18th century: Revolution!

In the 18th century utopian ideas exploded into social and political action. Those seeking social change began to believe that they had right and reason on their side.

Thinkers like de Condorcet, Rousseau and Washington provided citizens with the arguments they needed to fight for a better and fairer world.

Utopia is often a secure place in which solutions to the problems of the real world can be imagined or implemented outside the mainstream, and so with minimal disruption to it. Revolution on the other hand explodes into reality. First in America, then in France, the old order was forced to make way for the new. King George III of Great Britain lost his colonies; King Louis XVI of France lost his head. Ordinary people started to take control of their lives.

  • Is revolution the only way to force utopia into reality?
  • What happens to utopian ideas when they are acted out in the real world?

The tennis court oath, Versailles, 1789

Troops fire at revolutionaries, 1789

The future progress of the human mind (text extract)

The Social Contract

The Declaration of Independence