., which is a feat. Cool thing is, your account kept my attention from start to finish as well. I just LOVE it when that happens!

Voted up and across!


drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 24, 2011:

Truth is stranger than fiction, and when you get your hands on it, James, your version of 18th century life is more entertaining and educational than any history book I have ever read. Trust me.

This was no exception. I didn't want your outstanding literary condensation to end. Another gem, my friend. The happiest of holidays to you.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

Jackie Lynnley— I think you and I and King Solomon stand in agreeance. I am glad you enjoyed this Hub. It is always good to "see" you. Thank you for coming and commenting. :-)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

Paraglider— Hello Dave! I am grateful for your remark that compliments "your forte of condensing and displaying history."

Thank you, my erudite friend. That means a lot to me coming from you.

An "axe to grind?" Me!? :D

OK. You can call me on it. I didn't intend to be "dismissive." I wanted to just be a bit "corrective." Only the galmorous side of Enlightenment Thinkers seems to be presented in history books these days. I owe this insight to Jacques Barzun—one of my favorite writers.

Human progress has come from Christians and non-Christians alike. But the former seem to get short-shrift—at least it seems that way to me.

I always enjoy your comments. Thanks again.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

Gypsy Rose Lee— Being Latvian and a former Lloyds of London employee you have strong ties to this story. Yes, I can see why Latvians are not big fans of Russians. :-)

I know that most young folks are not big history buffs. I think more people get interested as they mature. I have always loved history, since I was a boy.

I am glad you enjoy my Hubs. Thank you for the kind compliments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

Wesman Todd Shaw— Thank you for the accolades, brother. I am well pleased that you came by to read my Hub and voiced your appreciation.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

CASE1WORKER— Thank you ever much for the voted up and the kind compliments. A "master craftsman?" I love it! And I appreciate it.

I agree with you about the Industrial Revolution. I only touched on it here but if one digs that is quite a deep well. I enjoy your Historical Hubs too. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

stessily— I must confess that I absolutely love maps. I used to be somewhat of an amateur cartographer myself in fact. When I was young I would draw maps free hand of the world, the USA, Michigan, my home county and even my hometown. :)

"Sunlight and shadows." Interesting. The 18th century was a wild time. Things swung back to sanity in the 19th century, in Britain thanks to William Wilberforce, whom I have written about and about whom my friend, Eric Metaxas wrote a marvelous book about entitled "Amazing Grace."

Many folks make fun of the Victorians but I love them. Sure they failed to reach the high standards they set but the point was the striving for something higher and nobler for the human spirit—not human perfection, which cannot be in this Vale of Tears.

Your comments are always most interesting and therefore I look forward to receiving them. You did not disappoint. Thank you and you're welcome.

Merry Christmas!


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

UlrikeGrace— You are most welcome! It is great to hear from you. I share your love of history.

You have made my day with your lovely laudations. And I certainly appreciate you sharing this article with your FaceBook friends. Thank you for your blessings.

Merry Christmas!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

Kaie Arwen— So, you caught my nickname, eh? :D

I find real events to be stranger than fiction. Things happen that make me think, "You can't make this stuff up folks!"

I am so glad you enjoyed this piece—even though it is not "eggs and taters." Which I love!

Thank you for your fine comments. And you are welcome.

Merry Christmas!!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

cristina327— You are quite welcome, my dear. I surely appreciate your excellent and discerning remarks. Thank you for the kind compliments and especially for your blessings. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article.

Merry Christmas! :-)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

American_Choices— I appreciate you bringing "the BRIC countries" to my attention. I had not heard of that acronym heretofore.

Thank you very much for the accolades. It means much to me coming from such a well-educated man, who is also a fine writer.

I will come by soon to see what you've been publishing lately. It is a distinct pleasure to hear from you on this Hub.

Merry Christmas!


Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 23, 2011:

Great history lesson and enjoyable as always. To think we had trampling crowds that far back; that was shocking but I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 23, 2011:

parrster— Thank you for being my first visitor! I am glad you enjoyed this piece. I love history, too, my friend.

I appreciate your insight: "What stands out from reading this is the impact so few can have on so many"

Yes, indeed. Ain't it the truth.

I am grateful to you for the affirmation and encouragement.

Merry Christmas!

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on December 23, 2011:

Hi James, there's a lot of good stuff presented here, especially in the second half where you get into your forte of condensing and displaying history.

I think you are too dismissive of the rational philosophers though. Their groundwork on reason and scientific method made possible the industrial revolution and in fact, the whole of modernity. And you can hardly deny that most of the great advances in science, technology, medicine and the rest owe more to critical thinking than, say, to prayer, fasting or meditation.

But hey, it wouldn't be a James A Watkins hub if you didn't grind your axe a little and I didn't pop up to call you on it ;)

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on December 23, 2011:

Super, interesting and fascinating. I always enjoy your hubs and you always do such a great job on them. I can imagine a°young girl saying to her mom - but it's the 18th century mom, get with it. In that respect nothing has changed except the centuries. Now you know why we Latvians don't favor the Russians. Before Peter the Great there was Ivan the Terrible - perhaps they were cousins. In my last job in N.Y.C. I worked with Lloyd's of London so it was interesting to see when they began with insurance - I was working on marine insurance.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on December 22, 2011:

I'm near to speechless, Sir, you've created yet another essay of historical fact incorporating as much as anyone ever would or even could.

Horror of it all, and despite the bright spots - an altogether fine essay.

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on December 22, 2011:

Another wide ranging hub from a master craftsman! The thing is you make me want to go away and read. I am supposed to be reading in the 16th century! I think the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the UK is one of the most interesting facts- despite the great wealth of the country there were still so many in absolute poverty.

Great hub, voted up

stessily on December 22, 2011:

James, Those 18th century maps are works of art. Although I love earlier maps as well, their outlines oftentimes present puzzling outlines which do not have geographical clarity for me but do convey a sense of wonder and adventure. On the other hand, those 18th century maps usually are recognizable geographically for me. They convey the mixed blessings of presumed clarity with a sense of superiority in the conquest of the unknown, lacking the realization that reason does not explain everything.

The 18th century is one of sunlight and shadows. I think that it would not be a century I would choose to live in. Jane Austen made the early 19th century seem so much more interesting --- and then all those archaeological discoveries later on!

It takes quite a vision to glean the essences from one century and also to tackle different countries as well.

Your ability to communicate the breadth of your interests is impressive. Well done. Thanks for the journey.

Kind regards, Stessily

UlrikeGrace from Canada on December 22, 2011:

Wow James this was interesting. I love history...and the way you present it had me devouring every word. Oftentimes the presentation of a complete century has one gasping for water! But you have given a great snapshot of the century entailed in the cropped out picture you gave us. Wonderfully educated...thank you...posted up and re-shared on facebook...blessings to you this Christmas Season...

Kaie Arwen on December 22, 2011:

JJRBJ- This wasn't eggs and taters, but what a fantastic thing to wake up to. ;-) You never disappoint me............. the 18th Century is filled with individuals and events that changed the world............ not always pretty, but then again it never is.

Real life is so much more interesting than fiction; although I do love DeFoe's work, he's written some of my favorites. The man was an artist, and the novel was a masterpiece! Classic literature at its best...........Thanks for this- I enjoyed it from start to finish! Kaie

Cristina Santander from Manila on December 22, 2011:

Another excellent hub from you James Watkins. It is indeed very educational and very interesting. 18th century indeed is a great century which registers many great milestones in world history and events. We have to look back through these past years to appreciate how modern civilization has developed. Thank you for sharing this great wealth of information. May you be blessed today and always. Best regards.

Ken Kline from USA on December 21, 2011:


AS always, you bring history to life. You covered allot of geography. You bring the pieces of the puzzle together and explain why the industrial revolution came to Great Britain - the sociology and political structure is often left out in historical reports but this is the thread that gives the foundation to change.

These events are repeating themselves overseas. The BRIC countries are seeing unprecedented growth. The leaders of the new worlds must maintain the social and political stability in order for economic growth to continue.

You are a wonderful writer and you hit the hard subjects. Vote up and very well earned.

Richard Parr from Australia on December 21, 2011:

As always, a great pleasure to read. History is truly fascinating, and particularly the way you tell it; though not being a historian, I will have to take your word for everything written here. What stands out from reading this is the impact so few can have on so many; key figures in history who have dramatically changed its course for good or ill. Keep up the great hubs James, they, and you, are appreciated.

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