Voltaire (1694-1778), best remembered as the author of Candide, is one of the central actors — arguably the defining personality — of the European Enlightenment. In this Very Short Introduction, Nicholas Cronk explores Voltaire’s remarkable career and demonstrates how his thinking is pivotal to our notion and understanding of the Enlightenment.
In a fresh and modern examination of his writings, Cronk examines the nature of Voltaire’s literary celebrity, demonstrating the extent to which his work was reactive and practical, and therefore made sense within the broader context of the debates to which he responded. The most famous living author in Europe in the 18th century, Cronk emphasises Voltaire’s skills of ‘performance’ as a writer and his continued relevance today. He concludes by looking not only at Voltaire’s impact in literature and philosophy, but also his influence on French political values and modern French politics.