The Enlightenment by Peter Gay (2 volumes: The Rise of Modern Paganism and The Science of Freedom) surely ranks among the most brilliant accounts of eighteenth-century philosophy ever written. It is a sweeping account of the intellectual history of the 18th century, form its origins right into the French and American Revolutions. It traces the struggle of the small clique of 'philosophes' -a dispersed group of intellectual giants such as Voltaire, Hume, Lessing and Beccaria- as they fight against corruption, superstition and ignorance, which has kept Europe slumbering since the demise of the Roman Empire. The book vividly illustrates the ideas of the 'philosophes' and how they wanted to bring their reform programs into practice, and thereby spread the ideals of liberty and the pursuit of knowledge. Peter Gay deftly describes the cultural background of the 'philosophes' and explains how they came to challenge the establishment in order to bringing about these much needed changes so as to give their ideals a chance to prevail. The book has an extensive and well-readable bibliography with many good suggestions. This account of the Enlightenment is among the best ever written in the twentieth century, along with Paul Hazard's European Thought in the 18th century and Ernst Cassirer's The Philosophy of the Enlightenment. I do recommend all to read both volumes of this book.