What is the significance of the Persian Letters? 

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osurpless | Middle School Teacher | In Training Educator

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Written in the 18th century by the Baron De Montesquieu, the Persian Letters is about two Persian nobles journeying through France. The story chiefly concerns their letters to friends and religious scholars (mullahs) about day-to-day life in Europe. The letters work as a satire of Western Christian values, French politics, Moors (black Muslims and nomads) and especially the work of John Law, who worked under the Bourbon kings on finance and other matters.

Because of its structure, it is not so much a novel as it is a collection of observations on the above topics. Highlights include religious examination of foods considered to be "unclean." The letters also often show similarities rather than focus on differences. This is a helpful technique to use because a lot of aspects of life and people are far more similar than different in the world.

The Persian Letters was immediately significant in France. The work provided a cultural critique and gave insight into different customs of foreign lands. The Letters also enjoyed a revival in the 1950s and beyond based on new perspectives on the day, such as a critical look at the home (seraglio) of Uzbek and its metaphorical nature. The 1970s also saw an examination of the themes of radical humanism, which are apparent in the work.

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