From Humanism to the Industrial Revolution: Key Movements and Concepts

Classified in Philosophy and ethics

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Humanism was the first cultural movement to develop an anthropocentric worldview. It defended that human beings, their intelligence and their love of knowledge were some of the main concerns of humanists, even though they were at the service of the Christian faith.


Empiricism claimed that we should not accept reasoning that could not be empirically validated through observation and experimentation.


Rationalism stated that the truths established by authority and tradition should be criticised, and that reason was the only valid criterion.


Science is knowledge obtained through observation and reasoning, with a systematic structure from which we deduce general principles and laws that can be verified experimentally.


Enlightenment was a new intellectual movement that appeared among the educated elites of the 18th century and developed until the end of the century. It brought together the ideas of the main cultural and philosophical movements of the previous centuries. It called on the individual, reason and experience as ways to overcome humanity’s problems. It was an optimistic intellectual movement that expressed hope in the future through different ideas: progress, reason and happiness.

Enlightened Despotism

Enlightened despotism was a variant of absolutism that incorporated “trickledown” reforms inspired by the Enlightenment. Their job was to rationalize how monarchies functioned to improve their administrative and institutional bodies and make them more efficient.

Fallow Method

The fallow method, a system by which some of the land was left uncultivated to allow the soil to regenerate, was eliminated.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was the gradual transition from a society based on agriculture to one based on industry. This process did not take place at the same time in every country. Economies were modernised at different speeds, so the world was classified into developed or industrialised countries, and developing countries.


The proletariat was a social class made up of industrial workers who received a wage. This class was mainly made up of people that came from the countryside to the cities looking for a job after being replaced by technological machines.

Class Society

Class society is the social stratification model typical of the liberal industrial period. Industrialisation contributed to economic inequality between individuals, so wealth became the new criterion on which social division was based. There were three classes: upper, middle class and working class.

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