The Reformation in the 16th century sparked religious conflicts which would continue to divide Europe for a century afterwards. An timeline of key moments, starting in 1517, is available here. It was against this backdrop that Louis XIV signed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had allowed Protestants some religious freedom. This led to mass persecution of this religious group in France.
However, the 17th century was also a time of great evolution in the sciences, and saw the birth of a more dissident materialist philosophy, as thinkers such as John Locke came into conflict with the theistic philosophy of Leibniz.
In 1666, Louis XIV founded the Académie des sciences (Royal Academy of Sciences) to foster and promote scientific research and discovery within France. Henri Testelin’s painting depicts Colbert presenting the members of the Royal Academy of Sciences to Louis XIV. Astronomical instruments, animal skeletons, globes and maps give an indication of the scope of inquiry, as France’s brightest and best broke new ground across the scientific disciplines. The Academy continues to flourish and foster research today.