World History 2 98 - 7.2 The Exchange of Ideas in the Public Sphere

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the role of the public sphere as a place for debate and dissent
  • Identify the role of public and private forms of expression in the Enlightenment
  • Discuss the role of universities in fostering public debate

As the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment continued over the course of the eighteenth century, new ideas about religion, political power, and the human condition proliferated alongside a growing revolutionary spirit. Helping to spread these ideas was the emergence of the public sphere, spaces beyond the home and under the control of neither the church nor the state, such as coffeehouses and taverns where people could engage in free and open intellectual exchange, without fear of retribution.

Before the late seventeenth century, public forums had been relatively uncommon in Europe outside England. But in the urban centers of the Islamic world and the trade centers of East Asia, informal spaces for conversation and political discussion, such as the many Turkish coffeehouses and the Confucian academies in Korea, were prominent features of social life. As international trade and cultural exchange increased between Europe and its Eastern neighbors during the Enlightenment, these autonomous secular spaces had a profound influence on the development of the public sphere in Europe.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax