What comes to mind when you hear the 21st century? Is it technology, culture or human rights? I think of the Encyclopédia. I believe it has been one of the most significant philosophical movements in the past 500 years—Scratch that; the most SIGNIFICANT movement. And hopefully, I can convince you to think likewise.

Significance is the means of how we describe the importance or worth of attention. Without a doubt, events like the World Wars and the Manhattan Project are globally significant and life-changing to all, but what defines the significance of something or someone.

Three subcategories help us with this problem. How notable it was at the time. How widespread and lasting the consequences were. How symbolic it is.

You can then start defining significance:

  1. Events, People, or developments would have historical significance if they resulted in change. That is, they had profound consequences, for many people, over a long period of time
  1. Events, people or developments have historical significance if they are revealing. That is, they shed light on enduring or emerging issues in historical or contemporary life.
  1. Historical significance is constructed. That is, events, people, and developments meet the criteria for historical significance only when they are shown to occupy a meaningful place in a narrative.
  1. Historical significance varies over time and from group to group

But how can something you have never heard of be of such importance? The Encyclopédia represents our western culture. Fundamentally changing how people think, this philosophical movement was centred on the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary source of knowledge. 

Most famous for representing the thought of the enlightenment. It was the Bible of modern-day society, the fuel for the Age of Enlightenment and the change everyone needed. Our society in this day and age reflects the Encyclopédia. And yet, this was only a catalyst to where the world was heading.

Published in the 1700’s it was influential in eradicating the feudal system by promoting a movement towards liberty and individual right. Playing an essential role in the intellectual foment leading to French Revolution, the ideology travelled worldwide, influencing our society to this day. It advanced the ideals of liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity constitutional government, and separation of church and state.

The Enlightenment not only revolutionized France but changed how the entire world operated. It represents our historical issues and trends. Despite the oblivious nature towards our history sparking revolutions and a significant philosophical movement, I hope I did the Encyclopédia justice by shedding light on its vital role for our modern-day civilizations.