Charlie Hebdo attack marked with Oxford anthology

First anniversary of atrocity sees words of Enlightenment figures rekindled 

January 7, 2016
Source: iStock
Leading Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire still have much to teach us

University of Oxford academics and students have marked the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with an anthology of leading Enlightenment thinkers.

Edited by Caroline Warman, lecturer in French, Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment has been issued by Open Book Publishers as a free online book, and it features the inspiring words of 40 writers, including Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu, Kant and Locke.

Like our own era, Dr Warman writes in her introduction, the 18th century was one “of political and cultural imperialism, of wars about borders and control of resources, of world-wide trade and profit based on world-wide exploitation”.

Yet it was also “a century of revolution, and of fierce debate about rights and laws, about the right to follow a religion or reject it, about policing and its limits”.

Such debates remain acutely relevant at a time when many core Enlightenment values – “education, tolerance, liberty, or even the right to have free time and to spend it in the pursuit of happiness, as defined by those individuals pursuing it and not as decreed by anyone else” – are under assault across the world.

The original edition of the anthology was produced in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity by French academics who believed that some of the most eloquent Enlightenment voices championing free speech, tolerance and equality could help to illuminate the moral and political challenges we face today.

The English-language edition, offered as “a celebration of fraternity”, includes translations by over 100 tutors and students of French from 15 Oxford colleges.

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