Did the enlightened despots give true freedom to their subjects?

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During the 18th century, many European monarchs became influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment. "Enlightened despots" such as Peter the Great, Leopold II, Catherine the Great, Frederick the Great, and Joseph II sought to institute Enlightenment reforms in their kingdoms. Many of these reforms increased the freedoms allotted to their subjects. For instance, the enlightened despots increased access to education, promoted religious toleration, and allowed for limited freedom of speech.

However, the enlightened despots did not give true freedom to their subjects. Although devoted to the Enlightenment, these monarchs shied away from reforms which would have reduced their personal political power and increased the political power of their subjects. Nevertheless, most historians consider enlightened despotism an important step toward integrating Enlightenment thought into Western society.

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