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What topic is relevant to both the colonial era and the Age of Reason?

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It's worth keeping in mind that the age of the enlightenment coexisted with the age of colonialism. Indeed, consider how much the founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution were influenced by Enlightenment era thinkers: there is a common thread tying these two subjects together.

In any respect, I...

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It's worth keeping in mind that the age of the enlightenment coexisted with the age of colonialism. Indeed, consider how much the founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution were influenced by Enlightenment era thinkers: there is a common thread tying these two subjects together.

In any respect, I would suggest one topic of critical importance is religion. Religion was an immensely powerful force throughout the Early Modern Era (especially in the aftermath of the Reformation), and a significant subject of debate within the Enlightenment. When reading writers such as Diderot or Voltaire, you can observe a critique of organized, traditional religion as well as of the abuses of power and corruption that could be found within it. Moreover, however, the enlightenment contained criticisms that cut to the heart of Christian theology itself, and many enlightenment era thinkers turned towards the more impersonal God envisioned by deism instead.

Meanwhile, religion was key from the very earliest stages of colonial history as well, whether we are speaking about history of Spanish colonization (where conversion was a key motivator of Spanish expansion into the New World) or whether we are speaking of the English context, where many of the earliest colonizers (particularly in New England) were driven by a desire to set up their own religious communities. Later, religious enthusiasm in both England and the colonies would be reinvigorated by the impact of the Great Awakening, with its focus on intense emotional experiences (very much in contrast to the rationalism championed by the Enlightenment).

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Globalism is a topic that is relevant to both the colonial era and the Age of Reason, which is also called the Enlightenment. During this period, technological advances in European countries were enabling more and more global exploration. As European countries mapped the globe and realized how resource-rich certain parts of the earth were, such as the North and South American continents, they became interested in establishing permanent colonies in these regions. This would enable a steady supply of crops and raw materials to flow into Europe.

At the same time as the Europeans were becoming interested in fully exploiting the financial potential of remote areas of the world through colonization, rationalism and the empirical method were increasingly becoming the dominant form of knowledge. This led to a desire to classify all the different elements of the planet, including its people. Racial classifications, although now understood to be arbitrary, were then used to justify the expansion of the "superior" white "race" into areas occupied by people of different ethnicities. The Enlightenment, or age of reason, therefore provided a "perfect storm" of rationales for the conquest of non-European areas of the globe for European benefit.

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The colonial era in the United States ended in part because of the ideas of the age of reason, in other words, the Enlightenment (The Age of Reason was also the name of a three-part pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in the late 1700s and early 1800s about deism). The age of reason ushered in ideas that the colonists used to challenge the rule of the British king in the colonies. One of the most important ideas was that of the social contract, which was developed by John Locke and others. It stated that the government must have the consent of the governed. During the Enlightenment, many colonists and their leaders were swayed by this idea and decided to declare independence from Great Britain. Therefore, the age of reason brought about ideas that resulted in actions that ended the colonial era in the United States.This created the United States as its own country. 

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In the United States, the colonial era (mid-to-late 15th century) and the age of reason (c. 18th century) are separated by by about 100 years, but they still have more in common than you might think. If you're looking for just one example, the most prominent is racism or feelings of white superiority.

When the colonists began to arrive in New England (c. 1620), they were surprised to find that the land was already occupied by various Native tribes. Because the lives of 16th century Native peoples was very different from what the colonists were familiar with and seemed primitive, they believed them to be inferior to white Europeans. For example, the tribes that were on good terms with the colonists frequently tried to help them acclimate to their new environment by offering advice on farming techniques. Because they believed they were superior, the colonists rarely took this advice and struggled considerably in the early years. More broadly, the belief that white people were superior to other races was an important influence on territorial expansion, particularly throughout the 19th century.

By the age of enlightenment, British colonists had established themselves in several parts of what is now the United States. Although many things had changed over the century, feelings of white superiority and racism remained an unfortunate aspect of most colonial cultures. Despite having formed trade agreements and friendly relationships with many of the Native peoples in their areas, many colonists still held a white supremacist perspective and viewed them as inferior. Additionally, by this time slavery was an important part of the economic structure in the North and the South, which was motivated by the belief that white people were superior.

While racism is a common aspect of both periods, it's important to note that the motivations were quite different. In the early years of colonization, the colonists were virtually unable to communicate with the Native peoples and that lack of communication made them seem even stranger to the Europeans. By the age of enlightenment, many Native people spoke English, as did the slaves. In colonial era, the racism was almost a byproduct of poor communication and misunderstanding. By the age of enlightenment, however, feelings of white superiority were more commonly used as a justification for the maltreatment of non-white people.

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