This chapter begins by outlining the ways in which ‘Enlightenment’ has been constructed, by contemporaries, philosophers, and historians. Historical study of Enlightenment only began in earnest in the second half of the twentieth century, but developed rapidly from the 1970s, expanding its scope geographically, socially, and intellectually. Since 1989 there has been a reaction against the multiplication of ‘Enlightenments’, as historians have become anxious to defend the Enlightenment’s ‘modernity’. This chapter, however, resists the equation of Enlightenment with modernity, arguing that historical reconstruction of Europe’s Enlightenment should be grounded in its eighteenth-century contexts. Successive sections are devoted to re-assessing its contributions to the critique of religion and the defence of toleration, to the understanding of human nature, society and political economy, and to the growth of a ‘public sphere’ and the formation of ‘public opinion’. The conclusion is that there was no high road from Enlightenment to Revolution.
Although Nazism was destroyed totally and decisively at the end of World War II, the relationship of intellectuals to it as the years passed thereafter never proved simple. Its formation and evolution depended above all on two factors. First, intellectuals drew on traditions of conceptualising the nature of the Nazi ideology and Adolf Hitler's regime forged before the war: anti-fascism and anti-totalitarianism. Second, an evolving politics of recognition of the particularities of Hitler's agenda, and especially his unique animus towards the Jewish people, proved crucial. The persistence of the earliest traditions of interpreting and denouncing Nazism has been drastically understated in conventional narratives of the postwar history of Europe. It may have been surprising that Christianity, even Christian anti-totalitarianism, could enjoy a massive renaissance in the immediate postwar years, given the active and tacit support which many Christians had lent Nazism in Germany and across the continent. France's case shows that – as elsewhere in the interregnum years between World and Cold War – there was no inevitability to the anti-fascist expulsion of Jewish victimhood from perception and memory.