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Voltaire: Defender of your rights to free expression and religious practice

Widely considered one of France's greatest writers, Voltaire was born François-Marie Arouet to an upper-middle class family on November 21, 1694, in Paris, France. He is the youngest of five children born to François Arouet and Marie Marguerite Daumand. When Voltaire was just 7 years old, his mother passed away. Following her death, he grew closer to his free-thinking godfather. In 1704, Voltaire began to show promise as a writer while receiving a classical education at the Collége Louis-le-Grand, a Jesuit secondary school in Paris. Major Works Voltaire's major works fall into four categories: poetry, plays, historical works and philosophical works. His most well-known poetry includes the epic

poems Henriade (1723) and The Maid of Orleans, which he started writing in 1730, but hasn’t fully completed. Among the earliest of Voltaire's best-known plays is the tragedy Oedipus, which was first performed in 1718. Voltaire followed Oedipus with a string of dramatic tragedies, including Mariamne (1724). His Zaïre (1732), written in verse, was something of a departure from his previous tragedies. Until that point, Voltaire's tragedies had centered on a fatal flaw in the protagonist's character; the tragedy in Zaïre was the result of circumstance. Following Zaïre,Voltaire continued to write tragic plays, including Mahomet in 1736 and Nanine in 1749. Voltaire's body of writing also includes the notable historical worksThe Age of Louis XIV (1751), and Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). In Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations, Voltaire took a unique approach to tracing the progression of world civilization by focusing on social history and the arts. Voltaire's popular philosophic works took the form of the short stories Micromégas (1752) and Plato's Dream (1756), along with his famed satirical novella Candide (1759). In 1764, he published another of his most important philosophical works, Dictionnaire philosophique, an encyclopedic dictionary embracing the concepts of Enlightenment and rejecting the ideas of the Roman Catholic Church. Ideas

In fact we rarely know with certainty what Voltaire truly thought or believed; what mattered to him was the impact of what he wrote. The great crusades of the 1760s taught him to appreciate the importance of public opinion, and in popularizing the clandestine ideas of the early part of the century he played the role of the journalist. He may have been old-fashioned in his nostalgia for the classicism of the previous century, but he was wholly of his day in his consummate understanding of the medium of publishing. He manipulated the book trade to achieve maximum publicity for his ideas, and he well understood the importance of what he called ‘the portable’.