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The Age of Reason and the spread of English

What non-English speakers would have bothered to learn English in the 1700s? For study and diplomacy, the answer is practically nobody. That had changed by the 1800s: English had become a major language. The language of the United States is predominant and more people learn English than the total number of native speakers. The roots of this expansion lie in the 18th century and are inextricably linked to the literature and history of the time.

The seventeenth century had ended with a triumph of scientific thought. Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. The science then called natural philosophy began to rise above traditional philosophy and religion: it concerned itself with publicly observable phenomena and not with the subjective or desirable aspects of reality. individual human mind. Newton wrote for an international audience of educated men. He wrote in Latin.

Latin remained the international academic language of Europe. It was also the language of the Roman Church and had the prestige of the ages; and it was a necessary part of the education of every well-to-do child. The academies wrote in Latin. Diplomats wrote and spoke French, and French was the language of the European courts. Thus, in European thought, the dominant languages ​​of the 18th century were associated with two enduring institutions: the church and the monarchy.

It was these two institutions that came under particular attack during the Enlightenment. This was nothing new. The Protestants had broken with Rome because in the 16th century it arrogantly claimed to be the direct successor to the spiritual Roman Empire. The English had overthrown their monarch in the 16th century. In the 17th century the idea of ​​Rome as a community, a catholic and universal church persisted, although its geography had little to do with Rome’s secular empire, which had encompassed all of
from North Africa, along with the Middle East; while in the eighteenth century most

Points east and south of Vienna were held by the Muslim Ottomans. In fact, there was a European institution that called itself the Holy Roman Empire until 1806. Voltaire was stating the obvious when he pointed out that it was neither sacred nor Roman: it was German. But the idea of ​​Rome persisted. There were two aspects of the Roman idea that appealed to two different factions.

Rome as an empire attracted the Catholic Church and absolute monarchies. Rome as a republic attracted the attention of men who wanted to change the existing order of government and society. The imperial notion had proved extremely durable. It was more than a mixture of myths. .He had represented peace, order and security in an uncertain medieval world.