Voltaire was born in 1694 in Paris. He grew up in a middle-class family, with a legal expert father. During his youth, Voltaire studied at the Jesuit Louis-le-Grand, Paris. When he was a teenager, he was known to be intelligent, clever, and from his mouth often satire sentences. Whereas under the old government, such behavior could invite danger. And, sure enough, because his remarks contained political elements, he was eventually detained and secured in a Bastille prison. For a full year he had been huddled there.
When Voltaire returned to France, he wrote his first philosophical work, namely Lettres Philosophiques or often called Letters on the English. This book was published in 1734 and is a clear sign of the era of French renewal. In Letters on the English, Voltaire presents a pleasant general picture of the British political system along with the thoughts of John Locke and other British thinkers. The publication of the book angered the French rulers, and once again, Voltaire was expelled from Paris.
Furthermore, Voltaire lived in England and that’s where the turning point in his life happened. He began to learn to speak and write in English. So, he became accustomed to the great works of famous English people, such as John Locke, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and William Shakespeare. He also personally acquainted with most of the English scholars at that time. He was very impressed with Shakespeare, English science, and empiricism – a notion that held the need for practical experimentation rather than mere theory. But, of all, what impressed him most was the British political system. British democracy and personal freedom gave the very opposite impression of what he had witnessed in France.
Throughout the years, Voltaire’s literary works flowed unceasingly. He is truly a writer with a fantastic style and perhaps the author of the most books. The number of collections exceeds 30,000 pages, including heroic poems, lyrics, personal letters, pamphlets, novels, short stories, drama, as well as serious books about history and philosophy.
Even though there are so many of his writings, what is more important is actually the main ideas he put forward during his life. One of its most persistent stance is the absolute guarantee of freedom of speech and the press.
Another Voltaire principle is his belief in religious freedom. Throughout his career, unwavering, he opposed the intolerance of religion and the punishment associated with matters of religion. Although he basically believes in the existence of God, but he firmly opposes most religious dogmas and firmly, he says that organizations based on religion are actually a fraud. One of his most important works is a book that concerns world history, namely Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations. This book is different from the general historical description that has existed before. There are two things that make this book special. First, Voltaire recognizes that Europe is only a small part of the world as a whole, so he emphasizes some of his observations on Asian history. Second, Voltaire considers that cultural history – in general – is far more important than political history.
By itself, the book Voltaire has more to do with socio-economic conditions and the development of art than the matter of kings with all kinds of warfare. All of his books were widely distributed and read during the 18th century, so Voltaire played an important role in changing the climate of public opinion which ultimately culminated in the outbreak of the French Revolution. And, its influence is not limited to France. Americans, such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin also know his writings well.