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The Age of Enlightenment

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The so-called long Age of Enlightenment in Europe, stretching from the mid-17th century into the 1830s, engendered new political, economic and social ideals and generated knowledge across the arts and sciences. But part of its impetus was outside of Europe. Dorinda Outram likens the European Enlightenment to" a world drama of cross-cultural contact" that "triggered anxieties" for Europeans about the nature of being civilized (Outram, 2004). To the 17th century English philosopher John Locke, an early archetype of an enlightened thinker, the discovery of the New World of America "enlarged the sphere of contemplation" about "civilized man" and his "savage ancestors" (Locke, 1690). There was more to discover. The scientific journeys of exploration around the Pacific in the 18th century by James Cook, another archetypal figure of the Enlightenment, were significant in creating the imagination and knowledge of the age. Although the Enlightenment was a European phenomenon, its scope became global as the scholars of Europe attempted to classify and order the peoples, plants and animals of other worlds as well as map their landscapes. Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith succinctly sums up the process: "They came, they saw, they named, they claimed" (Tuhiwai Smith, 2001, p. 80). 'Discovery' was the watchword of the Enlightenment (Porter, 2000), realised only by a few Europeans but imagined by many others and evident in the fashion for paintings of drawing room explorations with globes ahd maps- (see Figure 1.1). Both were introduced as teaching tools in the early 19th century infant schools.
Discovering the history of early childhood education thus starts by travelling backwards to 17th century Europe and then summarising the contradictory mix of ideas concerning exploration, empire, education, 'Englishness' and evangelism legacies of the Age of Enlightenment that spilled into…...

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