Baron De Montesquieu: Ideas, Accomplishments & Facts

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  • 0:02 Who Was Montesquieu?
  • 0:15 History
  • 1:45 Writing & Impact
  • 2:43 Separation of Powers
  • 4:11 Climate Theory
  • 5:01 Death
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Williams
In this lesson we will learn who Baron de Montesquieu was. Together, we will take a closer look at his history, his personal life and his legacy. We will analyze his works and the impact they have made on legal philosophy and modern-day constitutional law.

Who Was Baron de Montesquieu?

Baron de Montesquieu was a French political analyst who lived during the Age of Enlightenment. He is best known for his thoughts on the separation of powers.

Baron de Montesquieu


Born Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu, Montesquieu was born in France in January, 1689, and died in February 1755. His mother and father both had noble histories, and his mother had a large monetary fortune. After the death of his mother when he was seven years old, he was sent to study at the Catholic College of Juilly, an important school for noble French children. While in school, his father died and he was placed in the guardianship of his uncle, the Baron de Montesquieu. He attended law school, graduated, and began working as an attorney.

Montesquieu married Jeanne de Lartigue in 1715, and they eventually had one son and two daughters. In 1716, his uncle died, leaving Montesquieu his title of Baron de Montesquieu. The uncle also left Montesquieu the uncle's job as President a Mortier, a type of judgeship in the Bordeaux Parliament, and his fortune.

During Montesquieu's time in Parliament, he heard criminal proceedings and supervised prisons. He also began studying governments and laws around the world. In that era, offices, such as this judgeship, could be bought and sold or inherited. In 1721, Montesquieu sold his office so that he could concentrate on writing.

Writing & Societal Impact

In 1721, he published Persian Letters. Persian was a satire, which is a text that uses sarcasm to convey its message, playing on the ridiculousness of society from the point of view of a visitor in Paris. In 1734, he published Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans, and then in 1748, he published what is considered his most important work, The Spirit of the Laws.

In Spirit, Montesquieu analyzed the French government and the spirit behind French laws. Montesquieu wrote that French society was divided into the 'trias politica': the monarchy, the aristocracy and the commons. He stated that two types of government existed: the sovereign and the administrative. He believed that the administrative powers were divided into the executive, the judicial and the legislative. His writings detailed that the three powers should at once be separate from one another and dependent upon one another. In that way, Montesquieu believed, no power should become stronger than another. This is what is called in modern times the separation of powers. This was a radical theory because it essentially eliminated the feudalistic structure.

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