In the seventeenth century the cultural, as well as the political, hegemony of Europe passed from Italy and Spain to Holland, France, and England. Especially in literature, the France of le grand siecle set the imprint of its classical style on the West through the writings of Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Bossuet, and a host of others.
Yet those writers who exerted the greatest influence on modern culture were not exclusively French and were philosophers and scientists (see Chapter 13). Their arguments were expressed in political and economic constructs that justified or attacked the conventional wisdom of the age. In all fields of intellectual endeavor the seventeenth century saw such a remarkable flowering that historians have called it “the century of genius.”