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A vote of confidence in Louis XVI? Voltaire’s Lettres chinoises, indiennes et tartares

It isn’t always possible to know what prompted Voltaire to write a particular text. The Lettres chinoises, indiennes et tartares appear to be the response from one armchair traveller and great China admirer, Voltaire (or his young Benedictine alter ego), to another armchair traveller and China detractor, Cornelius de Pauw, author of Recherches philosophiques sur les Egyptiens et les Chinois (Berlin, 1773).

Shadows at the court of the Sun King

2015 marks the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV, the Sun King, whose reign (1643-1715) defined the era of the 'Grand Siècle' and saw France rise to become the dominant player on the European stage. The Voltaire Foundation, in collaboration with the Château de Versailles, is preparing to publish Voltaire's seminal account of his reign, Le Siècle de Louis XIV (1751) to coincide with this anniversary.

East meets west in the global eighteenth century

Adam Smith, one of the eighteenth century’s most perceptive minds, claimed in The Wealth of nations that the ‘discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events in the history of mankind’. His observation illuminates one of the key issues affecting major European powers in the late eighteenth century: where to expand on the world stage?

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