Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Robert W. Reichert


It is appropriate that there should have been a reciprocal relationship between Enlightenment thought and the development of modern encyclopedias. The thirst of the Age of Reason for facts, sensory evidence, and empirical judgments was partially satisfied by a number of substantial encyclopedic compilations of human knowledge. Apart from their dated information, as encyclopedias most would now be considered deplorably partisan because of the strongly opinionated attitudes of their editors and contributors. Yet this is precisely why they are of significance to anyone seeking to understand the growth, impact, and popularization of the ideas so generally associated with the Enlightenment. Virtually all of the key figures of the era either contributed to encyclopedic ventures or certainly had their thought reflected in the articles of others. To see how much such undertakings are comprehensive intellectual histories of the epoch, three of the most influential, both considered absolutely and in their impact on one another, are here studied: Pierre Bayle's Historical and Critical Dictionary, Denis Diderot's Encyclopedia, and Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary.