teaching should be improved. New universities were established which were completely devoted to the programme of the Enlightenment, such as the University of Gottingen.
Second, for the Enlightenment, useful knowledge was no longer found only in traditional religious texts or in edifying literature. Rather, supporters of the Enlightenment produced and propagated an impressive amount of new and highly specialized literature. Many of these texts possessed a practical dimension. Such literature could address medical problems, matters of agriculture, legal reform and the like. Besides, Enlightened thinkers thought that educated people should take an interest in poetry, novels, and the theatre. While up until the early eighteenth century most texts published in Protestant Germany had been devoted to religious and theological themes, by 1750 such matters were discussed in less than 20 per cent of all publications.
Third, for many people, the legal reforms that were demanded by Enlightened writers were of more importance than anything else. In addition to the application of due legal procedures these legal reforms addressed major questions such as capital punishment or how one should deal with infanticide. Following the great Italian reformer Cesare Beccaria, German legal experts also demanded the abolition of torture as well as the abolition of capital punishment. While up until then women who had been found guilty of infanticide could not expect any mercy, the discussion now turned to the question of the guilt of those men who had seduced young women, while these women were given advice, counselling, and practical help. Furthermore, in its extreme form, the Enlightenment did not tolerate any kind of superstition. The witchcraft trials of the seventeenth century were looked upon with contempt and horror. Hence, even before 1789 many popular myths and legends were demystified. What we find particularly in Protestant Germany towards the end of the eighteenth century, therefore, is a fascinating vision of a just and tolerant society based on the rational application of law.
Fourth, Enlightened writers insisted that the reform programme should also include agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce. In these areas the Enlightenment introduced an interest in inventions and the practical application of new techniques. A telling example in this respect was the severe hunger crisis of 1770-72 caused by harvest failure in two consecutive years. In previous years of severe shortage, for example in the 1570s and in the 1690s, all commentators had implored their fellow-citizens to stop sinning, to repent and live once again the lives of good Christians so that God would cease punishing them and show mercy. In 1770-72, by contrast, the majority of those who wrote about the crisis demanded that their contemporaries use the power of
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