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François-Marie Arouet (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃swa maʁi aʁuˈwe]; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), better known by the pen name Voltaire (pronounced: [volˈtɛʁ]), was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade. Voltaire was a prolific writer and produced works in almost every literary form including plays, poetry, novels, essays, historical and scientific works, more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws and harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma and the French institutions of his day.

Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures (along with Montesquieu, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Émilie du Châtelet) whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.


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