Voltaire’s “A Treatise on Tolerance”- Research Sample



You are be required to analyze multiple primary sources. The purpose of this assignment is to go beyond the textbook in depth about certain events and attitudes in history and to hone your critical thinking and writing skills.

What are the Primary and Secondary Sources?

To craft our understanding of the past, historians use two kinds of sources: primary and secondary.

Primary sources are generally first-hand accounts or records. They may have been written or created during the time period under investigation, or perhaps were written by someone who lived during that time period. Most crucially, they have not been interpreted by anyone else, though they may offer interpretations of the events they describe.

Examples of the primary sources:

Letters, diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, plays, novels, short stories, poems,

scholarly journals, newspapers, popular magazines, official memoranda, government documents, census data, religious tracts, song lyrics,

photographs, cartoon, posters, paintings, murals and etc.

Secondary Sources analyze, interpret, or comment upon primary sources. A secondary source says something about a primary sources, often illustrating patterns of recurring themes.

Perhaps the best example of a secondary source is your textbook. Open it to any chapter and read a couple of paragraphs and you will find that the authors have conducted extensive research utilizing primary sources. They have likely consulted other secondary sources as well. They have then written those paragraphs to explain what they have learned and how they understand the people and ideas of the past. The authors have interpreted the sources for you.


1.Research the Author’s Intent

__ How might the author’s background shape his/her perspective in this source?

__Why did the author create this source and who is the intended audience?


2.Historical Context and Content

__Under what historical circumstances was this source created?

__What historical facts did you learn from this source? Are these facts accurate?

__What biases might have shaped the message of this source?

__How do the ideas and values in the source differ from the ideas and values of our time?


3.Relevance of the Source

__ How might this source confirm or contradict issues raised in your textbook?

___What does this source tell you about the history of everyday life in the given country?




Voltaire “A treatise on Toleration”

Question 1:

This article is a typical example of a time when humanity was coming out of the yokes of the dark ages. With reason poking its head out of the still infant humanity. This period saw the rise of many historians and writers who were not afraid to speak out against the cruelty and misdeeds done in the name of religion. Voltaire was one such writer who was a staunch oppose of the rulings of the church. This article shows these traits along with his traits of being a polemist satire writer this article too has a tinge of satire in showing the stupidity of the decisions taken. Thus the background and the thought process of the author had a heavy impact in this.(Voltaire, ‘ A treatise on Toleration’)

This source was created to portray to the world the still present amount of savagery in men and that these should be rooted out if we are to make a great humanity. The intended audience are the general public who are recently coming out of the iron ruling of the churches and have started accepting logic as a higher ground.

Question 2:

This source was written in a time when the people were staring to take logic as a higher force to fanaticism. This was the beginning times of the renaissance and the event that truly revived humanity for the better.

The historical facts that we learned were that of the murder of Calais on base of wrong judgement and the amount of steps that were taken after that to remedy that. We also got a small glimpse of the work of Constantinople which on being unheeded led to the 300-year bloody history. This ideas and stories though said in very summarized part in this article do speak of the truth that were present in those times and also do clearly show how the inaction of people starting from your neighbours to an emperor resulted in doom in the human history. (Voltaire, ‘ A treatise on Toleration’)

The source has a clear negative impression about the church and the prevalent beliefs. The author looks into this cruelty and the so called advocacy to god through this with a light of ridicule and disgust

We have moved far from the workings of those time. Now reason is taken as the main reason for any judgement and no religion or beliefs are allowed to be taken as a valid reason in the court. Capital punishment has also become far between. Though we have truly advanced quite a lot in the right direction there is still a lot more way to go.

Question 3:

This source shows a time so steeped in religious bigotry and fanaticism that reason had to always take a back seat and innocents had to die. It also shows the huge aversion to anyone other than your religion in those times and how they used to be compared to monsters. (Voltaire, ‘ A treatise on Toleration’) It was a time when the church ruled supreme and you were only allowed to lead a life decreed by it. God can only be attained through and only by the teachings given and anything beyond that most certainly led to severe punishment. In short it was truly a dark time



Arkush, Allah (1993) ‘Voltaire on Judaism and christianity’. Retrieved on 27th January 2018

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Wikipedia ‘The great philosopher Voltaire’. Retrieved on 27th January 2018

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Voltaire ‘A treatise on toleration’ . Retrieved on 27th January 2018

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                                                                               Scientific Revolution

Question 1:

The greatest difference of the scientists and their works during the scientific revolution in comparison to the works of the scientists previously stemmed from the change in outlook between the two. While the scientist in the olden times used to think the diseases or workings of the living body as an internal and holy matter that needs to be studied and revered the new scientists looked it as a combination of external as well as internal matters working in tandem and tried to deal with both. Also, the change happened in shifting from the practice of keeping the past events as the epitome of magnificence that can only be perfected to a new approach towards the unknown future and creating or discovering something that had never been done in the past(Howard (2017) ‘Conceptual Change in Science.)


Question 2:

Some of the enlightenment ideals that were taken in by the USA primarily in the declaration of independence were i) Every people were liable and entitled to certain rights just because of the fact that they were human and ii) The rule or the government has legitimacy when the majority of the people wants to be governed

The idea of enlightenment that came into power due to the French revolutions and that was methodically rejected by both Burke as well as the American thinkers was to believe that the nature or a personality that is in a human is a product of natural rights based due to his political reason and not due to the product of living in a political society (Rasltone , Shane (2017) ‘American Enlightenement Thought’)

Question 3:

Voltaire had a deep resentment towards the Jewish and their religion and had in many of his phrases made it clear. According to him the teaching of Judaism has no effect and is morally flawed because the Jews are groups of innately corrupt people with unending greed and jealousy. He also blames the Jews for bringing in the west the cancer of Christianity. He believed that all the problems that the west faced were due to this blight brought in by the Jews (Arkush, Allah (1993) ‘Voltaire on Judaism and christianity’.)

Question 4:

There were myriads of reasons that resulted in many of the leaders during the time of the scientific revolution to be quite ambivalent towards it. Both are promoting it and also clamping down on dissenters. It can be easily seen in the life of Catherine the Great where she did promote the forward thinking of assimilating the Muslim school system into Russia but also went ahead to take extra tax from the Jewish subject. The biggest of the reason being self-preservation. The scientific revolution was the first step in reducing the power of the church under whose aegis even the rulers had to comply. This gave the rulers some freedom to even talk with the church on equal footings, but that did not mean that they would support it to the extent of political dissenters and liberals who would challenge their way of the ruling which was expressed in every step. This the ambivalent attitude .




Sankey, Howard (2017) ‘Conceptual Change in Science. Retrieved on 27th January 2018

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Rasltone , Shane (2017) ‘American Enlightenement Thought’. Retrieved on 27th January 2018

Retrieved from:


Arkush, Allah (1993) ‘Voltaire on Judaism and christianity’. Retrieved on 27th January 2018

Retrieved from:



Halstead , Susan (2017) ‘Catherine the Great and her Life’. Retrieved on 27th January 2018

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