What was happening at the time that can provide insight into the motivations and perspective of the Montesquieu when he wrote The Spirit of the Laws? 

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The Spirit of the Laws (originally De l'esprit des loix) was released in 1748. It is a bit surprising that this was so far before the French Revolution, because many of the ideas in The Spirit of the Laws about liberty, republic, and constitutional government would go on to...

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The Spirit of the Laws (originally De l'esprit des loix) was released in 1748. It is a bit surprising that this was so far before the French Revolution, because many of the ideas in The Spirit of the Laws about liberty, republic, and constitutional government would go on to be vital in influencing the French Revolution. Yet it took over a generation for this revolution to really take hold.

Montesquieu was writing toward the end of what would come to be called the Ancien Regime, where France was governed by a monarchy with essentially absolute power.

The king in 1748 was Louis XV, who had been officially king for decades but only really took the reins of power on his own after the death of his mentor and chief minister in 1744. Louis XV was widely regarded as incompetent and untrustworthy, and became a symbol of all that was wrong with absolute monarchy. This was probably one of the largest influences on Montesquieu, as he tried to envision new forms of government that would be superior to monarchy and turned to what he knew about the republics of Classical Greece and Rome.

1748 was also when the War of the Austrian Secession had just concluded with a result that was not very favorable to France, further discrediting the government.

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