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Renaissance and Reformation The Reformation and Wars of Religion in France
by
Barbara B. Diefendorf

Introduction

The 16th century began in France as a time of relative peace, prosperity, and optimism, but horizons soon darkened under the clouds of religious schism, heresy persecutions, and civil war. French theologians condemned Martin Luther’s ideas as early as 1521, but his views continued to spread underground. The movement remained small and clandestine until the 1550s, when the penetration of John Calvin’s ideas from nearby Geneva resulted in the formation of Reformed churches, whose growing membership demanded the right to worship openly. The accidental death of King Henry II in 1559 left France with a religiously divided court and a series of young, inexperienced kings. Henry’s widow, Catherine de Medici, attempted a policy of compromise that backfired. Militancy increased on both sides of the religious divide, and civil war broke out in 1562. Neither side could secure a decisive win on the battlefield, and neither was satisfied with the compromise peace that ended the war. Indeed, war broke out seven more times before a more lasting peace was secured by the first Bourbon king, Henry IV, with the Edict of Nantes in 1598. The edict set the terms for religious coexistence, allowing French Protestants limited rights to worship and certain protections under the law. It also fostered the spread of a movement already underway for the renewal of Catholic spirituality and reform of Catholic church institutions in France. Until the 1970s, the civil and religious wars that afflicted France through the second half of the 16th century were viewed largely as the consequence of political rivalries that spun out of control following the death of King Henry II. More recently, historians have shifted their attention to the social and cultural contexts in which the wars took place, particularly to the fundamentally religious nature of the quarrels. This has led to a profusion of new scholarship on the impact of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in France, the tensions—and ultimately the violence—generated by competing claims to religious truth, and the difficulty of resolving the quarrels or putting an end to the wars that resulted from them.

General Overviews

Holt 2002 contains thematic essays on the French state and its social and economic structures, as well as fuller treatment of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations than most introductory works. Salmon 1975 weaves the Wars of Religion into a more complex narrative of social crisis and change. This book remains an important resource for scholars, but it may prove too difficult and detailed for those new to the field. Mariéjol 1983 remains useful for its narrative of events and is now available online. Crouzet 2008 emphasizes the religious dimensions of the wars and does not attempt a detailed chronological narrative. Greengrass 1995 focuses on the impact of the wars and the process of recovery under Henry IV.

  • Crouzet, Denis. Dieu en ses royaumes: Une histoire des guerres de religion. Seyssel, France: Champ Vallon, 2008.

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    Interprets the Wars of Religion as the product of religious anguish and attempts to lay out the underlying religious “imagination” that motivated the conflicts, rather than laying out a narrative of events. As such, this is a difficult book for readers lacking background in the subject matter.

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  • Greengrass, Mark. France in the Age of Henri IV: The Struggle for Stability. 2d ed. London: Longman, 1995.

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    Surveys the situation as France emerged from the Wars of Religion and then focuses on the restoration of royal authority under Henry IV; especially strong on the problem of religious coexistence and the work of financial and economic recovery.

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  • Holt, Mack P., ed. Renaissance and Reformation France, 1500–1648. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    A topical and thematic approach to the subject, with essays by six American historians of early modern France. Chapters on “Religion and the Sacred,” “The Wars of Religion,” and “Catholic Reform and Religious Coexistence” are especially relevant here, but those on the French monarchy, society, and economy offer useful background and context.

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  • Mariéjol, Jean-Hippolyte. La Réforme et la Ligue: l’édit de Nantes, 1559–1598. Paris: Tallandier, 1983.

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    First published in 1904 as a volume in the classic Histoire de France depuis les origines jusqu’à la Révolution, edited by Ernest Lavisse. Still useful for its detailed account of royal politics, events leading up to the Wars of Religion, and the wars themselves. Available online from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

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  • Salmon, John H. M. Society in Crisis: France in the Sixteenth Century. London: E. Benn, 1975.

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    Reflecting social history approaches dominant at the time it was written, this book begins with a description and analysis of French social structures and political and religious institutions. It then moves on to blend narrative and analysis in its account of the wars themselves. Not an easy book but still considered by many to be the best history of the wars in English.

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Textbooks

Baumgartner 1995 and Knecht 2001 offer reliable introductions to 16th-century France. Holt 2005 and Knecht 2000 offer the best narrative treatments of the Wars of Religion in France. Both are well informed by recent scholarship, and both—but especially Holt 2005—are accessible to readers lacking prior knowledge of the period. Holt sets his study in a broader chronological context and places more emphasis on the social, cultural, and religious contexts of the wars. Knecht 2001 focuses more on the political and military dimensions of the wars. Jouanna 2006 is also a good introductory text that synthesizes recent controversies and interpretations well.

  • Baumgartner, Frederic J. France in the Sixteenth Century. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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    A topically ordered introductory survey, organized chronologically in three parts. Part one covers the early Renaissance (1484–1530); part two, the period leading up to the Wars of Religion (1530–1562); and part three, the wars themselves (1562–1614). Each part has chapters on the monarchy, the church, the nobility, the people, justice, and culture.

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  • Holt, Mack P. The French Wars of Religion, 1562–1629. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    A clear, concise introduction to the subject. Without neglecting political and socioeconomic factors, the book accords a larger place to the religious dimensions of the conflicts than do previous histories, and it extends the usual chronology of the Wars of Religion to include the noble revolts that resulted in the permanent loss of Protestant military power.

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  • Jouanna, Arlette. La France du XVIe siècle: 1483–1598. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2006.

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    A good introductory text by a noted French specialist on the Wars of Religion.

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  • Knecht, Robert J. The French Civil Wars, 1562–1598. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2000.

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    Clearly written and well documented, this history of the wars ably synthesizes recent scholarship into a readable narrative. A good introduction, it can also point the way to further research. Good coverage of military dimensions of the wars.

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  • Knecht, Robert J. The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France, 1483–1610. 2d ed. London: Blackwell, 2001.

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    A sound and readable narrative introduction to 16th-century France, with good general coverage of the Wars of Religion, their causes, and their consequences. Relatively brief treatment of the spread of Protestantism, with even less on Catholic reform. Includes an extensive guide to further reading.

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Reference Works

Although not limited to France, Hillerbrand 1996 has very good general coverage of both historical and theological dimensions of the Reformation era. Jouanna 1998 focuses more narrowly on the Wars of Religion and, for those who read French, offers more detailed coverage of participants and events. The entries on France in Hsia 2004 and Whitford 2007 cover much the same ground as this bibliography but in essay form. Both books also contain useful essays on related topics.

  • Hillerbrand, Hans J, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. 4 vols. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    Essays on “France” by Marc Venard and “Wars of Religion” by J. H. M. Salmon offer good introductory treatments and bibliographies for these subjects. Also useful for coverage of major political and religious figures, movements, and events, as well as theological issues and debates.

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  • Hsia, R. Po-Chia, ed. A Companion to the Reformation World. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

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    In addition to the essay titled “The Religious Wars in France,” chapters on “Dissent and Heresy,” “Society and Piety,” “Female Religious Orders,” “Making Peace,” “Martyrs and Saints,” and “Coexistence, Conflict, and the Practice of Toleration” offer useful overviews of recent historical thinking on subjects relevant to the French case.

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  • Jouanna, Arlette, et al. Histoire et dictionnaire des guerres de religion. Paris: R. Laffont, 1998.

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    Contains introductory essays on the Wars of Religion and the broader historical context for these wars; a dictionary with coverage of persons, places, and events; a chronology of the wars; and a list of sources and bibliography.

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  • Whitford, David, ed. Reformation and Early Modern Europe: A Guide to Research. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2007.

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    In addition to the essay on France, chapters on “Early Modern Catholicism,” “Confessionalization,” “Popular Religion,” “Society and the Sexes,” and “Books and Printing” offer summaries of the state of research on questions relevant to the study of the French Wars of Religion.

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Bibliographies

The sources listed under Reference Works all contain guides to further reading and bibliographies of recent scholarship. For scholars intending serious research in 16th-century French sources, the following bibliographies will also be helpful. Originally published nearly a century ago, Hauser 1967 is old but still useful for topical research. Pettegree, et al. 2007 is the most complete available list of 16th-century books in French, along with their locations in France, Britain, and the United States. French Books before 1601 is an extensive collection of early French books that have been microfilmed and are available through certain academic libraries. Though supplanted as a bibliography, Lindsay and Neu 1969 remains useful as a chronological list of 16th-century pamphlets available on microfilm in American libraries.

  • French Books before 1601. New York: Norman Ross, 1965–.

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    An extensive microfilm collection containing more than 2,500 titles and based on early French books in the collection of the British Museum. Originally published by General Microfilm Company and now published by Norman Ross Publishing. Available by interlibrary loan through the Center for Research Libraries. A catalog for the collection is available online.

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  • Hauser, Henri. Les sources de l’histoire de France: XVIe siècle (1494–1610). 4 vols. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1967.

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    A reprint of the Paris edition of 1906–1915, this remains an essential guide to published primary sources for 16th-century France. Arranged chronologically by topic, volume 3 treats the Wars of Religion and volume 4 deals with Henry IV. Local and regional materials, memoirs, diaries, and other primary sources are included.

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  • Lindsay, Robert O., and John Neu, eds. French Political Pamphlets, 1547–1648: A Catalog of Major Collections in American Libraries. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.

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    An extensive bibliography and finding list, organized by date, of pamphlet literature held by US libraries from the era of the Wars of Religion. Entries belonging to the Newberry Library in Chicago have been microfilmed and are available in a number of major university libraries.

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  • Pettegree, Andrew, Malcolm Walsby, and Alexander Wilkinson, eds. French Vernacular Books: Books Published in the French Language before 1601. 2 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

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    Catalogues more than fifty thousand 16th-century French books discovered in more than 450 libraries in continental Europe, Britain, and the United States. An essential finding list, as many of these books deal with subjects related to the Wars of Religion. Two-fifths of the books listed exist in only one copy, often in small collections outside of France.

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Collections of Documents

Only two collections of documents exist in English. Potter 1998 is more inclusive, while Diefendorf 2009 is more focused. Both consist largely of previously untranslated source materials that range from private memoirs and letters to polemics, governmental proclamations, and administrative documents.

  • Diefendorf, Barbara B. The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

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    Focuses on the mass murder of French Protestants that occurred in Paris and the provinces in 1572. The selected documents illuminate the deepening religious divide in France and the outbreak and recurrence of religious war, as well as examining the massacre itself and tracing its short- and long-term repercussions.

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  • Potter, David, ed. and trans. The French Wars of Religion: Selected Documents. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.

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    The documents included here underscore the impact of both aristocratic conspiracy and religious passion as causal elements in the wars. Major themes include France on the eve of the wars, the early wars, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the wars of the Holy League, and Henry IV’s pacification of the kingdom. Organized chronologically.

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Church, King, and Nation

The sources listed under General Overviews give good but limited introductions to the institutions of the French monarchy. Mousnier 1979–1984 is still the best work in English on French institutions in the Old Regime. Barbiche 1999 is a more compact introduction. Neither deals specifically with the era of the Wars of Religion, however. Parsons 2004 and Tallon 2002 look at the relationship between the French Catholic (or Gallican) Church, the papacy, and the Crown, while Tallon 1997 examines France’s role in the Council of Trent. Daubresse 2005 examines relations between the high court of Parlement and the Crown under the last Valois monarchs; De Waele 2000 examines relations between the court and Henry IV. Harding 1978 looks at the military governors.

  • Barbiche, Bernard. Les institutions de la monarchie française à l’époque moderne. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1999.

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    A good treatment of the exercise of royal authority in France, including both the nature of this authority and the institutions through which it was exercised, both at the center and in the provinces. Good bibliographies of recent monographs follow each chapter.

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  • Daubresse, Sylvie. Le Parlement de Paris ou la voix de la raison (1559–1589). Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 2005.

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    Examines Parlement’s handling of the questions of religious uniformity and royal finances during the religious wars, moderating the usual view of conflicted relations between the court and the Crown.

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  • De Waele, Michel. Les Relations entre le Parlement de Paris et Henri IV. Paris: Publisud, 2000.

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    Examines Henry IV’s troubled relations with Parlement, which divided into royalist and Leaguer factions during the wars of the Holy League.

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  • Harding, Robert R. Anatomy of a Power Elite: The Provincial Governors of Early Modern France. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978.

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    Examines the great aristocrats who served as the king’s governors and military leaders for French provinces, which gave them a key role in the Wars of Religion.

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  • Mounsier, Roland. The Institutions of France under the Absolute Monarchy, 1598–1789. 2 vols. Translated by Brian Pearce and Arthur Goldhamer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979–1984.

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    Mousnier has been criticized for his relatively static depiction of France as a “society of orders.” This nevertheless remains the best overview of social structures and monarchical institutions available in English.

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  • Parsons, Jotham. A Church in the Republic: Gallicanism and Political Ideology in Renaissance France. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2004.

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    Examines the attempt of learned jurists to reconsider and rearticulate the proper relationship between church and state through and after the Wars of Religion.

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  • Tallon, Alain. La France et le concile de Trente, 1518–1563. Rome: École française de Rome, 1997.

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    A detailed and intensive scholarly account of France’s role in the Council of Trent.

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  • Tallon, Alain. Conscience nationale et sentiment religieux en France au XVIe siècle: Essai sur la vision gallicane du monde. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2002.

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    Examines ideas about the relationship between the monarchy and the church, including the king’s responsibility for a national reform and relationship with the papacy, as well as the impact of humanist scholarship and religious dissent on traditional French ideas of themselves as a chosen people. An advanced-level treatment of the subject.

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The Valois Kings and Catherine de Medici

There are no biographies in English of the kings who ruled France during the first decades of the religious wars. Queen Mother Catherine de Medici, the power behind the throne during this period, has received more attention. Crouzet 2005 and Wanegffelen 2005 offer revisionist portraits of the queen mother, who has too often been blamed for the era’s troubles. The judgment of Knecht 1998 is more negative. Catherine’s third son, Henry III (ruled 1574–1589) has also traditionally been much maligned, but he is treated more kindly in Boucher 2007, Greengrass 2007, and Le Roux 2001, all of which stress his desire to reconcile and pacify his realm. Le Roux 2006 deals with the events leading up to Henry’s assassination, and Sauzet 1992 contains a number of articles on different dimensions of his rule.

  • Boucher, Jacqueline. Société et mentalités autour de Henri III. Paris: Champion, 2007.

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    Deals with the court and courtiers around Henri III, but also with the king himself and the personality characteristics that tended to obscure his attempts to reconcile religious differences and promote peace in the kingdom.

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  • Crouzet, Denis. Le haut cœur de Catherine de Médicis: Une raison politique au temps de la Saint-Barthélemy. Paris: Albin Michel, 2005.

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    Not a traditional biography, but rather an attempt to understand Catherine as a proud and intelligent political strategist, strongly persuaded of the need to ensure peace in the kingdom—even to the point of justifying the use of violence to this end.

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  • Greengrass, Mark. Governing Passions: Peace and Reform in the French Kingdom, 1576–1585. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A major reinterpretation of a neglected period, the reign of Henry III, that convincingly asserts the importance of debates about governmental reform and religious pluralism, despite the very limited success in actually achieving either lasting reform or peace. An important work, but one that requires good prior knowledge of the period.

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  • Knecht, Robert J. Catherine De’ Medici. Profiles in Power Series. London: Longman, 1998.

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    A broad-based and accessible biography that also serves as a history of government and the court. While not as negative a portrait as some, it nevertheless depicts Catherine as a schemer lacking in principles and guilty of misjudgments that had serious consequences for the monarchy.

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  • Le Roux, Nicolas. La faveur du roi: Mignons et courtisans au temps des derniers Valois (vers 1547–vers 1589). Seyssel, France: Champ Vallon, 2001.

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    A fine study of the role that royal favorites played in helping to govern France between the reigns of Henry II (1547–1559) and his third son, Henry III (1574–1589). Most detailed for the latter, who relied less on great aristocrats and more on second-tier nobles whose personal loyalty he could trust.

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  • Le Roux, Nicolas. Un régicide au nom de Dieu: L’assassinat d’Henri III. Paris: Gallimard, 2006.

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    Sets the extremist hatreds that led to the assassination of Henri III on 1 August 1589 into the context of the king’s frustrated attempts to bring peace and harmony to his troubled kingdom.

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  • Sauzet, Robert, ed. Henri III et son temps: Actes du colloque international du Centre de la Renaissance de Tours, Octobre 1989. Paris: J. Vrin, 1992.

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    A collection of all-too brief articles by distinguished specialists reappraising different dimensions of the reign of this ill-reputed king.

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  • Wanegffelen, Thierry. Catherine de Médicis: Le pouvoir au féminin. Paris: Éditions Payot et Rivages, 2005.

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    A revisionist biography depicting Catherine as an able politician intent on peace and reconciliation in a misogynistic age.

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Henry IV

By any standard, the first Bourbon king, Henry IV (r. 1589–1610), played a key role in the French Wars of Religion, first as a Protestant leader and then, after converting to Catholicism in 1593 to secure the throne he inherited on the death of Henry III in 1589, as a Catholic king. Pitts 2009 incorporates new research unavailable in the previously standard accounts of Buisseret 1984 and Babelon 1982. Henry’s conversion in 1593 gets more detailed analysis in Wolfe 1993 and Love 2001, his policies as a Catholic king are addressed in Forrestal and Nelson 2009, and the debate over tyrannicide implicated in his assassination in 1610 is the subject of Mousnier 1973.

  • Babelon, Jean-Pierre. Henri IV. Paris: Fayard, 1982.

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    A sweeping biography that tries to reach a broad audience and present Henry’s weaknesses as well as his accomplishments.

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  • Buisseret, David. Henry IV. London: Allen and Unwin, 1984.

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    Especially useful on Henry’s role as a military leader and his efforts to ensure stability and restore the kingdom’s finances in the wake of the religious wars.

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  • Forrestal, Alison, and Eric Nelson, eds. Politics and Religion in Early Bourbon France. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    A new collection of essays focusing on both continuities and breaks from the past in the kingship of Henri IV. Contains useful contributions on the renewal and relegitimation of monarchical authority, and on the relationship between the monarchy and Catholic renewal.

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  • Love, Ronald S. Blood and Religion: The Conscience of Henri IV, 1553–1593. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001.

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    Argues for the importance of Henry’s personal religious views in understanding his conversion; also useful on emergence of Henry as a military leader.

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  • Mousnier, Roland. The Assassination of Henry IV: The Tyrannicide Problem and the Consolidation of the French Absolute Monarchy in the Early 17th Century. Translated by Joan Spencer. London: Faber and Faber, 1973.

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    A translation of L’Assassinat d’Henri IV: 14 mai 1610. Le problème du tyrannicide et l’affermissement de la monarchie absolue (1964). Deals successively with the assassination itself, the contemporary debate over tyrannicide, and the implications of Henry’s assassination for the French monarchy.

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  • Pitts, Vincent. Henri IV of France: His Reign and Age. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

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    A new biography that makes good use of recent research on Henry IV and his era; sets him well in the context of the aristocratic culture of his age.

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  • Wolfe, Michael. The Conversion of Henry IV: Politics, Power, and Religious Belief in Early Modern France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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    Focuses less on the king’s personal conscience than on the political crisis surrounding the conversion and the complex events and beliefs that made Henry’s return to the Catholic Church both necessary and ultimately effective in helping to stabilize the kingdom.

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Religious Practice and Piety

Lucien Febvre, a cofounder of the journal Annales (along with Marc Bloch, launched a call for a new history of the French Reformation in a 1929 essay (see Febvre 1968). Pointing to evidence of a vibrant and dynamic late-medieval church, he challenged historians to abandon the traditional narrative of a decayed and corrupt Catholic Church and urged them to recognize the diversity of religious ideas set out in the 16th century, instead of separating them prematurely into Protestant and Catholic denominations. He took up his own call for a new study of religious mentalities in The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century (Febvre 1982), first published in 1942. Arguing that many individuals remained uncomfortably caught “between Rome and Geneva,” Wanegffelen 1997 offers ample evidence of the diversity of 16th-century beliefs. Another fruitful approach to 16th-century religious practice is offered in Davis 1981, which looks at the different ways in which Protestants and Catholics conceived of social and sacred space at that time.

  • Davis, Natalie Zemon. “The Sacred and the Body Social in Sixteenth-Century Lyon.” Past and Present 90.1 (1981): 40–70.

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    Analyzes the contrasting ways in which Protestants and Catholic located the sacred in the city, the metaphors they used to describe their relationship to the city, and the ritual practices by which they marked out sacred space.

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  • Febvre, Lucien. Au cœur religieux du XVIe siècle. 2d ed. Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1968.

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    Originally published in 1957, this volume includes Febvre’s call for a new history of the French Reformation: “Une question mal posée: Les origines de la réforme française et le problème des causes de la réforme” (A poorly framed question: the origins of the French Reformation and the problem of the causes of the Reformation), first published in Revue historique 161 (1929).

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  • Febvre, Lucien. The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century: The Religion of Rabelais. Translated by Beatrice Gottlieb. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

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    A translation of Le problème de l’incroyance au XVIe siècle: la religion de Rabelais, initially published in 1942. Febvre uses debates about Rabelais’s religious beliefs—or his lack thereof—as a vehicle to examine more broadly the role of religion in daily life and the ways in which mental structures inhibited disbelief.

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  • Wanegffelen, Thierry. Ni Rome ni Genève: Des fidèles entre deux chaires en France au XVIe siècle. Paris: Honoré Champion, 1997.

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    A revised thesis, the book examines the possibilities of religious choice and identifies a rather broad terrain between orthodox Catholicism and orthodox Calvinism in 16th-century France. Most of the discussion concerns individuals, but grouping them by generations allows for some generalization about shifting boundaries and choices.

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Catholic Practice and Piety

Galpern 1976 and Lemaitre 1988 offer regional studies of late medieval piety and the impact of the Reformation on these practices and beliefs. Delumeau 1989 gives a more synthetic treatment of Catholic ritual and practices as responses to insecurity and fear. By contrast, Sluhovsky 1997, focusing on the cult of Saint Geneviève in Paris, is geographically narrow in scope, but its chronological format allows more attention to change. Responding to questions about how traditional Catholics understood their faith, Reinburg 1992 examines the liturgy of the mass, while Reinburg 1993 looks at practices of prayer from the perspective of lay Catholics in the later Middle Ages and Reformation. Taylor 1992 reassesses the character and impact of Catholic preaching during the same period.

  • Delumeau, Jean. Rassurer et protéger: Le sentiment de sécurité dans l’Occident d’autrefois. Paris: Fayard, 1989.

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    Examines the use of such practices as processions, pilgrimages, and the cult of the saints to provide a sense of security amidst the difficulties of ordinary life and the crises and natural disasters that beset early modern times.

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  • Galpern, A. N. The Religions of the People in Sixteenth-Century Champagne. Harvard Historical Studies 92. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

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    Most useful for its exploration of traditional Catholic piety in Champagne. Stresses the ritualistic and corporate dimensions of this piety in processions, pilgrimages, and confraternities. Identifies a decline in confraternal membership over the course of the 16th century.

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  • Lemaitre, Nicole. Le Rouergue flamboyant: Clergé et paroisses du diocèse de Rodez, 1417–1563. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1988.

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    This regional study makes good use of episcopal visitation records to examine religious practice and piety in a French province between the later Middle Ages and the Wars of Religion. Available sources are richer on clerical than lay practices.

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  • Reinburg, Virginia. “Liturgy and the Laity in Late Medieval and Reformation France.” Sixteenth-Century Journal 23.3 (1992): 526–547.

    DOI: 10.2307/2542493Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the lay experience of the Mass to show that, contrary to Protestant attacks on it as an empty ritual, lay people did have an important sense of participation in the Mass, though their attention was directed to different parts of the Mass than those emphasized for the clergy.

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  • Reinburg, Virginia. “Hearing Lay People’s Prayer.” In Culture and Identity in Early Modern Europe (1500–1800): Essays in Honor of Natalie Zemon Davis. Edited by Barbara B. Diefendorf and Carla Hesse, 19–40. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.

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    A sensitive examination of the practice of prayer by lay people, dissecting the rich range of social metaphors that enriched traditional practices of prayer and showing how the Protestant criticisms of the cult of the saints as superstitious and empty narrowed this range of metaphors to more narrowly patriarchal ones of father and son.

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  • Sluhovsky, Moshe. Patroness of Paris: Rituals of Devotion in Early Modern Paris. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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    A case study of the cult of Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, and the role she played in civic life.

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  • Taylor, Larissa J. Soldiers of Christ: Preaching in Late Medieval and Reformation France. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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    Examines the social context of late medieval preaching and the rhetorical structure and popular subjects for sermons in order to understand what people were being taught about such issues as original sin, free will, purgatory, and the devil.

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Christian Humanism and the “Pre-Reform” in France

One nurturing ground of religious reform in France was the circle of evangelical reformers gathered around Bishop Guillaume Briçonnet in Meaux circa 1520. Imbart de la Tour 1978 and Renaudet 1953 remain standard works on this movement. Hughes 1984 offers a good introduction to the ideas of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, a key member of the group, and Bedouelle 1975 is a deeper and more detailed study of Lefèvre’s study of scripture.

  • Bedouelle, Guy. Lefèvre d’Étaples et l’intelligence des Écritures. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1975.

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    Addresses the intellectual development as well as the theology of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, one of France’s foremost humanist scholars.

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  • Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. Lefèvre: Pioneer of Ecclesiastical Renewal in France. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984.

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    A clear and concise introduction to the ideas and writings of Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, and to the circle of evangelical reformers at Meaux.

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  • Imbart de la Tour, Pierre. Les origines de la Réforme. 4 vols. Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine, 1978.

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    Originally published in Paris, 1905–1935. A thoroughgoing study of the origins of the French Reformation, though its emphasis on the internal origins of this movement has been contested. Volume 2, on early attempts at reform within the Catholic Church, and volume 3, on French evangelical reformers, are especially relevant.

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  • Renaudet, Augustin. Préréforme et humanisme à Paris pendant les premières guerres d’Italie (1494–1517). 2d ed. Paris: Librairie d’Argences, 1953.

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    Still a foundational study of Lefèvre and his circle.

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Heresy and the Persecution of Dissent

The persecution of heretics in 16th-century France began not with Protestants but with the much older group of dissenters in the southern Alps known as Waldenses. Audisio 1999 offers an overview the movement’s origins, ideas, condemnation as heretics, and eventual merging into the Protestant movement; Cameron 1984 focuses more intently on their persecution and their slow fusion with Protestantism in the 16th-century. Nicholls 1983 illuminates the diversity of religious dissent and unorthodox thinking during the first decades of the Reformation. Mentzer 1985 studies heresy trials in the Parlement of Toulouse. The conclusions made in Monter 1999 are based on all of the known trials before all of the Parlements in France. Nicholls 1988 describes the public execution of heretics and assesses the impact of these public rituals.

  • Audisio, Gabriel. The Waldensian Dissent: Persecution and Survival, c.1170–c.1570. Translated by Claire Davison. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    A good overview and sympathetic treatment of the Waldensians by France’s most distinguished historian of the movement.

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  • Cameron, Euan. The Reformation of the Heretics: The Waldenses of the Alps, 1480–1580. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.

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    A compelling study of the Waldensians’ theology and religious practice, the change from intermittent persecution to outright massacre in Provence, and the slow assimilation of Waldensians into the Protestant movement, more out of shared persecution than shared theology.

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  • Mentzer, Raymond A., Jr. Heresy Proceedings in Languedoc, 1500–1560. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1985.

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    Valuable as a case study of the repression of heresy before the Parlement of Toulouse, whose jurisdiction included much of the territory where Protestantism was most deeply implanted in France.

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  • Monter, William. Judging the French Reformation: Heresy Trials by Sixteenth-Century Parlements. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

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    A landmark study based on surviving heresy records from all of France’s Parlements. Revises our understanding of the repression of heresy by showing that it was most intense in the early decades of the Reformation, before Reformed churches were founded, and tapered off for a combination of political reasons.

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  • Nicholls, David. “The Nature of Popular Heresy in France, 1520–1542.” Historical Journal 26.2 (1983): 261–275.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X00024067Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vividly illustrates the variety of beliefs held by religious dissenters in the early decades of the Reformation, the fluid nature of this dissent, and the impossibility of drawing clear lines between Protestant and Catholic believers prior to the introduction of Calvinist ideas in France.

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  • Nicholls, David. “The Theatre of Martyrdom in the French Reformation.” Past and Present 121.1 (1988): 49–73.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/121.1.49Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a close reading of the rituals of public execution for heresy, as well as a persuasive analysis of how these humiliating and painful rituals ceased to serve their intended function of dissuading viewers from themselves engaging in heresy.

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The Protestant Reformation in France

By the 1540s, the growing influence of Calvin’s theology began to bring greater doctrinal unity to the diverse currents of dissent evident in the early stages of the Reformation, but it was only in the mid-1550s that French Reformed churches began to be organized on the model of the Reformed Church of Geneva. Nicholls 1992 offers a good brief introduction to this transition. Kingdon 1956 examines the role of pastors trained in Geneva in French Reformed churches. Heller 1986 traces the spread of Protestant ideas in a variety of French cities, though many scholars are not persuaded by the argument that social discontents were a principal motive for Protestant conversion. In a valuable case study, Davis 1975 explores the social basis and appeal of Protestantism in Lyons during the transition to an organized church. Benedict 2002 usefully sets the French Reformed tradition into the broader context of Calvinist ideas, institutions, and practices. Elwood 1999 explains why Calvinists’ understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist was so threatening to French Catholics. Broader narratives of the gradual transition from diverse streams of religious dissent into an organized Reformed movement are available in Crouzet 1996 and Higman 1992, which originated in university lectures.

  • Benedict, Philip. Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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    Traces the spread of the Reformed tradition associated with John Calvin’s theology, its adaptation to different political situations, and the institutional and cultural traits associated with it. The chapter on France (pp. 127–151) surveys the creation of Reformed churches in France.

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  • Crouzet, Denis. La genèse de la réforme française, 1520–1562. Paris: SEDES, 1996.

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    Looks first at diverse strands of dissent and reform introduced by Luther, the French evangelicals, and Catholic reformers, then traces Calvin’s own path to reform, the spread of his ideas in France, and their institutionalization in French Reformed churches.

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  • Davis, Natalie Zemon. “Strikes and Salvation at Lyon.” In Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays. By Natalie Zemon Davis, 1–16. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975.

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    A pioneering essay that traces the early appeal of Protestantism for journeymen in Lyons’s printing industry and their growing disenchantment once an institutionalized church and consistory were introduced.

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  • Elwood, Christopher. The Body Broken: The Calvinist Doctrine of the Eucharist and the Symbolization of Power in Sixteenth-Century France. Oxford Studies in Historical Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Explains how French Protestants’ understanding of the Eucharist altered their understanding of the relation between society and the sacred, and why their new understanding of power was so disturbing to Catholics.

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  • Heller, Henry. The Conquest of Poverty: The Calvinist Revolt in Sixteenth-Century France. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1986.

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    Roots the popular origins of Protestantism in French cities in social tensions and discontents.

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  • Higman, Francis. La diffusion de la Réforme en France. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et Fides, 1992.

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    A clearly written introduction to the spread of Protestant ideas in France, supplemented by primary documents to illustrate the key messages of Protestant texts distributed in France between roughly 1520 and 1565.

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  • Kingdon, Robert M. Geneva and the Coming of the Wars of Religion in France, 1555–1563. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1956.

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    A study of the training of Reformed church ministers in Geneva, their clandestine insertion into France, and the delicate political position of tiny Geneva as religious war broke out in its powerful neighbor. Reprinted in 2007 (Geneva: Droz).

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  • Nicholls, David. “France.” In The Early Reformation in Europe. Edited by Andrew Pettegree, 120–141. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

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    An accessible introductory overview of the transition from currents of dissent that lacked central organization and a common program to the implantation of Reformed churches sharing a common Calvinist theology.

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John Calvin

The literature on Calvin, his theology, and his influence are vast. Two good introductions to the man and his ideas in the context of his times are Bouwsma 1988 and Cottret 2000.

  • Bouwsma, William J. John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    An intellectual biography by a distinguished intellectual historian, setting Calvin into the context of the broader currents of Renaissance and Reformation thought.

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  • Cottret, Bernard. Calvin: A Biography. Translated by M. Wallace McDonald. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

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    A traditional biography, well written and well researched, that traces Calvin’s life chronologically and then takes up his beliefs and their expression in polemics, preaching, and the Institutes of the Christian Religion. First published in French in 1995.

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French Reformed Churches and French Protestantism

Sunshine 2003 looks at the institutional structures of the French Reformed churches and their adaptation to the circumstances of persecution and religions war. French Reformed churches aimed not just to teach purer doctrine to their members but also to get them to lead purer, more godly lives. Several recent studies, among them Mentzer 1996 and Mentzer 2000, have employed records from Reformed Church of France consistories to ask how successful this attempt to impose greater discipline was. Connor 2002 asks a similar question in his case study of the Protestant-dominated city of Montauban. At the same time, he challenges the argument in Garrisson 1991 that, in the 1570s, Protestants in the south of France organized themselves into a kind of Huguenot state, or “United Provinces of the Midi.” Mentzer and Spicer 2002 brings together a number of excellent essays on different dimensions of Huguenot culture and religious practice. A broader study of the impact of Calvinism in Europe and North America, Benedict 2002 allows readers to identify some distinctive traits of the French Reformed tradition.

  • Benedict, Philip. Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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    Part IV, “New Calvinist Men and Women?” (pp. 429–532), looks at the reformation of the ministry, the exercise of discipline, and the practice of piety in Calvinist churches. The work is not limited to France, but it contains many useful insights on the French case.

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  • Connor, Philip. Huguenot Heartland: Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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    Offers a good picture of the attempt made in this Protestant-majority city to put Reformed ideas of a “godly community” into practice.

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  • Garrisson, Janine. Protestants du Midi, 1559–1598. New ed. Toulouse, France: Privat, 1991.

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    Offers a broad picture of the society, culture, and politics of French Protestants in the south of France (the Midi), the region where they were strongest. The depiction of southern Protestants as forming a virtually independent republic in the 1570s is controversial.

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  • Mentzer, Raymond A. “The Persistence of ‘Superstition and Idolatry’ among Rural French Calvinists.” Church History 65 (1996): 220–233.

    DOI: 10.2307/3170289Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Makes good use of consistory records to ask how successful Reformed churches were in repressing the Catholic teachings they identified as superstitious and educating members in their own doctrinal truths.

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  • Mentzer, Raymond A. “Morals and Moral Regulation in Protestant France.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 31.1 (2000): 1–20.

    DOI: 10.1162/002219500551460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good study of the difficulties Reformed churches faced in trying to impose a stricter morality and greater discipline in daily life.

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  • Mentzer, Raymond A., and Andrew Spicer, eds. Society and Culture in the Huguenot World, 1559–1685. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    A strong collection of essays on Huguenot culture and society, looking at what it meant to be a Protestant in 16th- and 17th-century France.

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  • Sunshine, Glenn S. Reforming French Protestantism: The Development of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557–1572. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003.

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    A study of ecclesiastical institutions, the work nevertheless offers insights into Huguenot culture by showing how the experience of persecution influenced these institutions and gave them a character significantly different from that of the Genevan church on which they were modeled.

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Sources

Two essential sources on French Protestantism, the Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France (Bèze 1882–1889) and Jean Crespin’s Histoire des marytrs (Crespin 1885–1889) are now available online. Both must be used with caution because of their strong Protestant bias, but much of the information contained in these works is unavailable elsewhere. Accounts with a more local focus are listed under Local and Regional Histories. The best source for Reformed church doctrine remains John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Calvin 1960). A good brief bibliography, Works by and about John Calvin, is maintained online by the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies at Calvin College. The correspondence of Calvin’s collaborator and successor in Geneva, Théodore de Bèze, also contains information on the Protestant movement in France (Bèze 1960–2009).

  • Bèze, Théodore de. Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France. 3 vols. Edited by G. Baum, E Cunitz, and Rodolphe Reuss. Librairie Fischbacher, 1882–1889.

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    First published in 1580, this compilation of narratives recounts at length the founding of French Reformed churches and the persecution of Protestant believers. Often attributed to Theodore Beza, the volumes are organized chronologically and geographically. The text is now available online: volumes 1 and 2; volume 3. Reprinted in 1974 (Nieuwkoop, The Netherlands: B. De Graaf).

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  • Bèze, Théodore de. Correspondance de Théodore de Bèze. 31 vols, as of 2009. Edited by Hippolyte Aubert, et al. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1960–2009.

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    Bèze was Calvin’s successor as the leader of the Reformed Church of Geneva. Like Calvin, he was French by birth and remained vitally interested in the French Protestant movement. As a result, many of his letters discuss affairs in France.

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  • Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2 vols. Edited by John T. McNeill; translated by Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960.

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    Based on the 1559 edition of Calvin’s Institutes and still considered the most vigorous and reliable translation of this fundamental text. It systematically sets out Calvin’s religious doctrine, which is also the fundamental doctrine of the French Reformed churches. The other widely used English translation, that by Henry Beveridge, is available online from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

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  • Crespin, Jean. Histoire des martyrs: persecutez et mis a mort pour le vérite de l’évangile depuis le temps des apostres jusques à présent [1619]. New ed. 3 vols. Toulouse, France: Société des livres religieux, 1885–1889.

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    Recounts the persecution suffered by French Protestants and others deemed martyrs for the true faith. Available online.

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  • H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies at Calvin College. Works by and about John Calvin.

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    A good starting place for further reading about Calvin or his works.

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Iconoclasm and Religious Violence

The role that religious violence played in increasing tensions in France, prompting religious warfare and making the wars more difficult to resolve, has been addressed in a variety of recent works, beginning with Davis 1973. Rather than dismissing religious rioters as senseless mobs, Davis 1973 applies an anthropological approach to their behavior and interprets their actions in terms of religious and judicial rituals. Eire 1986 and Christin 1991 seek to explain why some Protestants destroyed religious images in acts of iconoclasm. Eire 1986 is the more general account; Christin 1991 focuses specifically on France. The work that attributes the violence of the wars most exclusively to religious causes is Crouzet 1990, which interprets this violence as the result of eschatological fears. By contrast, Carroll 2006 argues for interpreting it within the broader context of a noble culture of violence. The subject of religious violence also figures prominently in the sources cited in The Outbreak of Religious War, The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, The Wars of the Holy League, and Local and Regional Histories.

  • Carroll, Stuart. Blood and Violence in Early Modern France. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Examines noble feuds and feuding in a variety of contexts, arguing (in chapter 12, “The Crisis of the Religious Wars”) that the violence of the Wars of Religion must be understood within the context of a noble culture of vengeance.

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  • Christin, Olivier. Une révolution symbolique: L’iconoclasme huguenot et la reconstruction catholique. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1991.

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    An important study based on extensive published and unpublished sources. Christin explains the theology behind Huguenot iconoclasm in France, but he also demonstrates the extent of this violence, its provocative nature, and the response it prompted from French Catholics.

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  • Crouzet, Denis. Les guerriers de Dieu: La violence au temps des troubles de religion, vers 1525–vers 1610. 2 vols. Seyssel, France: Champ Vallon, 1990.

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    A massive and comprehensive study of the mentality that resulted in both Protestant and Catholic violence in the Reformation and Wars of Religion, emphasizing religious fears and a search for union with God.

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  • Davis, Natalie. “The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France.” Past and Present 59 (1973): 53–91.

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    A pathbreaking article on the nature and meaning of the acts of violence committed during religious riots. Reprinted, with minor changes, in Davis’s Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975), pp. 152–189 and 315–326.

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  • Eire, Carlos M. N. War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    A good, clear introduction to the problem of Protestant iconoclasm, though not limited to the French case and focused more on the theology and attitudes behind iconoclastic acts than on surveying the extent or impact of the damage.

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The Outbreak of Religious War

Sutherland 1980 interprets the Protestant cause in the wars as largely a defensive struggle for freedom of worship. This view, long traditional (at least among Protestant sympathizers), was implicitly challenged in Richet 1982. Richet contended that, whatever the Protestants’ intentions, Catholics perceived their actions as profoundly threatening, so that historians needed to look more closely at the sociocultural aspects of the religious conflicts. A more sustained and explicit challenge to the idea of a largely defensive struggle for recognition is well articulated in Philip Benedict’s chapter on “Protestant Militancy” in Benedict, et al. 1999. Wood 1996 examines the way the Wars of Religion were fought and helps explain how military realities contributed to the difficulty in achieving a lasting peace. Kingdon 1967 explores the relationship between French Protestants and Reformed church leaders in Geneva during the first stage of the religious wars.

  • Benedict, Philip, Guido Marnef, Henk van Nierop, and Marc Venard, eds. Reformation, Revolt and Civil War in France and the Netherlands, 1555–1585. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1999.

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    A collection of essays by top scholars on a variety of aspects of the French Wars of Religion, usefully paired with articles on comparable aspects of the Dutch revolt. Benedict’s article “The Dynamics of Protestant Militancy” (pp. 35–50) depicts French Protestantism as an assertive attempt to remake both church and society.

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  • Kingdon, Robert M. Geneva and the Consolidation of the French Protestant Movement, 1564–1572. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1967.

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    Still the best examination of how the pressures of religious war tested the relationship between French Protestants and their co-religionists in Geneva in terms of both politics and leadership.

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  • Richet, Denis. “Sociocultural Aspects of Religious Conflicts in Paris during the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century.” In Ritual, Religion, and the Sacred: Selections from the Annales. Edited by Robert Forster and Orest Ranum, 182–212. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

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    Densely argued, this work shows the complexity of religious conflicts in Paris and, by implication, other French cities. Originally published as “Aspects socio-culturels des conflits religieux à Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIe siècle,” in Annales: économies, sociétés, civilisations 32.4 (1977): 764–789 (available online).

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  • Sutherland, N. M. The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.

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    Depicts French Protestants as fighting for freedom of conscience and the right to worship according to conscience. Useful for summaries of anti-Protestant legislation before and during the wars.

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  • Wood, James B. The King’s Army: Warfare, Soldiers, and Society during the Wars of Religion in France, 1562–1576. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    An excellent study of how armies fought, how they were formed and paid, and what impact this had on the Wars of Religion.

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Catholic Reactions

The Catholic response to the growth of Protestant militancy varied widely, and consequently it is, for the most part, best studied on the local level (see Local and Regional Histories). Baumgartner 1986 shows the relatively weak response of French bishops to the religious crisis. Although focusing on just the Franciscans, Armstrong 2004 examines the more active response on the part of religious orders. Harding 1980 is a pioneering work on the mobilization of a devout laity in activist confraternities. Schneider 1986 and Barnes 1988 discuss the prominent role played by penitential confraternities in mobilizing Catholic activism.

  • Armstrong, Megan. The Politics of Piety: Franciscan Preachers during the Wars of Religion, 1560–1600. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2004.

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    Investigates the response to the spread of Protestantism within the Franciscan order and demonstrates the Franciscans’ role in promoting a new Catholic militancy. Focuses most intently on Paris and on the period of the Catholic League.

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  • Barnes, Andrew E. “Religious Anxiety and Devotional Change in Sixteenth Century French Penitential Confraternities.” Sixteenth Century Journal 19.3 (1988): 389–406.

    DOI: 10.2307/2540470Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Seeks psychological and behavioral explanations for the increasingly penitential character of confraternal devotions during the French Wars of Religion, and roots these explanations in the anxieties caused by religious schism and the growth of Protestantism.

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  • Baumgartner, Frederic. Change and Continuity in the French Episcopate: The Bishops and the Wars of Religion. Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1986.

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    Argues that long traditions of political appointments to the episcopacy, coupled with a tendency to use the positions more for personal gain than for religious leadership, led bishops to play a weak role in opposing the Reformation. The work is strongest on the earlier period of the religious wars.

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  • Harding, Robert. “The Mobilization of Confraternities against the Reformation in France.” Sixteenth Century Journal 11.2 (1980): 85–107.

    DOI: 10.2307/2540034Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Looks at four sorts of devotional confraternities and their respective roles in the mobilization of Catholic militants against heresy in the Wars of Religion.

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  • Schneider, Robert A. “Mortification on Parade; Penitential Processions in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France.” Renaissance and Reformation 10.1 (1986): 123–146.

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    Presents a close reading of the ritual practices and devotional inclinations of participants in the penitential piety that developed in the later stages of the Wars of Religion.

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Religious Printing, Propaganda, and Polemics

Polemical literature on behalf on the Protestant and Catholic causes played an important role in France’s 16th-century religious conflicts. Higman 1998 brings together some of his articles on the religious book; Pettegree, et al. 2001 is a collection of specialist articles on the diverse nature and character of religious books. Racaut 2002 analyzes the arguments set forth in the most virulent of Catholic religious polemics. Benedict 1994 surveys the use of printed images in French religious polemics, while Benedict 2007 takes an intensive look at the most widely circulated images of the conflicts, the Wars, Massacres, and Troubles of Jean Perrissin and Jacques Tortorel. Lestringant 2004 includes images and texts in a study of martyrs and martyrdom in 16th- and 17th-century religious printing.

  • Benedict, Philip. “Of Marmites and Martyrs: Images and Polemics in the Wars of Religion.” In The French Renaissance in Prints from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 109–138. Los Angeles: Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, 1994.

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    A well-researched and scholarly chapter in a broader work about French Renaissance prints.

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  • Benedict, Philip. Graphic History: The Wars, Massacres, and Troubles of Tortorel and Perrissin. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 2007.

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    Analyzes the historical sources used to produce the famous series of forty prints narrating the religious conflicts in France and published in Geneva in 1570, as well as the technical and visual dimensions of their production.

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  • Higman, Francis. Lire et découvrir: La circulation des idées au temps de la Réforme. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1998.

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    A collection of articles on both Protestant and Catholic religious writings, including devotional, polemical, and theological works by an eminent specialist in the field.

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  • Lestringant, Frank. Lumière des martyrs: Essai sur le martyre au siècle des Réformes. Paris: Honoré Champion, 2004.

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    Uses tools of literary analysis to explore the ways in which the literature of martyrdom conceptualized French Protestant martyrs and their cause, including the uses they made of these models in both texts and images.

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  • Pettegree, Andrew, Paul Nelles, and Philip Connor, eds. The Sixteenth-Century French Religious Book. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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    A collection of articles addressing various dimensions of religious printing in 16th-century France, including both Protestant and Catholic polemics.

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  • Racaut, Luc. Hatred in Print: Catholic Propaganda and Protestant Identity in the French Wars of Religion. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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    Looks at the origins and impact of Catholic accusations that Protestants engaged in sexual immorality and other themes common in the most vituperative pamphlet literature.

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Sources

An increasing number of 16th-century religious polemics are now available online. The sources listed under Bibliographies offer some help in locating these polemics. In addition, it is possible to search Gallica, the expanding catalog of online resources from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, both topically and by dates. Some volumes of the 19th-century compilation of source materials, the Archives curieuse de l’histoire de France (Cimber and Danjou 1834–1841), which includes a number of 16th-century polemics, are also now available online.

  • Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Gallica.

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    Includes 16th-century sources, placed online by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Can be searched topically (e.g., “guerres de religion”), by place name, and with limiting dates.

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    • Cimber, L. [pseud. of Louis Lafaist], and Félix Danjou. Archives curieuses de l’histoire de la France depuis Louis XI jusqu’à Louis XVIII. 30 vols. Paris and Beauvais, 1834–1841.

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      Certain volumes are now available online from various sources, including volume 6, which contains documents from the period that includes the second and third Wars of Religion.

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    The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

    The most infamous episode in the Wars of Religion, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, resulted in the murder of some two thousand Protestants in Paris and as many as ten thousand in the country as a whole. No historian today still believes that the massacre was plotted years in advance by Queen Catherine de Medici in collaboration with the arch-Catholic king of Spain, Philip II. Catherine’s responsibility for the massacre, along with that of her son, King Charles IX, nevertheless remains much debated. Sutherland 1973 offers a more favorable view of Catherine than most previous literature, while setting the massacre into the context of France’s international relations. Crouzet 1994 also focuses on Catherine’s responsibility for the killings, but it sets her role into a broader cultural and religious context. Bourgeon 1995 takes a different approach and blames the massacre on a plot originating with the arch-Catholic family of the Guises. Jouanna 2007 weighs the evidence carefully, without attempting to reassign blame. Diefendorf 1991 turns attention from royal responsibility for the assassination of Huguenot leaders to the popular killings that followed in Paris. Benedict 1978 looks at the spread of the massacre to provincial cities in the months that followed. Diefendorf 2009 contains documents on both the Parisian and provincial massacres. Kingdon 1988 looks at the impact of the massacre and the ways it was reinterpreted for propaganda purposes.

    • Benedict, Philip. “The Saint Bartholomew’s Massacres in the Provinces.” Historical Journal 21.2 (1978): 205–225.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X00000510Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Still the best overview of the massacres in provincial cities. Benedict seeks to explain why the killing occurred in some provincial cities but not in others.

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    • Bourgeon, Jean-Louis. Charles IX devant la Saint-Barthélemy. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1995.

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      A controversial interpretation of events that sees Charles IX as the first victim of the massacres and not as their chief perpetrator.

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    • Crouzet, Denis. La nuit de la Saint-Barthélemy: Un rêve perdu de la Renaissance. Paris: Fayard, 1994.

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      A revisionist approach that identifies the massacre as a “humanist crime” and desperate last grasp at peace on the part of Catherine de Medici.

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    • Diefendorf, Barbara B. Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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      Seeks to explain popular participation in the massacres by examining these events within the context of mounting tensions before and during the first Wars of Religion.

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    • Diefendorf, Barbara B. The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

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      Brings together previously untranslated documents concerning the religious schism in France, the growth of religious tensions, the massacre in Paris and the provinces, and the repercussions of these events in France and abroad.

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    • Jouanna, Arlette. La Saint-Barthélemy: Les mystères d’un crime d’état, 24 août 1572. Paris: Gallimard, 2007.

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      A well-written and well-balanced scholarly account that takes into consideration recent historical writing on the subject.

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    • Kingdon, Robert M. Myths about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres, 1572–1576. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988.

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      Explores the uses made of the massacre in polemics and propaganda for audiences at home and abroad.

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    • Sutherland, Nicola M. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew and the European Conflict, 1559–1572. New York: Macmillan, 1973.

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      A political-history approach focusing on the assassination of Admiral Coligny. Sets the massacre into the context of international relations, in particular the debate over whether France should intervene on behalf of Dutch Protestants in the Spanish Netherlands. Sutherland has little to say, however, about the popular killings or religious motives for them.

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    The Wars of the Holy League

    The rise of the ultra-Catholic movement known as the Sainte Union (Holy League; often called just “the League”) and the seizure of power by the League in a number of French cities in 1589 have occasioned a great deal of debate about the appeal of the movement and its political, social, and religious dimensions. Much of this work focuses on Paris, where the most radical seizure of power took place. Among broader studies, Baumgartner 1976 offers the best overview in English of the League’s political ideas. Crouzet 1990 locates the origins of the League in a collective anxiety and religious fervor. Harding 1981 and Greengrass 1983 demonstrate that the social bases and motives of League supporters in provincial cities did not necessarily follow the Parisian model. Constant 1996, the only recent work to try to examine the movement’s relative strength across France as a whole, confirms these insights into the diversity of the League. See Local and Regional Histories for additional works on the Holy League in provincial cities.

    The League in Paris

    Pallier 1976 looks at the tremendous outpouring of propaganda from Parisian presses in support of the League. Salmon 1972, Barnavi 1980, and Descimon 1983 identify the social basis of the Paris League in the middling levels of the bourgeoisie, but while Barnavi 1980 believes the leaguers motivated by frustrated social ambitions, Descimon 1983 believes they were defending traditional communal values. Ramsey 1999 looks at the religious undercurrents of the Paris League and contrasts the religious practices of League supporters with those of more moderate Catholics. Carroll 2000 reexamines the Day of the Barricades in 1588, which began the League revolt in Paris, to learn more about popular support for the arch-Catholic Guise clan that assumed leadership of the movement.

    • Barnavi, Elie. Le parti de Dieu: Étude sociale et politique des chefs de la Ligue parisienne, 1585–1594. Brussels, Belgium: Nauwelaerts, 1980.

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      A sociopolitical analysis that identifies the Paris League as a revolutionary political movement and traces its evolution from the first initiatives by a dedicated minority, through broad popular support, a culminating radicalism, and reaction and retreat.

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    • Carroll, Stuart. “The Revolt of Paris, 1588: Aristocratic Insurgency and the Mobilization of Popular Support.” French Historical Studies 23.2 (2000): 301–337.

      DOI: 10.1215/00161071-23-2-301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Revises traditional views crediting the arch-Catholic Guise family with prompting the revolt of the League in Paris, and examines their relationship with the Parisian citizenry.

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    • Descimon, Robert. Qui étaient les Seize? Mythes et réalités de la Ligue parisienne, 1585–1594. Paris: Klincksieck, 1983.

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      A detailed prosopography of individuals associated with the Paris League, locating them in terms of family, profession, and participation in civic affairs, and assessing their motives for supporting the League in terms of communal values believed to be under threat.

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    • Pallier, Denis. Recherches sur l’imprimerie à Paris pendant la Ligue (1585–1594). Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1976.

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      A dense and scholarly study of the book trade in late-16th-century Paris. Pallier points to the importance of religious propaganda in promoting the agenda of the Holy League, and the work contains valuable catalogues of Leaguer books and documents concerning their printers.

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    • Ramsey, Ann W. Liturgy, Politics, and Salvation: The Catholic League in Paris and the Nature of Catholic Reform, 1540–1630. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press 1999.

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      Uses the analysis of wills to identify in proponents of the League in Paris the same devout piety later demonstrated in the Catholic Reformation.

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    • Salmon, J. H. M. “The Paris Sixteen, 1584–94: The Social Analysis of a Revolutionary Movement.” Journal of Modern History 44.4 (1972): 540–576.

      DOI: 10.1086/240840Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An early study of the social basis of the leaders of the Paris League; most of the conclusions were later confirmed by Descimon’s more extensive study. Reproduced in Salmon’s Renaissance and Revolt: Essays in the Intellectual and Social History of Early Modern France (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

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    Local and Regional Histories

    The religious conflicts in France had a very localized nature and, in many respects, are best studied within a specific geographical setting. This allows close attention to such factors as the relative strength of Protestant conversion, the vigor of Catholic institutions, clientage ties and loyalty to aristocratic leaders, and the character of urban politics. There was little fighting by royal armies in the south of France, for example, and yet the existence of numerous Protestant strongholds resulted in bitter struggles that took the form of civil wars fought by locally raised troops. Gould 2006 examines the role of Catholic militants in southwestern France during the first stages of the religious wars. Souriac 2008 offers a more thorough treatment of military organization and fighting in the same region. Cassan 1996 looks at the conflicts in the Limousin, where Protestantism made relatively few inroads and traditions of local autonomy helped local elites blunt the impact of religious hatreds. In a study of the towns of Champagne, Konnert 2006 shows how traditions of local autonomy limited the ability of aristocratic leaders to command obedience even in areas where they had positions of authority. Carroll 1998 shows that the fluidity of clientage ties also limited the effective authority of aristocratic leaders.

    • Carroll, Stuart. Noble Power during the French Wars of Religion: The Guise Affinity and the Catholic Cause in Normandy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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      Although the house of Guise had its strongest base in Champagne, its members also consolidated both kinship ties and property holdings in Normandy. Tracing the evolution of the Guise affinity through the wars, the book depicts the wars as the product of shifting factional allegiances in which religion played a role but did not dominate.

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    • Cassan, Michel. Le temps des guerres de religion: Le cas du Limousin (vers 1530–vers 1630). Paris: Publisud, 1996.

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      An archivally based study of a region whose geography, Catholic allegiance, and local political traditions allowed it to escape many of the worst trials of the wars.

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    • Gould, Kevin. Catholic Activism in South-West France, 1540–1570. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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      Examines the growth of Catholic militancy in response to Protestant activism in the areas of Bordeaux, Agen, and Toulouse. Significantly more limited in scope and chronology than Souriac 2008.

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    • Konnert, Mark W. Local Politics in the French Wars of Religion: The Towns of Champagne, the Duc de Guise, and the Catholic League, 1560–95. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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      Seeks to explain why even provincial towns most closely associated with the Guises only slowly and reluctantly rallied to the Holy League.

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    • Souriac, Pierre-Jean. Une guerre civile: Affrontements religieux et militaires dans le Midi toulousain (1562–1596). Seyssel, France: Champ Vallon, 2008.

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      A clear and detailed examination of just how the Wars of Religion were fought in the troubled region around Toulouse.

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    Urban Histories

    The experience of each city was different. Local studies that span the entire period of the wars, beginning with the initial penetration of Protestant ideas, such as Benedict 1981 and Roberts 1996, nevertheless have more than purely local value on account of the insights they offer into the ways in which social, political, and religious factors combined to destabilize urban regimes. Kaiser 1992 and Robbins 1997 focus more on social structures and political maneuvering than on religious devotion as motivating factors in the cities they study. Gal 2000 balances society, religion, and politics and focuses on the League, but it also includes a good history of the earlier wars. More limited in scope, Davies 1979 charts the social profile of Protestantism in Toulouse before the movement was effectively suppressed. Holt 1993 takes more of a cultural history approach in explaining the failure of Protestantism to attract a strong following in Dijon. Connor 2002 stands out as one of the few urban histories to look at a city that maintained its Protestant identity through the wars.

    • Benedict, Philip. Rouen during the Wars of Religion. Cambridge Studies in Early Modern History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

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      A well-written analytical narrative of the religious conflicts in Rouen, France’s second largest city in the 16th century, and, with Lyons, the most important city to be seized by a Protestant coup in 1562. Among the first local studies to emphasize the religious character of the conflicts. Paperback edition published in 2004.

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    • Connor, Philip. Huguenot Heartland: Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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      One of the rare local studies of a Protestant-dominated community and its culture; also useful on Huguenot political assemblies, disputing the notion that a Calvinist republic, or “United Provinces of the Midi,” grew out of these assemblies, and arguing for the essentially local and traditional nature of Huguenot political ideas.

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    • Davies, Joan M. “Persecution and Protestantism: Toulouse, 1562–1575.” Historical Journal 22.1 (1979): 31–51.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X00016666Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Uses archival records to establish the social profile of Protestant converts in Toulouse and the movement’s decline under the impact of persecution.

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    • Gal, Stéphane. Grenoble au temps de la ligue: Étude politique, sociale et religieuse d’une cité en crise (vers 1562–vers 1598). Grenoble, France: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble: 2000.

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      A revised thesis based on extensive archival research, focusing on the rise of a League that was pluralistic and nondogmatic in character, but also offering good background on the Protestant movement in Dauphiné and its early defeat in Grenoble.

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    • Holt, Mack P. “Wine, Community, and Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Burgundy.” Past and Present 138.1 (1993): 58–93.

      DOI: 10.1093/past/138.1.58Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Looks at cultural dimensions of the religious conflicts in Dijon, rooting the Catholic loyalties of winegrowers in the multiple meanings that religious symbolism of the vine held for them.

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    • Kaiser, Wolfgang. Marseille au temps de troubles: Morphologie sociale et luttes de factions, 1559–1595. Translated by Florence Chaix. Paris: EEHESS, 1992.

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      Originally published as Marseille im Bürgerkreig: Socialgefüge, Religionskonflikt und Faktionskämpfe von 1559–1596 (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1991). Solidly based on extensive archival research, this work analyzes the social structures of the city and the role of factional politics during the religious wars.

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    • Robbins, Kevin C. City on the Ocean Sea: La Rochelle, 1530–1650; Urban Society, Religion, and Politics on the French Atlantic Frontier. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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      Focusing on traditions of local autonomy, Robbins challenges common assumptions about La Rochelle as a bastion of Protestantism and shows the complex relationships between urban politics and religious affiliation.

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    • Roberts, Penny. A City in Conflict: Troyes during the French Wars of Religion. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1996.

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      An analytical and narrative account of the one major city in Champagne to have a significant Protestant minority; based on archival research and the extensive narrative left by the Protestant minister Nicolas Pithou.

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    Sources

    Some of the more important memoirs of the Wars of Religion have been reprinted or reedited, including Faurin 1981, Gaches 1970, Haton 2005, and La Fosse 2004. Others have been published for the first time, such as Pithou 1998–2000. All give useful insights into the ways in which local populations experienced the religious wars, with Faurin 1981, Gaches 1970, and Pithou 1998–2000 writing from a Protestant perspective and Haton 2005 and La Fosse 2004 reflecting Catholic biases.

    • Faurin, Jean. Journal de Faurin sur les Guerres de Castres. Edited by Charles Pradel. Marseille, France: Lafitte, 1981.

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      First published in 1878. Recounts events in Castres and the surrounding region between roughly 1559 and 1602.

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    • Gaches, Jacques. Mémoires sur les guerres de Religion à Castres et dans le Languedoc (1555–1610). Edited by Charles Pradel. Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine, 1970.

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      The memoirs of a merchant active in the Protestant cause and in local politics, and well informed about events both in Castres and more broadly in Languedoc. Reprint of the Paris edition, 1879–1894, which is available online.

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    • Haton, Claude. Mémoires de Claude Haton (1553–1582). Edited by Laurent Bourquin and Jean-Pierre Andry. Paris: Éditions du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, 2005.

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      The memoirs of a parish priest in Provins, an important provincial town on the western edge of Champagne, with good knowledge of affairs in Paris. The events of the early years appear to have been recorded significantly after the fact; the later events closer to when they occurred. Previously published in a lengthy but still abbreviated version as Mémoires de Claude Haton: contenant le récit des événements accomplis de 1553 à 1582 (1857), which is available online.

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    • La Fosse, Jehan de. Les “mémoires” d’un curé de Paris (1557–1590) au temps des guerres de religion. Edited by Marc Venard. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 2004.

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      The memoirs of events in Paris by a politically engaged parish priest who served a parish in the city center.

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    • Pithou, Nicolas. Chronique de Troyes et de la Champagne durant les guerres de Religion: 1524–1594. Edited by Pierre-Eugène Leroy. 3 vols. Rheims, France: Presses universitaires de Reims, 1998–2000.

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      A detailed chronicle of the founding of a Reformed church in Troyes, the persecutions endured by Protestants in the city, and the course of the wars. The author participated in many of these events but retreated to Geneva when the danger was too strong.

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    Peacemaking and Religious Coexistence

    Perhaps in reaction to several decades during which the study of religious violence played a prominent role in scholarly agendas, historians have recently turned greater attention to the problems of peacemaking and religious pluralism. Turchetti 1991 and Benedict 2001 distinguish usefully between a perceived need for coexistence and a persistence of intolerance based on the expectation that religious differences would eventually be resolved by a merging of churches and not by religious pluralism. The essays in Cameron, et al. 2000 and Wanegffelen 2003 address a variety of dimensions of the pragmatic and ideological impediments to coexistence. Greengrass 2007 establishes how strong the desire for peace was during the middle decades of the wars, while also chronicling the failure of peace initiatives during this period.

    • Benedict, Philip. “Un roi, une loi, deux fois: Parameters for the History of Catholic-Reformed Coexistence in France, 1555–1685.” In The Faith and Fortunes of France’s Huguenots, 1600–1685. By Philip Benedict, 279–308. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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      Attempts to overcome oversimplified notions of progress toward “tolerance” by setting the problem of religious pluralism in France into a historical context in which coexistence was often viewed as necessary, but seldom as desirable, by parties on both sides of the religious divide.

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    • Cameron, Keith, Mark Greengrass, and Penny Roberts, eds. The Adventure of Religious Pluralism in Early Modern France: Papers from the Exeter Conference, April 1999. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2000.

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      A valuable collection of articles, stemming from conference proceedings, exploring the cultural preconditions for religious coexistence in France, the pragmatic politics of coexistence, and impediments to these policies.

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    • Greengrass, Mark. Governing Passions: Peace and Reform in the French Kingdom, 1576–1585. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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      Looks at the debates that took place among France’s governing milieus about how to secure both peace and reform in the kingdom. Emphasizes the desire of the Crown, other governing officials, and notables for peace, but also explores the obstacles to this process.

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    • Turchetti, Mario. “Religious Concord and Political Tolerance in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century France.” Sixteenth Century Journal 22.1 (1991): 15–25.

      DOI: 10.2307/2542013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Distinguishes two alternating currents in French religious policy and underscores the importance of distinguishing between them. While policies of “tolerance” aimed to set parameters allowing the coexistence of two faiths, those of “religious concord” aimed ultimately to reunify the faiths into a single church.

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    • Wanegffelen, Thierry, ed. De Michel de l’Hospital à l’édit de Nantes: Politique et religion face aux églises. Clermont-Ferrand, France: Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal, 2003.

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      Contains scholarly essays addressing various aspects of the struggle for religious pluralism, including essays on de l’Hospital’s own ideas, those of others in (and beyond) France, and the working out of coexistence under the Edict of Nantes.

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    Peacemaking before Nantes

    Recent research has revised the common view that the edicts of pacification that ended the first religious wars were inconsequential failures because they were ineffective and poorly enforced. Christin 1997 argues for the importance of the early edicts of pacification as an important long-term step in the separation of political authority from its religious roots, Foa 2004 offers important new insights into the serious efforts made to enforce the first pacification edicts, and Roberts 2004 addresses similar issues but with more emphasis on the difficulties encountered in enforcing the edicts. One of the greatest obstacles to peaceful coexistence was the problem of sharing urban space. Roberts 1998 addresses this issue with regard to places of worship, while Foa 2006 employs sociological concepts to explore the impact of the marginalization of religious minorities.

    • Christin, Olivier. La paix de religion: L’autonomisation de la raison politique au XVIe siècle. Paris: Seuil, 1997.

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      A comparative study of the attempts to create a lasting religious peace through edicts of pacification and pacts for coexistence in France and the Holy Roman Empire. Christin argues that these attempts led to new ways of thinking about the state and a new autonomy for political reasoning.

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    • Foa, Jérémie. “Making Peace: The Commissions for Enforcing the Pacification Edicts in the Reign of Charles IX (1560–1574).” French History 18.3 (2004): 256–274.

      DOI: 10.1093/fh/18.3.256Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Explains the role played by peace commissioners sent by the Crown to enforce the Edict of Amboise in 1563 and the Peace of Saint-Germain in 1570, which ended the first religious wars. The work is clearly written and based on extensive archival research in previously unutilized sources.

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    • Foa, Jérémie. “An Unequal Apportionment: The Conflict Over Space between Protestants and Catholics at the Beginning of the Wars of Religion.” French History 20.4 (2006): 369–386.

      DOI: 10.1093/fh/crl028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Looks at the implications of Catholic attempts to marginalize or exclude Protestants from urban spaces as a response to pacification edicts mandating coexistence.

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    • Roberts, Penny. “The Most Crucial Battle of the Wars of Religion? The Conflict Over Sites for Reformed Worship in Sixteenth-Century France.” Archive for Reformation History 89 (1998): 247–267.

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      Explores the fights over the location of Protestant worship, which Protestants wanted as close and convenient as possible and Catholics sought to push to distant locations, and the implications of these quarrels for renewal of warfare.

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    • Roberts, Penny. “Royal Authority and Justice during the French Religious Wars.” Past and Present 184.1 (2004): 3–32.

      DOI: 10.1093/past/184.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Looks at attempts to enforce pacification edicts within the broader context of French justice, the limits of this justice, and its extension as a consequence of the religious wars.

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    The Edict of Nantes

    Although closely modeled on the edicts of pacification that preceded it, the 1598 Edict of Nantes had more lasting success in setting the terms for peaceful coexistence among France’s Catholic and Protestant populations. The essays in Goodbar 1998 and Grandjean 1998 offer scholarly appraisals of the edict’s reception and impact. Rabut 1987 presents a more systematic, archival-based study of its impact in one French province. Margolf 2003 focuses on the role of the special courts created under the edict to adjudicate cases involving Protestants. The experience of religious coexistence under the edict is examined through the case study of a single, extended family in Mentzer 1994, through the study of a religiously mixed community in Hanlon 1993, and more broadly, though with emphasis on a single province, in Luria 2005. Several of the essays in Benedict 2001 also deal with religious coexistence; others look more broadly at Huguenot demographics and culture in the wake of the Edict of Nantes.

    • Benedict, Philip. The Faith and Fortunes of France’s Huguenots, 1600–1685. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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      A collection of important essays on the social and demographic characteristics of the Huguenots, their religious culture, and, more broadly, conceptual issues regarding of religious coexistence and confessionalization.

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    • Goodbar, Richard L., ed. The Edict of Nantes: Five Essays and a New Translation. Bloomington, MN: National Huguenot Society, 1998.

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      Essays on the failure of peace before Nantes, provisions of the edict, its broader European impact; and opposition to it.

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    • Grandjean, Michel, and Bernard Roussel, eds. Coexister dans l’intolérance: L’édit de Nantes (1598). Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et fides, 1998.

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      A collection of scholarly essays dealing with the negotiation of the Edict of Nantes, its reception, its impact, and various interpretations that have been offered of it.

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    • Hanlon, Gregory. Confession and Community in Seventeenth-Century France: Catholic and Protestant Coexistence in Aquitaine. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

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      A suggestive case study that examines Protestant-Catholic coexistence in a religiously divided town in the Agenais. Hanlon suggests that, except for a core of religious militants on both sides, the two faiths were well integrated, with significant levels of intermarriage and little sign of separate subcultures.

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    • Luria, Keith P. Sacred Boundaries: Religious Coexistence and Conflict in Early Modern France. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2005.

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      Argues for understanding religious coexistence within the context of confessional boundaries that could be fluid where matters of business and social relations were concerned but also protective of the minority culture. Based on archival and published sources, the work employs insights from cultural anthropology and conflict resolution theory.

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    • Margolf, Diane C. Religion and Royal Justice in Early Modern France: The Paris Chambre de l’Édit, 1598–1665. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003.

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      Employs records from the special court created to handle legal disputes involving parties of mixed religion to show how the court operated and the sort of cases it adjudicated, which included both civil and criminal matters. Shows the role the court played in keeping the peace and extending the scope of royal justice.

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    • Mentzer, Raymond A. Blood and Belief: Family Survival and Confessional Identity among the Provincial Huguenot Nobility. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1994.

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      A case study of religious choice and allegiance based on documents preserved by a single family from Castres, in southwestern France. Shows well how gender and professional ambitions influenced the decision to remain Protestant under the Edict of Nantes.

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    • Rabut, Élisabeth. Le roi, l’Église, et le temple: l’exécution de l’édit de Nantes en Dauphiné. Grenoble, France: La Pensée Sauvage, 1987.

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      The only recent systematic study of how the Edict of Nantes was executed and enforced; a regional study based on extensive archival research.

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    Sources

    Stegmann 1979 contains the original texts of the edicts of pacification from each of the Wars of Religion prior to the Edict of Nantes. Parsons 1998 is a new English translation of the Edict of Nantes, while Spencer 1973 is an earlier translation. Images of the original Edict of Nantes, along with other archival documents from the Wars of Religion are available online from the Archives Nationales de France.

    Key Figures and Factions

    Constant 1984 offers an overview of the role played by members of the house of Guise as a leading force for Catholic militancy in the Wars of Religion. There are no good studies of the political role played by Charles, Cardinal de Lorraine, but Evennett 1930 remains useful on his role at the Council of Trent and casts doubt on interpretations of him as a militant ultra-Catholic. Greengrass 1986 offers useful insights into the political affinities of the moderate Catholic Henri I de Montmorency. On the Protestant side, Shimizu 1970 looks at Gaspard de Châtillon, admiral de Coligny, the Huguenot leader whose assassination in August 1572 touched off the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Manetsch 2000 looks at Theodore de Beza’s continued preoccupation with the Protestant cause in France. Kim 1997 looks at Michel de L’Hôpital, the moderate Catholic who served as chancellor during the opening stages of the Wars of Religion. Barbiche and Dainville-Barbiche 1997 look at Henry IV’s minister Sully as a Protestant noble and warrior and not just as the able administrator who helped restore royal finances and governmental authority. For studies of Catherine de Medici and kings Henry III and Henry IV, see Church, King, and Nation.

    • Barbiche, Bernard, and Ségolène de Dainville-Barbiche. Sully: L’homme et ses fidèles. Paris: Fayard, 1997.

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      Sets the achievements of Henry IV’s principle minister, Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully, in 1606 into the broader context of both his experiences as a Protestant noble and the entourage of colleagues who aided him in restoring French finances and administration after the religious wars.

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    • Constant, Jean-Marie. Les Guise. Paris: Hachette, 1984.

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      A useful synthesis on the Guise family, emphasizing their role in the Holy League and based largely on published sources.

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    • Evennett, Henry O. The Cardinal of Lorraine and the Council of Trent: A Study in the Counter-Reformation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1930.

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      Although focusing on a particular episode in the cardinal’s career, this work helps undermine the common view of him as a reactionary Catholic and hard-line architect of religious persecution in France.

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    • Greengrass, Mark. “Noble Affinities in Early Modern France: The Case of Henri I de Montmorency, Constable of France.” European History Quarterly 16 (1986): 275–311.

      DOI: 10.1177/026569148601600301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      As governor of Languedoc during the Wars of Religion, Henri I de Montmorency played a key role in the conflicts. A moderate Catholic, he allied for a time with Protestants during the mid-1570s. As such, his circle of clientage and influence is of special importance.

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    • Holt, Mack P. The Duke of Anjou and the Politique Struggle during the Wars of Religion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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      Briefly the leader of moderates seeking peaceful coexistence in the 1570s, François, duke of Alençon, played an important role in the diplomatic overtures of his mother, Catherine de Medici, before his untimely death in 1584 left a Protestant heir to the throne. Holt provides useful insights into both domestic and foreign policies in the middle decades of the wars.

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    • Kim, Seong-Hak. Michel de L’Hôpital: The Vision of a Reformist Chancellor during the French Religious Wars. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1997.

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      Offers a revised interpretation of L’Hôpital’s role as chancellor, depicting him as a pragmatic statesman who endorsed religious toleration as the best way to maintain royal authority, rather than out of philosophical principle.

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    • Manetsch, Scott. Theodore Beza and the Quest for Peace in France, 1572–1598. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

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      Focuses on Beza’s political role as a champion of the Protestant cause in France, with particular attention to his responses to the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, to moderates who suggested compromise or a middle way, and to the conversion of Henry IV.

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    • Shimizu, June. Conflict of Loyalties: Politics and Religion in the Career of Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, 1519–1572. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1970.

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      Looks at the role of political ambition and religion in Coligny’s career, favoring politics over religion as a motivating factor for his emergence as a Protestant leader.

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    The Catholic Reformation

    The revival of Catholic spirituality and renewal of Catholic institutions that occurred in the wake of the Wars of Religion was a long and complex process, much of which took place outside of even the most generous definition of the Renaissance. The works included here are thus not intended as a comprehensive guide to the Catholic Reformation in France and instead focus primarily on the movement’s origins and relationship to the crisis of religious war (though Taveneaux 1980 does offer an overview). Bossy 1970 and Delumeau 1977 helped turn research on the Catholic Reformation away from its traditional focus on ecclesiastical reformers and new religious foundations to look instead at ordinary believers, what they understood, and how they practiced their faith. The works listed under Regional Studies owe a debt to the questions they raised, even if they do not always agree with their conclusions. Châtellier 1989 and Tallon 1990 examine the piety and practices of lay elites. Deslandres 2003 looks at missionary activity within France and abroad. Forrestal 2004 addresses the response of French bishops to the demand for top-down church reform. Venard 2000 brings together essays on a variety of topics related to the Catholic Reformation and its 16th-century roots.

    • Bossy, John. “The Counter-Reformation and the People of Catholic Europe.” Past and Present 47.1 (1970): 51–70.

      DOI: 10.1093/past/47.1.51Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A pioneering article for the big questions it posed about the impact of the Council of Trent on the practice of Catholicism among ordinary believers. Draws on sociological methods. Not specifically focused on France, but many French examples are included.

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    • Châtellier, Louis. The Europe of the Devout: The Catholic Reformation and the Formation of a New Society. Translated by Jean Birrell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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      Originally published as L’Europe des dévots in 1987. Somewhat narrower than the title suggests, focusing on the role of the Jesuit-sponsored Marian congregations, or confraternities, in forming the religious practices of early modern Catholic elites.

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    • Delumeau, Jean. Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter-Reformation. Translated by Jeremy Moiser. London: Burns and Oates, 1977.

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      Sets out the provocative argument that the Catholic Reformation was responsible for Christianizing a population still enmeshed in superstition and ignorance. Originally published as Le Catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire in 1971.

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    • Deslandres, Dominique. Croire et faire croire: Les missions françaises au XVIIe siècle (1600–1650). Paris: Fayard, 2003.

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      A major, archivally based study of the missionary activities intended to evangelize French peasants, convert French Protestants, and bring Christianity to nonbelievers in Asia and the Americas. Provides good background on the reformers and religious that undertook these movements, as well as their ideas and activities.

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    • Forrestal, Alison. Fathers, Pastors, and Kings: Visions of Episcopacy in Seventeenth-Century France. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

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      A study of the new ideologies of episcopal leadership articulated in the Catholic Reformation and the difficulties encountered in actually asserting this new leadership role.

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    • Tallon, Alain. La compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, 1629–1667: Spiritualité et société. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1990.

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      A good introduction, with documents, to the secret society that joined many devout elites in clandestine good works in 17th-century France.

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    • Taveneaux, René. Le catholicisme dans la France classique, 1610–1715. 2 vols. Paris: SEDES, 1980.

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      A useful overview of Catholic Church structures and institutions, the reform of old and creation of new religious orders, and the activities of both bishops and parish clergy. Emphasizes change rather than continuity, with significant reform taking place only after about 1610.

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    • Venard, Marc. Le catholicisme à l’épreuve dans la France du XVIe siècle. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2000.

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      A collection of essays on Catholic practice and belief by one of the scholars who has contributed most to understanding the 16th-century origins of the Catholic Reformation.

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    Regional Studies

    The ideas that guided the Catholic Reformation had many common roots in the decrees issued by the Council of Trent, the activities of reforming bishops such as Carlo Borromeo, and the foundation of new reformed religious orders in Italy and Spain, but the actual implantation of reforms was heavily dependent on the initiative of French bishops and the patronage of lay elites. The four studies listed here all make extensive use of pastoral visits and archival records to chart institutional reforms and changes in religious practice at the parish level. Sauzet 1979 examines a diocese with an extremely high Protestant population, Venard 1993 a strongly Catholic area that nevertheless bordered on a Protestant enclave perceived as a threat, Hoffman 1984 an area where Protestantism made early inroads but was quickly repressed, and Luria 1991 a region in which a significant but scattered Protestant minority continued to exist.

    • Hoffman, Philip. Church and Community in the Diocese of Lyon, 1500–1789. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984.

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      Looks at reform efforts in both the city and the countryside, assessing the ideals of reform, the means through which reforms were enacted, and their relative success or failure.

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    • Luria, Keith P. Territories of Grace: Cultural Change in the Seventeenth-Century Diocese of Grenoble. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991.

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      Looks most closely at the problems of extending reforms into rural areas, and interprets results in terms of negotiated compromises between clerical reformers and villagers with their own religious values.

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    • Sauzet, Robert. Contre-Réforme et Réforme catholique en Bas-Languedoc au XVIIème siècle: Le diocèse de Nîmes de 1598 à 1694. Brussels and Louvain, Belgium: Éditions Nauwelaerts, 1979.

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      An important local study based largely on pastoral visitations and other church records for a diocese whose particular interest and importance lies in its high percentage of Protestants, making the Catholic Reformation more a process of reconquest and reconversion than in places that had remained more predominantly Catholic.

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    • Venard, Marc. Réforme protestante, Réforme catholique dans la province ecclésiastique d’Avignon au XVIe siècle. Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1993.

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      A thorough examination of the spread of Protestant ideas in the papal enclave of Avignon, the Catholic response to these ideas, and the broader establishment of Tridentine reforms. Especially useful on social and cultural dimensions of religious practice.

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    Male Religious Orders

    The Jesuits are perhaps the most famous order associated with the Catholic Reformation, and they played an important role politically and as educators in France. Martin 1988 introduces their contributions with a focus on the early years of the Jesuit mission in France and the men who undertook it. Nelson 2005 takes up the story in the reign of Henry IV. Two congregations of reformed Franciscans played especially important roles in terms of numbers of recruits and the scope of their preaching mission. These are the Capuchins and the Recollects. Both were characterized by penitential piety, ascetic lives, and a concerted effort to teach doctrine and bring heretics back to the church. There are no good overviews of either congregation, but Dompnier 1993 offers a good archival-based study of the Capuchins of the ecclesiastical province of Lyons, and Meyer 1997 studies the Recollects of the same province.

    • Dompnier, Bernard. Enquête au pays des frères des anges: les Capucins de la province de Lyon aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Saint-Étienne, France: Université de Saint-Étienne, 1993.

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      A detailed study, archivally based and using serial methods, of the reformed congregation that attracted the most recruits in the early 17th century. The Capuchins were a congregation of reformed Franciscans noted for their austerity.

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    • Martin, A. Lynn. The Jesuit Mind: The Mentality of an Elite in Early Modern France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.

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      Uses the correspondence of French Jesuits in their early years in France (c. 1550–1580) to revise the common image of the order as militant shock troops of the Counter-Reformation.

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    • Meyer, Frédéric. Pauvreté et assistance spirituelle: Les franciscains récollets de la province de Lyon aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Saint-Étienne, France: University de Saint-Étienne, 1997.

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      An archivally based serial study of the spread of the Recollects in France, the men they attracted, and their spiritual mission.

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    • Nelson, Eric. The Jesuits and the Monarchy: Catholic Reform and Political Authority in France (1590–1615). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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      Examines the changing role of the Jesuits in France in the period following the League, including their expulsion, recall, subsequent expansion, and increasing integration into the monarchy.

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    Women and the Catholic Reformation

    While acknowledging the importance that Catholic clergy attached to the traditional cloistered religious life for women, recent studies of the role of women in the Catholic Reformation have stressed the agency and initiative they demonstrated despite these constraints. Rapley 1990 and Dinan 2006 look at early attempts to found uncloistered communities for women with active religious vocations. At the same time that it inspired some women to want to pursue religious vocations in the world, the spiritual renewal that characterized the early stages of the Catholic Reformation inspired others to join reclusive and austere contemplative orders. Morgain 1995 traces the foundation of one of the most successful new contemplative orders in France, the Carmelites of Saint Teresa of Avila’s reform. Diefendorf 2004 looks at the wide range of new religious institutions through which women sought to achieve their spiritual ambitions in Paris. Carr 2007 provides a useful tool for further research on women’s spirituality, along with articles on women’s spiritual writings by a number of specialists.

    • Carr, Thomas M., Jr. “A Checklist of Published Writings in French by Early Modern Nuns.” In EMF: Studies in Early Modern France. Vol. 11, The Cloister and the World: Early Modern Convent Voices. Edited by Thomas M. Carr Jr., 231–257. Charlottesville, VA: Rookwood, 2007.

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      The volume also contains good articles about nuns’ “voices” as expressed in both their writings and speech acts attributed to them.

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    • Diefendorf, Barbara B. From Penitence to Charity: Pious Women and the Catholic Reformation in Paris. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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      Examines the role of lay and religious women in founding and leading reformed religious orders, uncloistered teaching and nursing congregations, and charitable confraternities. Postulates an evolution from a piety emphasizing penitence in the wake of the religious wars toward a spirituality focused more on charity by the mid-17th century.

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    • Dinan, Susan E. Women and Poor Relief in Seventeenth-Century France: The Early History of the Daughters of Charity. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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      A new look at Louise de Marillac and the community of servants of the poor that became the Daughters of Charity, one of the first noncloistered women’s congregations in France, and the one that became the most successful.

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    • Morgain, Stéphane-Marie. Pierre de Bérulle et les Carmélites de France: La querelle du gouvernement, 1583–1629. Paris: Cerf, 1995.

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      Focuses on internal quarrels in the French Carmelites, but nevertheless gives very good coverage of the process that led up to the founding of a new order of Carmelite nuns on the model of Saint Teresa of Avila’s reforms, the founding of the first convents, and the men and women who played important roles in these processes.

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    • Rapley, Elizabeth. The Dévotes: Women and Church in Seventeenth-Century France. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990.

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      Looks at the struggles of women to play an active role in the Tridentine church, and in particular at those groups that sought to live by a simple rule outside the cloister. Examines both the hostility they faced and the contributions they made, despite pressures to conform to more traditional forms of religious life.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399301-0013

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