Check sibling questions
  • In the 17th and 18th century, literacy rates went up in most parts of Europe.
  • Churches set up schools in villages, carrying literacy to even peasants and artisans.
  • This made literacy rates as high as 60-80% in some parts of Europe.
  • Books began to be produced in high numbers as demand increased.
  • New forms of literature emerged.
  • Calendars also began to be printed.
  • In England, Chapbooks began to be sold by Chapmen. They were sold for 1 penny , so that even the poor could buy them.
  • CHAPBOOKS - pocket sized books that are sold by travelling pedlars/chapmen . Became popular after 16th century, print revolution.
  • In France, ‘ Biliotheque Bleue’ were low priced small books printed on poor quality paper and bound in cheap blue covers.
  • Books were of various sizes, serving many purposes and interests.
  • Newspapers and Journals began to be printed carrying information about wars, trade as well as development.
  • The ideas of scientists and philosophers also began to be printed and were accessible to people now.
  • Maps and scientific diagrams also began to be read.
  • Scientists like Newton, began to publish their discoveries.
  • Writings of thinkers like Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Rousseau were also read and printed.
  • Hence, ideas about science, reason and rationality also found its way in popular literature.


  • It was felt that books were means of spreading progress and enlightenment.
  • Books could change the world and free the people from despotism (unregulated governments) and tyranny (cruel power).
  • Louise Sebastien Mercier, novelist in 18th century, declared, ’Printing press is the most powerful engine of progress and public opinion is the force that will sweep despotism away.’
  • In his novels, Heroes are transformed by acts of reading and become enlightened.


  • It is very likely that the print had influenced the French Revolution in many ways.
  • Print popularised the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers. Their writings criticized tradition, superstition and despotism.
  • They argued for the rule of reason rather than custom and demanded rationality.
  • They attacked authority of the church and power of the state, challenging the social order based on tradition.
  • People became aware of the power of reason and recognised the need to question existing ideas and beliefs.
  • By 1780s, literature that came in mocked royalty and criticized their morality.
  • Cartoons and caricatures showed that the monarchy remained confined only in pleasures while common people suffered hardships.
  • This literature led to growth of hostile sentiments against the monarchy.

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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 13 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.