A close up of the ships outside the port Santo Domingo during a pirate attack

Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520-1820

Students could speculate on who made the objects, who used them, and how they were used. This would give them a sense of the kind of interpretive work done by historians.

Voltaire, "Internal Government" (1756)


François–Marie Arouet, who wrote under the name Voltaire, was both the best–known and most tireless advocate of the Enlightenment and also a close associate of several European kings and many French aristocrats. In his widely read history, The Age of Louis XIV, he exalted the achievements of the Bourbon monarchy, which had brought such glory and honor to France. In this passage, Voltaire lauds... Read More »

Voltaire, "On the Church of England"


Voltaire was the pen name of François–Marie Arouet (1694–1778), an Enlightenment writer known for his plays and histories and his acerbic criticism of the French Catholic Church. Although Voltaire eventually became a kind of cultural icon celebrated even by kings and ministers, he often faced harassment and persecution for his views in his early days. In Letters on England of 1733, Voltaire... Read More »

Voltaire, Selections from the Philosophical Dictionary


Voltaire was the pen name of François–Marie Arouet (1694–1778), an Enlightenment writer known for his plays and histories and his acerbic criticism of the French Catholic Church. This set of selections is from his Philosophical Dictionary of 1764. They demonstrate his range of reading, including travel literature about China, but the main target remains religious bigotry and fanaticism,... Read More »

Voltaire’s Understanding of Inequality


This passage from François–Marie Arouet, pen–named Voltaire, who was perhaps the best–known writer of the eighteenth century, illustrates the spirit of investigation of the Enlightenment. The philosophes wanted to understand the rationale behind inequality, were particularly interested if there were natural reasons for it, or if inequality came wholly from social conventions. From a well–to–do... Read More »



Among the African rituals and customs described by Moreau de Saint–Méry, none terrified white planters in Haiti more than the practice of voodoo. His description of the rituals associated with voodoo and the hold it had on the minds of the enslaved people demonstrates both his fascination with the topic and the importance he attached to it.

Winning over the Nobles


To make his new hybrid state work, Napoleon curried the favor of the old regime nobles. He needed their approval to make his empire convincing. Although he set up his own form of nobility, largely granted for exceptional military service, he wanted to amalgamate these new nobles with the old nobility of the monarchy. The memoirs of Henriette-Lucie Dillon, wife of Frédéric-Séraphin, Comte de La... Read More »

Women at the Jacobins


An observer of Jacobin club meetings in 1791, in the passage below, describes somewhat disorderly debates, in which speakers are shouted down from the rostrum and women participate openly. This is indicative of what this author sees as the "ungovernable" situation in Paris.

Women's Petition to the National Assembly


This petition was addressed to the National Assembly sometime after the October 1789 march of women on Versailles. The authors were clearly well acquainted with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, as well as with the many prior publications about the historical accomplishments of celebrated women. They were also conversant with the concept of "genre" (gender), understood as... Read More »

Women’s Participation in Riots over the Price of Sugar, February 1792


This fragment from a memoir by Charles Alexandre shows the anger of women when confronted by a sugar shortage. They readily attributed the shortage to hoarding by greedy merchants. This document also shows the new importance of colonial products such as sugar and coffee.