"The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe, that sought to mobilize the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition[1], intolerance and abuses in church and state. Originating about 1650–1700, it was sparked by philosophers Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle(1647–1706), mathematician Isaac Newton (1643–1727) and historian Voltaire (1694–1778). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as Enlightened Despotism. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, after which the emphasis on reason gave way to Romanticism's emphasis on emotion and a Counter-Enlightenment gained force."

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source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment