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On Equiano’s Travels and the Enlightenment

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On Equiano’s Travels and the Enlightenment

On Equiano's Travels and the Enlightenment

During the eighteenth century, an age of enlightenment fell upon the people of Europe. Across the continent, knowledge and discovery spread like wildfire. During this era, an overwhelming majority of middle-class citizens became literate, partaking in various forms of high culture previously reserved exclusively to the aristocracy. At the same time, while the age of Enlightenment produced prominent theorists, thinkers, and intellectual works, it also made the common man more aware of intellectuality. With access to literature rich in revolutionary thought, the middle-class assumed an understanding of natural law that encompassed freedom, social equality, and the value of mankind. However, while Europe was taking momentous steps forward in thinking, the practice of slavery was also gaining popularity. In his narrative, Travels, Oluadah Equiano, born in the West African Kingdom of Benin, details to a European crowd the events of his capture and enslavement at the age of eleven. In an attempt to persuade them of its evils, Equiano's account draws upon the hypocrisy of European ideals of enlightenment in contrast to the dehumanizing nature of slavery.

After Louis XIV

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