John Locke (1632-1704)

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Mr. Hildreth/American History 8

John Locke (1632-1704)

Born: August 29, 1632 in Wrington, England Died: October 28, 1704 in Oates, England Occupation: Philosopher, Writer

John Locke was born August 29, 1632, in the town of Wrington, in Somerset, a county in the south of England. His father, a Puritan and an attorney, was a strict disciplinarian who encouraged young Locke to study and think. England was in the midst of a troubled political period during Locke's childhood. Just before Locke's tenth birthday, civil war broke out in England. The war, which would last five years, was fought over the division of power between Parliament and the king. Politics was always a central topic of discussion in the Locke household. John Locke was admitted to the prestigious Westminster School in London at the age of fifteen.


Locke attended the Westminster School for five years and received a standard classical education.

He endured long days of tedious study, beginning at five o'clock each morning. The students learned Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic and memorized the works of the ancient Greek authors. Locke is said to have complained about being forced to learn things he would never use. He often admitted hating school, but he did well enough to win a scholarship to attend Christ Church College at Oxford.

The Enlightenment

Scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--such as French mathematician René Descartes and English writer Sir Francis Bacon--paved the way for a new way of learning. Bacon had even argued that scholasticism should be thrown out altogether in favor of a new system of knowledge based upon observation, experimentation, and measurement.

Although Oxford was still committed to a scholastic-based method of education, the student body in Locke's time contained some of the best minds in Europe, many of whom were rejecting...