What was integral to the spread of Enlightenment from Europe to America? A) the high literacy rates in New England colonies that enabled the settlers to read books and newspapers B) the development of plantations that encouraged more Europeans to migrate to America for gainful employment C) the arrival of the English preacher George Whitefield who toured American colonies giving sermons D) the correspondence between Britain's Royal Society and the American Philosopher Society E) The mechanistic view of the universe as postulated by the British scientist Isaac Newton

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Let's approach this multiple-choice question by a process of elimination. Option E is not the right answer, because Newton's mechanistic understanding of how the universe works had nothing to do with the spread of Enlightenment ideas, as a whole. Thinkers of the Enlightenment greatly admired Newton, it's true, but Newton himself was a deeply devout religious man whose entire worldview was radically at odds with philosophes such as Voltaire and Diderot.

The correspondence between the Royal Society and the American Philosophical Society undoubtedly facilitated the spread of Enlightenment ideas, to some extent, but both of these organizations were the preserve of an educational elite. Although literacy levels in the American colonies were high, a deep understanding of science and abstract political theory was not.

Option C can be discounted pretty quickly. George Whitefield was most certainly not an Enlightenment figure; quite the opposite, in fact. It's fair to say that Whitefield and the Great Awakening he inspired were not looked upon with any great sympathy by the likes of Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson.

Plantations may have been established to encourage European settlers, but, in actual fact, few made the journey. Plantation owners came to rely on slave labor from Africa and, naturally, this did nothing to facilitate the dissemination of Enlightenment ideals.

So that just leaves us with Option A. As mentioned earlier, literacy levels in colonial America were remarkably high. And even though most people wouldn't have been able to understand the latest proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, they did, nonetheless, have a firm grasp of the full important of Enlightenment ideas. They were able to do this because the key Enlightenment concept of government by reason, rather than authority, found practical expression in the intense political struggle between the American colonists and the British.

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Of these options, the best answer is Option A. One way to look at this is to understand why the other options are wrong.

Option B is not a good option. This is largely because the creation of plantations did not attract many Europeans to the Americas. The plantations, in fact, tended to scare Europeans away from the slave states. They wanted to go to places whose economies were not dominated by plantations worked by slaves.

Option C is not a good answer. It is not about the Enlightenment. Instead, it has to do with the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening was a major religious revival whose ideas were rather different than those of the Enlightenment.

Options D and E could be correct but they are not plausible. In order for the Enlightenment to spread, it had to be accessible to large numbers of people. Abstruse theories about the way the universe works and correspondence between learned, elite groups would not have been very effective in spreading the Enlightenment. Instead, the Enlightenment was more likely to spread if a large number of people gained the ability to read Enlightenment ideas. Thus, the best answer is Option A.

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