Why Was Voltaire Important?

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Voltaire, along with Locke and Rousseau, was a prominent figure during the period of Enlightenment; he wrote numerous literary works, including plays, history and philosophy, and spoke out against issues including religious freedom, free trade and civil liberties. Voltaire was born in Paris, France, in 1694. He was given the name of Francois-Marie Arouet at birth but adopted the name of Voltaire as his literary career progressed.

Voltaire eventually earned a name for himself as a respected political and literary figure, although his early life differed significantly. Voltaire was the youngest of five children, and although bright, he had different intentions for himself than his father planned. Voltaire’s father insisted that Voltaire become a notary, but Voltaire instead pursued a career as a writer. He openly criticized religious intolerance and questioned government practices, which got him into trouble with local authorities and landed him in jail. Following release from one imprisonment, Voltaire produced his first play, Oedipe. The play proved popular and propelled Voltaire into the spotlight. Voltaire continued to criticize the government; he suggested his own exile to Great Britain in 1725. Voltaire ultimately returned to his native city of Paris. He died there at age 83, and his funeral procession drew millions of fans.