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Renaissance and Reformation France
by
Barbara B. Diefendorf

Introduction

Traditionally envisioned as the dawning of a new age characterized by the rebirth of classical learning and the arts, the Renaissance is often said to have been transported into France from Italy during the last decades of the 15th century and to have reached its peak there during the reign of King Francis I (r. 1515–1547), after which it quickly faded as the darkening clouds of religious dissent and civil war extinguished its optimistic spirit. Putting a terminal date to the French Renaissance is nevertheless not easy. The skepticism expressed in Montaigne’s essays, first published in 1580, suggests that the coming of war did not so much bring an end to Renaissance creativity as to change its tone. Renaissance culture in France must thus be viewed within the broader context of the kingdom’s social, economic, and political history between the late 15th and early 17th centuries. That is what this entry attempts to do. For more detailed discussion of religious issues and the Wars of Religion in France, see The Reformation and Wars of Religion in France.

General Overviews

There are a number of good introductory surveys of France in the Renaissance, each with a slightly different chronological scope and focus. Potter 1995 begins with the reign of Louis XI (r. 1461–1483) and France’s recovery from the Hundred Years War and stops short of the Wars of Religion. Jouanna 2006 begins with Charles VIII (r. 1483–1498), so as to open the French Renaissance with Charles’s invasion of Italy, and ends with Henry IV’s achievement of peace after decades of religious strife. Knecht 2001 takes the same starting point but continues through Henry IV’s assassination in 1610. Baumgartner 1995 uses roughly the same chronology but adopts a three-part thematic structure, instead of integrating events into a continuous narrative. Holt 2002 also adopts a thematic approach and carries the story to the mid–17th century. Scholars doing research on 16th-century France still find Salmon 1975 an important interpretive overview, but it is difficult reading and does not make the best introduction to the field.

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

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    An introductory survey, organized in three parts chronologically. Part 1 (1484–1530) covers the early Renaissance, Part 2 (1530–1562) the period leading up to the Wars of Religion; and Part 3 (1562–1614) the wars themselves. Each part has chapters on the monarchy, the church, the nobility, the people, justice, and culture.

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  • Holt, Mack P., ed. Renaissance and Reformation France, 1500–1648. The Short Oxford History of France. Edited by William Doyle. 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; covers the state, social groups, rural and urban economies, gender and family, religion and religious conflicts.

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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, recently updated, by a noted French specialist on the 16th century.

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  • Knecht, Robert Jean. 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 France in the “long sixteenth century,” especially strong on political history. The bibliographical essay is an excellent guide to further reading.

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  • Potter, David. A History of France, 1460–1560: The Emergence of a Nation State. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.

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    A good introductory text, focusing on the development of monarchical authority and state institutions; argues that a recognizable national identity developed by the late 15th century despite continued regional diversity.

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

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    Reflecting social history approaches dominant at the time it was written, the book begins with description and analysis of French social structures and political and religious institutions and then moves on to blend narrative and analysis in its account of the Wars of Religion. Not an easy read, but still considered an important interpretive account.

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Reference Works

Although not limited to France, the overviews of recent scholarship on many dimensions of the European Renaissance in Ruggiero 2002 provide useful comparative context for any study of this period in France. For those reading French, Jouanna, et al. 2001 provides a useful introductory essay covering the period of the Renaissance (defined here as 1470–1559), along with an alphabetical dictionary offering more detailed coverage of specific topics. Jouanna, et al. 1998 follows the same format for the remainder of the 16th century, with an emphasis on civil and religious wars that broke out repeatedly during that time.

  • Jouanna, Arlette, Jacqueline Boucher, Dominique Biloghi, and Guy Le Thiec. Histoire et dictionnaire des guerres de religion. Paris: Robert Laffont, 1998.

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    Includes a lengthy introductory essay on the Wars of Religion; a briefer section on international dimensions of the religious conflicts; an alphabetically organized topical dictionary covering of persons, places, and events; a chronology of the wars; and a list of sources and bibliography.

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  • Jouanna, Arlette, Philippe Hamon, Dominique Biloghi, and Guy Le Thiec. La France de la Renaissance. Histoire et dictionnaire. Paris: Robert Laffont, 2001.

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    Includes a lengthy introductory history of the period (running roughly from 1470 to 1559); a briefer section on international relations; an alphabetically organized topical dictionary of persons, institutions, and events; a chronology; and a bibliography.

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  • Ruggiero, Guido, ed. A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

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    Essays by distinguished scholars on the course of events in the Renaissance, the culture and institutions of government, social hierarchies, economic development, and various dimensions of Renaissance culture. Not limited to France, but useful for context and for comparative purposes.

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Bibliographies

The books listed under Reference Works contain guides to further reading and bibliographies. The following bibliographies will also be helpful to scholars doing serious research in 16th-century French sources. 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. Finding rare books in provincial French libraries is becoming easier as the Catalogue Collectif de France, available through the portal for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, becomes more and more inclusive. In addition, a growing number of 16th-century books are available online through the Gallica collection of electronic resources at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

  • Catalogue Collectif de France. Bibliothèque Nationale de France

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    This website allows researchers to locate books in a large number of French libraries, both in Paris and in the provinces. It aims to provide a common portal for all of the libraries that have put their catalogues online and is still expanding toward that end. It also includes information about the libraries included in the catalogue and the nature of the collections.

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    • French Books Before 1601.

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      An extensive microfilm collection containing more than 2,500 titles 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 online.

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      • Gallica. Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

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        Publications now available electronically can be located through the “Gallica” portal on the library’s home page or simply by searching them in the electronic catalog. Publications for which an electronic version is available are marked in the catalogue and can be accessed through a link.

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

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        A reprint of the Paris, 1906–1915 edition, this remains an essential guide to published primary sources for 16th-century France. Arranged chronologically by topic, Vol. 1 covers the Italian wars, Vol. 2 the reigns of Francis I and Henri II, Vol. 3 the Wars of Religion, and Vol. 4 the reign of Henry IV. Lists local and regional materials, memoirs, and diaries, among other primary sources.

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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: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.

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          An extensive bibliography and finding list, organized by date, of French pamphlet literature held by US libraries. 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 S, 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 over fifty thousand 16th-century French books discovered in over 450 libraries in continental Europe, Britain, and the United States. An essential finding list; two-fifths of the books exist in only one copy, often in small collections outside of France.

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        Journals

        There are no journals exclusively devoted to Renaissance France, but articles and reviews of books in this field can frequently be found—for example, in French Historical Studies, French History, Renaissance Quarterly, and Sixteenth Century Journal: The Journal of Early Modern Studies.

        • French Historical Studies (1958– ).

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          Published by Duke University Press in association with the Society for French Historical Studies. The leading American journal for French history. Covers all periods; includes bibliography of recent publications and sometimes does review essays but does not do regular book reviews. Available online.

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        • French History (1987– ).

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          Published by Oxford University Press for the Society for the Study of French History. The leading British journal for French history. Covers all historical periods; regularly includes book reviews. Available online.

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        • Renaissance Quarterly (1967– ).

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          Published by the University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Renaissance Society of America. Not limited to France; most useful for cultural, intellectual, literary, and art history. Regular book reviews and frequent review essays on recent literature. Available online.

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        • Sixteenth Century Journal: The Journal of Early Modern Studies (1972– ).

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          Published by The Sixteenth Century Journal in association with the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference; continues Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, Vols. 1–2 (1970–1971). Not limited to France; includes history, art history, and literary studies for the early modern period. Regular book reviews. Available online.

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        Kingdom and Nation

        Historians have sought to understand the Renaissance monarchy in France in terms of the myths and rituals that surrounded the exercise of power, as well as through the institutional structures through which this power was exerted and the men who exerted it. Bloch 1989 (originally published 1924) is the foundational study of the sacred character of French kingship as exercised through the ritual of the royal touch by which French kings were said miraculously to cure scrofula. Giesey 1960 looks at the ritual surrounding royal funerals and Jackson 1984 at the ceremonies surrounding the king’s coronation. Beaune 1991 broadens the field of study by looking at a variety of symbols and legends through which the disparate territories brought under the French Crown during the Middle Ages began to be unified under a shared ideology of the nation. Fogel 1989 looks at the “ceremonies of information” through which the monarchy was made visible to urban dwellers, especially Parisians. Cosandey 2000 extends the analysis of the juridical and ceremonial character of the French monarchy to the place that the queen served in it. Crawford 2004 looks more specifically at those queens who served as regents for sons not yet able to rule. Knecht 2008 looks at the Renaissance court as a political and cultural center for the exercise of monarchy.

        • Beaune, Colette. The Birth of an Ideology: Myths and Symbols of Nation in Late Medieval France. Translated by Susan R. Huston. Berkeley: University of California, 1991.

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          A translation of Naissance de la nation France [Paris: Gallimard, 1985]. An excellent introduction to the symbols and legends out of which the French monarchy constructed its image and authority in the later medieval period, much of which remained the same through the Renaissance.

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        • Bloch, Marc Léopold Benjamin. The Royal Touch: Monarchy and Miracles in France and England. Translated by J. E. Anderson. New York: Dorset Press, 1989.

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          Originally published as Les rois thaumaturges: Étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué à la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre [Strasbourg, France: Librairie Istra, 1924]. The classic study of the sacral powers of kings, as demonstrated by their alleged power to heal certain diseases; focuses mostly on the medieval origins of this idea of kingship, but its implications remain extremely important through the Renaissance.

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        • Cosandey, Fanny. La reine de France: symbole et pouvoir, Xve-XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Gallimard, 2000.

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          A major study of the role of the queen; looks at the juridical basis for women’s exclusion from the throne, the function and character of royal marriage, the queen’s ceremonial role, and her exercise of power and role in the state.

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        • Crawford, Katherine. Perilous Performances: Gender and Regency in Early Modern France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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          Although the chronological scope of the work encompasses the period between the later Middle Ages and the Revolution, the book contains useful background on the problem of queenship and the role of regency in the early modern French monarchy.

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        • Fogel, Michèle. Les cérémonies de l’information dans la France du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Fayard, 1989.

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          An important study of how information was transmitted to urban residents in the days before newspapers. Looks at the rituals through which the Crown announced its news but also how this information was shared and reshaped by those who received it. Not focused strictly on the 16th century, but relevant to it.

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        • Giesey, Ralph E. The Royal Funeral Ceremony in Renaissance France. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1960.

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          A close study of the elaborate funeral rituals given French kings and interpretation of the meaning of these rituals in terms royal authority.

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        • Jackson, Richard A. Vive le Roi! A History of the French Coronation from Charles V to Charles X. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

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          A close study of the ceremonies though which French kings were consecrated as monarchs, and the evolving rituals and symbols associated with these ceremonies.

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        • Knecht, Robert Jean. The French Renaissance Court, 1483–1589. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

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          Traces the evolution of the court as a cultural and political center over the course of a century.

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        Institutions and Government

        Mousnier 1979–1984 remains the standard work in English on French institutions for the 17th and 18th century but is useful for the previous century as well. For those who read French, Barbiche 1999 offers a more recent overview of government institutions with good suggestions for further reading on specific institutions and offices. The first third of Major 1994 describes the roles played by the Estates General and provincial estates in the Renaissance monarchy. Wolfe 1972 remains the best overview in English of the fiscal workings of the Renaissance monarchy but has been superseded in Hamon, et al. 1994 on the fiscal system and Hamon 1999 on the men who held office in this system. Daubresse 2005 examines relations between the Parlement of Paris and the Crown during the religious wars.

        • 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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          Departing from the common view that relations between the Crown and its high court of Parlement were frequently conflicting. Daubresse finds pragmatic collaboration and, even when there were conflicts, a desire on the part of Parlement to support royal authority.

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        • Hamon, Philippe, Jean Jacquart, and Françoise Bayard. L’argent du roi: Les finances sous François 1er. Paris: Comité pour l’Histoire Économique et Financière de la France, 1994.

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          A study of fiscal realities, with special attention to changes in royal policy under Francis I as he sought to expand royal revenues in response to increasing expenses, especially those caused by wars.

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        • Hamon, Philippe. Messieurs des finances: Les grands officiers de finance dans la France de la Renaissance. Paris: Comité pour l’histoire économique er financière de la France, 1999.

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          A prosopographical study of the men who had charge of French finances between the late 15th and the mid–16th centuries.

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        • Major, J. Russell. From Renaissance Monarchy to Absolute Monarchy: French Kings, Nobles, and Estates. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

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          A synthesis drawing on his previous research; emphasizes the interdependence of the king, the nobility, and representative institutions, including both the Estates General and the provincial estates, in the French monarchy. The first third of the book focuses on the Renaissance era; the remainder on the evolution toward absolutism.

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        • Mounsier, Roland. The Institutions of France under the Absolute Monarchy, 1598–1789. Translated by Arthur Goldhamer, 2 vols. Chicago: Chicago University 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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        • Wolfe, Martin. The Fiscal System in Renaissance France. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972.

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          An overview of the financial system, including taxes, borrowing, and other revenues, from the later Middle Ages through the Wars of Religion.

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        War and Government

        Potter 1993 explains the important role that war played in the integration of Picardy into France. Although a case study, it provides useful clues for understanding the problems of frontier provinces and their integration into the French monarchy. Wood 1996 examines the nature of warfare and of armies during the first part of the Wars of Religion.

        • Potter, David. War and Government in the French Provinces: Picardy, 1470–1560. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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          An institutional study of the integration of this formerly Burgundian province into France; emphasizes the impact of war, the province’s strategic position on France’s northern frontier, and the collaboration between local elites and the monarchy.

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

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          A study of how wars were fought but also how armies were raised and paid during the first period of the Wars of Religion.

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        Political Thought: Constitutionalism and Absolutism

        Scholars writing about political thought in Renaissance France tend to divide political theories into “constitutionalist” and “absolutist” strains, depending on whether they stress the limited and representative nature of kingship or the more extensive authority derived from its sacral character. Keohane 1980 offers a synthesis of these arguments; Skinner 1978 shows how they came into play in the political conflicts generated by the Wars of Religion. Church 1941 studies constitutionalism in greater depth. Franklin 1973 shows how the ideas of one important thinker, Jean Bodin, became more absolutist under the pressure of the religious wars. Bonney 1987 and Cosandey and Descimon 2002 approach the problem of absolutism historiographically, illustrating the different ways the concept has been constructed and their implications for understanding the history of the Old Regime.

        • Bonney, Richard. “Absolutism: What’s in a Name?” French History 1.1 (1987): 93–117.

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          A useful review of the literature and contrasting definitions and approaches to the problem of absolutism; relatively little on the first half of the 16th century.

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        • Church, William F. Constitutional Thought in Sixteenth-Century France: A Study of the Evolution of Ideas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941.

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          A study of 16th-century debates over ideas of kingship and whether the king was divinely appointed or a representative of the people. Remains an important study, despite its age, but a book for specialists and not an introduction to the problem.

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        • Cosandey, Fanny, and Robert Descimon. L’absolutisme en France: Histoire et historiographie. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2002.

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          A historiographical approach to absolutism, providing a good starting point for understanding the debates on absolutism and for further reading.

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        • Franklin, Julian H. Jean Bodin and the Rise of Absolutist Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1973.

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          Begins with an overview of 16th-century constitutional thought, which strongly influenced Bodin’s early work, and then traces the emergence of his absolutism within the context of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and Huguenot resistance theory.

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        • Keohane, Nannerl O. Philosophy and the State in France: The Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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          A thematic overview of political philosophy in France between the 16th century with sections on constitutionalism, absolutism, and individualism.

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        • Skinner, Quentin. Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Vol. 2, The Age of Reformation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

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          Part 3: “Calvinism and the Theory of Revolution” (pp. 189–348) offers an overview of Huguenot resistance theory, the reassertion of constitutionalism, and theories of absolutism in the context of the Wars of Religion.

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        Sources

        Several major political treatises from 16th-century France are available in English translation, including the constitutional theories of Claude de Seyssel (Seyssel 1981), the resistance theories of François Hotman (Hotman 1972), and the absolutist response of Jean Bodin (Bodin 1979). Franklin 1969 contains extracts from three important treatises arguing for the right to resist a king who behaved tyrannically.

        • Bodin, Jean. The Six Bookes of a Commonweale: A Facsimile Reprint of the English Translation of 1606. Edited by Kenneth Douglas McRae. New York: Arno Press, 1979.

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          A translation of Les six livres de la Republique, first published in 1576. Still the only complete edition of this important political treatise in English. The 1606 English edition is available online through EEBO; a 1579 French edition is available online from Gallica. Originally published in 1962.

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        • Franklin, Julian H., ed. and trans. Constitutionalism and Resistance in the Sixteenth Century: Three Treatises by Hotman, Beza, & Mornay. New York: Pegasus, 1969.

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          Well-chosen selections from three major treatises on Huguenot resistance theory.

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        • Hotman, François. Francogallia. Edited and Translated by Ralph E. Giesey and J. H. M. Salmon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1972.

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          Presents the Latin text and English translation of this key treatise on the right of resistance on parallel pages; copiously annotated and with a lengthy introduction analyzing the text.

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        • Seyssel, Claude de. The Monarchy of France. Translated by J. H. Hexter and Edited by Donald R. Kelley. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1981.

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          A translation of La grande monarchie de France, first published in 1541. An accessible translation of one of the most important constitutionalist treatises from Renaissance France.

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        France’s Rulers

        Good recent biographies are available for most but not all of the kings who ruled France in the 16th century. Baumgartner 1996 covers the reign of Louis XII (ruled 1498–1515); Knecht 1994 the reign of his successor, Francis I (ruled 1515–1547); and Baumgartner 1988 the reign of the latter’s son and successor, Henry II (ruled 1547–1559). There are no biographies of Francis II, the adolescent king who ruled briefly (1559–1560) before dying prematurely, or his successor and brother Charles IX (ruled 1560–1574), but Knecht 1998 covers their reigns in his study of the kings’ mother, Catherine de Medici, who effectively ruled in their stead through much of this period. Le Roux 2001 offers new insights into court culture and politics in Renaissance France, especially at the court of the last Valois king, Henry III (ruled 1574–1589). Greengrass 2007 reappraises Henry III’s reign from a different perspective by looking at his ideals of peace and reform. Buisseret 1982 gives a good overview of the first Bourbon king, Henry IV (ruled 1589–1610); Pitts 2009 is richer and includes much recent scholarship.

        • Baumgartner, Frederic. Henry II, King of France, 1547–1559. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1988.

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          Primarily a political biography; as such, deals usefully with problems of war and diplomacy, court politics, and the struggle against Calvinism, as well as the king himself.

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        • Baumgartner, Frederic J. Louis XII. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

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          Sets Louis XII’s life and reign into the context of his times; a good reassessment of the character of his reign.

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        • Buisseret, David. Henry IV: King of France. London: Unwin Hyman, 1982.

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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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        • 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; 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 requiring good prior knowledge of the period.

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        • Knecht, Robert Jean. Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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          Updates and expands upon an important reassessment of Francis I’s reign, adding material on the arts and architecture and revising sections on diplomacy and foreign affairs.

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        • Knecht, Robert Jean. Catherine De’Medici. 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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        • Pitts, Vincent J. Henri IV: 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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        The Nobility

        In the later Middle Ages, nobility in France was rooted in feudal service to the king and the holding of landed estates, or seigneuries. During the Renaissance, it also became possible to acquire noble status through service in certain high royal offices, such as the courts of Parlement, and through outright purchase of letters of nobility from the Crown. Historians often distinguish between the two groups by calling the former the “nobility of the sword” (after the weapon associated with the feudal warrior) and the latter “nobility of the robe” (after the long robe of the magistrate). In practice, however, the two groups often overlapped on account of intermarriage or the career choices of sons. Dewald 1980 illustrates this overlap well in his study of the magistrates of Rouen. Wood 1980 makes a similar point in his more quantitatively based study of the nobility of one administrative district in Normandy. Dewald 1987 offers a case study of relations between nobles and peasants in one Norman community. Harding 1978 looks at the great aristocrats who served the king as provincial governors, while Bourquin 1994 looks at those who ranked just beneath the high aristocracy in power and prestige. Jouanna 1989 focuses on the political role the nobility envisioned for itself in France; Motley 1990 on the education of the high nobility; and Neuschel 1989 on clientage ties and noble culture. See also Urban Elites for more studies of urban notables who aspired to (and sometimes obtained) noble status.

        • Bourquin, Laurent. Noblesse seconde et pouvoir en Champagne aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1994.

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          A regional study focusing on the members of the nobility whose status was just below that of the great aristocrats and on the role they played in this frontier province; although much of the book focuses on the late 16th and 17th centuries and the impact of war, it provides useful context for understanding noble power.

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        • Dewald, Jonathan. The Formation of a Provincial Nobility: The Magistrates of the Parlement of Rouen, 1499–1610. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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          Illustrates well the interconnections between the old nobility of the sword and the nobility of the robe, that is to say, the men who achieved noble status through service as magistrates in the high courts of Parlement.

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        • Dewald, Jonathan. Pont-St-Pierre, 1398–1789: Lordship, Community, and Capitalism in Early Modern France. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

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          On the nobles’ place in rural society; their difficult adaptation to capitalism.

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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 whose role as the king’s governor and military leader for French provinces gave them a key role in the Wars of Religion.

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        • Jouanna, Arlette. Le devoir de révolte: la noblesse française et la gestation de l’état moderne, 1559–1661. Paris: Fayard, 1989.

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          Looks at the understanding the French nobility had of its place in the monarchy and at the way in which revolt was justified as a rightful way of influencing government policy in the name of the king’s subjects.

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        • Motley, Mark Edward. Becoming a French Aristocrat: The Education of the Court Nobility, 1580–1715. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

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          Primarily focused on the 17th century but offering useful insights on noble culture and education in the late Renaissance as well.

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        • Neuschel, Kristen Brooke. Word of Honor: Interpreting Noble Culture in Sixteenth-Century France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

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          A study of noble culture focused on the nature of the ties between nobles, both feudal and personal, and the value system they reflected.

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        • Wood, James B. The Nobility of the Election of Bayeux: 1463–1666. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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          An archivally based study that attempts to identify the socioeconomic composition of a regional nobility and the character of their lands and experience between the late 15th and mid–17th centuries.

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        Cities and Urban Life

        Le Roy Ladurie 1981 offers a useful overview of the social, demographic, and economic character of early modern French cities. Chevalier 1982 is also a valuable synthesis and focuses more on the later Middle Ages and the changes that occurred with the Wars of Religion. Benedict 1989 has articles on individual cities and is especially strong on demography. Davis 1975 contains path-breaking articles on different dimensions of urban life; Davis 1981 looks at the place of the sacred in the city. Schneider 1989 and Bernstein 2004 offer good case studies of urban institutions and civic culture in Toulouse and Poitiers respectively. Gutton 1971 focuses on the urban poor.

        • Benedict, Philip, ed. Cities and Social Change in Early Modern France. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

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          A useful collection of essays on French cities and their social geography and economic structures. Contains a good overview and table on urban populations, along with essays on Paris, Montpellier, Dijon, Aix-en-Provence, and Toulouse.

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        • Bernstein, Hilary J. Between Crown and Community: Politics and Civic Culture in Sixteenth-Century Poitiers. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004.

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          A well-researched study of the functioning of municipal government and the civic culture of the urban elite in a middle-sized French town.

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        • Chevalier, Bernard. Les bonnes villes de France du XIVe au XVIe siècle. Paris: Aubier, 1982.

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          A classic synthesis on the late medieval town, its hierarchical social structures, urban government and rituals, and its relationship to the king. Argues that the religious violence of the mid–16th century destroyed these traditional forms of urban life.

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        • Davis, Natalie Zemon. Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975.

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          Innovative articles, many of which address important dimensions of urban life, including the appeal of the Protestant Reformation to urban workers and women, poor relief programs, and religious rioting.

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

          DOI: 10.1093/past/90.1.40Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A classic article on the contrasting ways in which Catholics and Protestants envisioned the presence of the sacred in the city and how this influenced both ritual life and conflicts between the two faiths.

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        • Gutton, Jean-Pierre. La société et les pauvres: L’exemple de la généralité de Lyon: 1534–1789. Paris: Société d’édition “Les Belles Lettres,” 1971.

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          An archival study of the character of urban poverty and changing institutional responses to the poor in and around the city of Lyons by a historian who has made the history of the poor his specialty. Although mostly concerned with a later period, offers some good background on the changing response to poverty in the Renaissance.

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        • Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel, Roger Chartier, and Hugues Neveux, ed. La ville classique, de la Renaissance aux Révolutions. Vol. 3, Histoire de la France urbaine. Edited by Georges Duby. Paris: Seuil, 1981.

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          Part I, “La ville dominante et soumise,” by Roger Chartier and Hugues Neveux, synthesizes research published in the preceding decades on various facets of urban life, including demographics, social structures, civic institutions, and major building projects for the 16th and 17th century French city.

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        • Schneider, Robert Alan. Public Life in Toulouse, 1463–1789: From Municipal Republic to Cosmopolitan City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

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          Part II: “Public Life in the Municipal Republic” (pp. 45–131) gives a good overview of government institutions, popular culture, and lay piety in Toulouse during the Renaissance and Wars of Religion.

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        Urban Elites

        In addition to the works cited on cities and urban life (see Cities and Urban Life), most of which contain discussion of governing elites, Huppert 1977 and Diefendorf 1983 examine the social values and mentality of the urban notability who aspired to noble status in early modern France. Beam 2007 offers a fascinating look at the changing value system of urban notables by examining their changing reaction to and participation in public performances of satirical plays.

        • Beam, Sara. Laughing Matters: Farce and the Making of Absolutism in France. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 2007.

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          An innovative approach to the changes in urban culture between the late 15th and the late 17th centuries. Looks at festive societies, traditions of satirical theater in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, and the marginalization of these societies once urban elites decided that manners needed to be reformed and bawdy behavior curbed.

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        • Diefendorf, Barbara B. Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth Century: The Politics of Patrimony. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

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          A study of the ways in which elite families in Paris used marriage, career, and inheritance in pursuit of upward mobility as the municipal oligarchy transformed itself from a mercantile elite to one dominated by men ennobled through service to the king.

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        • Huppert, George. Les Bourgeois Gentilshommes: An Essay on the Definition of Elites in Renaissance France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

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          Looks at the upwardly mobile elites who abandoned mercantile pursuits to invest in royal office and noble lands, thereby living nobly and even claiming noble status, and enjoying the respect traditionally accorded the nobility. A valuable study of the mentality of these elites.

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        Artisans, Merchants, and Commerce

        Baulant 1971 and Baulant 1976 are classic quantitative studies of the salaries and purchase power of artisans and working people in early modern Paris. Dolan 1989 and Farr 1989 also use serial records to look at the social and economic position of craftsmen in early modern cities. Drawing on a variety of archival sources, Farr 1988 is the best study of artisan culture in an early modern city. Gascon 1971 remains unparalleled as a study of mercantile culture and patterns of trade. Brunelle 1991 offers a rare glimpse into the practices of merchants engaged in overseas trade.

        • Baulant, Micheline. “Le salaire des ouvriers du bâtiment à Paris de 1400 à 1726.” Annales: Économies, sociétés, civilisations 26.2 (1971): 463–493.

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          A quantitative study of the salaries of workers in the Parisian building trades through the early modern period.

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        • Baulant, Micheline. “Prix et salaires à Paris au XVIe siècle: Sources et résultats.” Annales: Économies, sociétés, civilisations 31.5 (1976): 954–995.

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          A quantitative study charting the changing purchasing power of 16th-century working people through the economic crises the century endured.

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        • Brunelle, Gayle K. The New World Merchants of Rouen, 1559–1630. Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1991.

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          An archival study of the French merchants who engaged in trade with Brazil in the second half of the 16th century; looks at their trade practices but also their family strategies and participation in civic affairs.

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        • Dolan, Claire. “The Artisans of Aix-en-Provence in the Sixteenth Century: A Micro-analysis of Social Relationships.” In Cities and Social Change in Early Modern France. Edited by Philip Benedict, 174–194. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

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          Uses notarial contracts, especially marriage contracts and wills, to trace intermarriage, patterns of immigration, and other social relations among artisans in a variety of trades.

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        • Farr, James Richard. Hands of Honor: Artisans and their World in Dijon, 1550–1650. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.

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          Examines the daily life and culture of Dijon’s artisans, tracking the changing attitudes of master craftsmen as they became more prosperous but also more distant from the journeymen who worked under them.

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        • Farr, James R. “Consumers, Commerce, and the Craftsmen of Dijon: The Changing Social and Economic Structure of a Provincial Capital.” In Cities and Social Change in Early Modern France. Edited by Philip Benedict, 134–173. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

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          Uses tax rolls to determine changing patterns of wealth and occupation within the city between the 15th and 18th centuries, with particular attention to the impact these changes had on urban artisans.

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        • Gascon, Richard. Grand commerce et vie urbaine au XVIe siècle: Lyon et ses marchands (environs de 1520-environs de 1580). 2 Vols. Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1971.

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          An archival based study of France’s main banking and trading capital for the 16th-century. Looks at patterns of trade and trading partners, at the respective roles of French and Italian merchants in the city, and at the decline brought about by the religious troubles of the 1560s. An important book; difficult for those without a background in this specific subject matter.

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          Agrarian Life and the Rural Economy

          The foundational study of French agrarian life is Bloch 1966 (first published 1931), which attempts to synthesize a broad picture of the evolution of the rural economy between the Middle Ages and the Revolution. Bloch’s successors at the Annales produced a number of detailed studies of French rural history in the 1960s and 1970s, most of which concentrated on the 17th and 18th centuries and took up the argument that French agriculture was caught in a Malthusian crisis and unable to achieve sustained growth through the 16th and 17th centuries. Le Roy Ladurie 1974 exemplifies this argument with a case study for Languedoc. It is also presented in more summary form in Le Roy Ladurie 1987 (originally published in French in 1977) and Duby 1975. This conclusion is challenged in Hickey 1987 and, on a broader scale, in Hoffman 1996. Dewald and Vardi 1998 offers a summary chapter on the French peasantry in a book that allows the French case to be easily compared with that of other European countries. Davis 1983 does not attempt an overview of peasant life but rather offers an illuminating case study set in a southern village in the mid–16th century.

          • Bloch, Marc. French Rural History: An Essay on Its Basic Characteristics. Translated by Janet Sondheimer. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

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            First published 1931 as Les caractères originaux de l’histoire rurale française (Paris: Les belles lettres). A masterful synthesis of the nature of rural landholding, relations between peasants and lords, and rural communities over the course of many centuries. Each region had its particularities, but this is a good place to begin to understand their common traits.

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          • Davis, Natalie Zemon. The Return of Martin Guerre. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.

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            Based on a famous lawsuit, the work explores the nature of peasant life and community in a village in southern France in ways that more quantitatively based studies cannot. Also available as a film, for which Davis served as a historical advisor.

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          • Dewald, Jonathan, and Liana Vardi. “The Peasantries of France, 1400–1800.” In The Peasantries of Europe from the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries. Edited by Tom Scott. London: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.

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            An overview of the place of French peasants in the rural economy in an important collection of articles that allow for useful comparisons with peasants elsewhere in Europe.

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          • Duby, Georges, and Armand Wallon, et al., eds. Histoire de la France Rurale. Vol. 2, L’Age classique des paysans de 1340 à 1789. Paris: Seuil, 1975.

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            The second section, by Jean Jacquart, and the third, by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, offer good overviews of French rural history as theorized and studied by historians associated with the Annales.

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          • Hickey, Daniel. “Innovation and Obstacles to Growth in the Agriculture of Early Modern France: The Example of Dauphiné.” French Historical Studies 15.2 (1987): 208–240.

            DOI: 10.2307/286264Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Offers a good critique of the picture of rural France in early modern times that emerged from the serial studies undertaken under the influence of the French Annales school and from other approaches that similarly emphasized stagnation and an absence of innovation.

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          • Hoffman, Philip T. Growth in a Traditional Society: The French Countryside, 1450–1815. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

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            A revisionist approach to the study of agricultural production and growth, based on quantitative and statistical analysis, emphasizing the role of local markets, and challenging previous depictions of the French peasant agriculture as stagnant.

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          • Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. The Peasants of Languedoc. Translated by John Day. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1974.

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            A shortened version of Les paysans de Languedoc, published in 1966, a classic example of French Annales school historiography. Some interesting insights into peasant mentality, but a work known mostly for its argument of a “Malthusian scissors” that prevented any achievement of sustained agricultural growth.

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          • Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. The French Peasantry, 1450–1660. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987.

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            Originally published in French in 1977 as part of a collectively authored economic history of France. Argues, in keeping with the author’s Peasants of Languedoc and other works of Annales school historians, that rural society was caught within a Malthusian crisis that worked, over the long term, to benefit wealthy landowners at the expense of the peasantry.

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          The Clergy and Religious Life

          Historians studying clerics and monastic life in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance have offered different views of their spiritual understanding and dedication. Baumgartner 1986 gives useful insights into the failure of Renaissance bishops to serve as church leaders and as a force for reform. Lemaître 1988 and Taylor 1992 give a more positive view of parish clergy. Reinburg 1992 shifts attention to the laity in asking how they experienced Catholic Church rituals. Focusing on religious life in an urban perspective, Dolan 1981 suggests that monks and nuns from wealthy families monopolized resources in a way that left the poor underserved. By contrast, Le Gall 2001 stresses attempts to reform religious life occurring in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and offers a relatively favorable view of their success. Martin 1988 looks at the Jesuits in France during the early years after their foundation and, in contrast to stereotypes of the order as representing the first triumphs of the Counter-Reformation, emphasizes their struggles to obtain the funding and manpower necessary to gain widespread influence. A more extensive listing of works on religious practice and piety can be found in the entry on The Reformation and Wars of Religion in France, as can works on heresy, the Protestant Reformation, and the Catholic response.

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

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            Although concerned primarily with the response (or lack of response) of the bishops to France’s religious crisis, the book offers good background on the bishops, their selection, and their tendency to see their offices as a source of personal and familial gain, rather than an opportunity to serve their dioceses during the 16th century.

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          • Dolan, Claire. Entre tours et clochers. Les gens d’église à Aix-en-Provence au XVIe siècle. Sherbrooke, Québec and Aix-en-Provence, France: Les Éditions de l’Université de Sherbrooke & Edisud, 1981.

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            A study of the relationships between the urban population of Aix-en-Provence and the city’s ecclesiastical institutions, suggesting that the distances between rich and poor in the church paralleled those in lay society. A difficult but valuable study.

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          • Le Gall, Jean-Marie, and Nicole Lemaître. Les moines au temps des réformes: France (1480–1560). Seyssel, France: Champ Vallon, 2001.

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            A study of religious reform movements within French monasticism during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Attempts to revise stereotypes of late medieval monks and nuns as spiritually impoverished and lax in observance of their rule. A revised dissertation, dense in citations.

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          • Lemaître, Nicole. Le Rouergue flamboyant. Le clergé et les fidèles du diocèse de Rodez, 1417–1563. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1988.

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            A regional study based on episcopal visitation records; looks at religious practice and piety in a French province between the later Middle Ages and the Wars of Religion. Because of the nature of the sources, deals more with the clergy than the laity.

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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 (ca. 1550–1580) to examine the Jesuits’ mission but also their family ties and social values as they struggled to establish themselves in France.

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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 mass as an empty ritual, lay people did have an important sense of participation in the mass, but their attention was directed to different parts of the mass from those emphasized for the clergy.

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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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          Private Life and the Family

          Ariès 1962 is the pioneering study of the history of the French family. Much more recent research has been prompted by Ariès’s provocative argument that families were bound only by legal and economic ties in the Middle Ages. As he saw it, bonds of affection between parents and children, as well as a recognition of the special nature of childhood, developed only later, primarily during the 17th century. Ariès 1989 and Burguière, et al. 1996 contain essays on the history of the family that grew out of the interest provoked these arguments. Flandrin 1979 reflects similar interests but also explores questions raised by demographers about family structures and residence patterns. Diefendorf 1983 looks at the way elite families used marriage, inheritance, and careers to promote social advancement. Hanley 1989 argues that this sort of social advancement was the result of a “family-state compact” that served both elite families and the Crown. Hardwick 1998 and Dolan 1998 examine family strategies as revealed in the work and lives of provincial notaries.

          • Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. Translated by Robert Baldick. New York: Vintage Books, 1962.

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            A translation of L’enfant et la vie familiale sous l’ancien régime (Paris: Plon, 1960). Using a variety of sorts of evidence, this pioneering work set out the argument that emotional bonds uniting a family developed only gradually, as did the recognition that children were a special sort of being with special needs.

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          • Ariès, Philippe, and Georges Duby, eds. A History of Private Life. Vol. 3, Passions of the Renaissance. Edited by Roger Chartier. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

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            Originally published as Histoire de la vie privée, Vol. 3: De la Renaissance aux Lumières (Paris: Seuil, 1985). A series of essays by prominent historians, many of which take up various dimensions of family life, including domestic intimacy, childhood, the public and the private, and patterns of habitation. The period encompassed here extends through the 18th century.

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          • Burguière, André, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Martine Segalen, and François Zonabend, eds. A History of the Family. Vol. 2, The Impact of Modernity. Translated by Sara Hanbury Tenison. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

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            Originally published as Histoire de la famille, Vol. 2: Le choc de la modernité (Paris, 1986). Although not limited to the French family or the period of the Renaissance, the essays by André Burguière and François Lebrun offer good introductions to early modern family life with survey coverage of demography, family forms, kinship, and the role of the family in the state.

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          • Diefendorf, Barbara B. Paris City Councillors: The Politics of Patrimony. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.

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            A study of the ways in which elite families in Paris used marriage alliances, career choices, and inheritance practices to promote upward mobility; examines customary laws regarding the family, literary treatments of family politics, and actual practice.

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          • Dolan, Claire. Le notaire, la famille et la ville: Aix-en-Provence à la fin du XVIe siècle. Toulouse, France: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 1998.

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            Examines family life and strategies from the perspectives of patriarchal authority, women’s roles, and the integration of the younger generation into adult roles.

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          • Flandrin, Jean-Louis. Families in Former Times: Kinship, Household, and Sexuality. New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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            Explains the various ways of reckoning kinship in France and regional differences in household structure and inheritance patterns, as well as attempting to gauge the impact of the Catholic Reformation on family relations and sexuality.

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          • Hanley, Sarah. “Engendering the State: Family Formation and State Building in Early Modern France.” French Historical Studies 16.1 (1989): 4–27.

            DOI: 10.2307/286431Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Coins the phrase “Family-state compact” to summarize the ways in which members of elite families, and in particular magistrates of the high court of Parlement, tightened laws concerning marriage and patrimony in line with their own patriarchal and patrilineal ideals and to the benefit of their own family fortunes.

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          • Hardwick, Julie. The Practice of Patriarchy: Gender and the Politics of Household Authority in Early Modern France. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.

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            Examines first the role of notaries in the community and the nature of the contracts they drew up, then looks at the marriages of notaries, their households, and the role of women in them.

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          Women and Gender

          Davis 1975b helped pioneer study of the cultural history of gender by raising questions about the representation of the female sex in popular culture. Davis and Farge 1993 and Wilson-Chevalier and Viennot 1999 include articles on both women’s experience and their representation in art and discourse. Larsen 2000 offers a good overview of scholarship on women’s literary production. Broomhall 2002 also addresses the question of women as writers, but also as publishers, and as participants in a strongly gendered literary culture. Roelker 1972 examines the role French noblewomen played as supporters of the Protestant Reformation. Davis 1975a broadens the discussion by looking at reasons women might have had for remaining Catholic. Blaisdell 1997 looks at religious women’s roles within the Catholic Church.

          • Blaisdell, Charmarie. “Religion, Gender, and Class: Nuns and Authority in Early Modern France.” In Changing Identities in Early Modern France. Edited by Michael Wolfe, 147–168. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1997.

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            Examines religious life in 16th-century convents, assessing spiritual and temporal dimensions of this life and questions of religious reform.

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          • Broomhall, Susan. Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-Century France. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2002.

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            Studies women’s relationship to print culture as authors, publishers, and consumers of printed books within the broader context of the constraints women faced in early modern French society.

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          • Davis, Natalie Zemon. “City Women and Religious Change.” In Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays, by Natalie Zemon Davis, 65–96 and 290–296. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975a.

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            Thoughtfully examines the role that religion played in the life of early modern women and the reasons they might have had for adopting or rejecting the Protestant Reformation.

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          • Davis, Natalie Zemon. “Women on Top.” In Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays, by Natalie Zemon Davis, 124–151 and 310–315. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975b.

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            A classic article on representations of women as disorderly and the uses of comic and festive gender inversion as both a temporary release from standard social hierarchies and as an element of conflict over the way power was distributed in early modern society.

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          • Davis, Natalie Zemon, and Arlette Farge, eds. A History of Women. Vol. 3, Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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            A collection of articles on women as historical actors in their everyday lives and as represented in art, literature, and medical and philosophical discourses. Not limited geographically to France or chronologically to the Renaissance.

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          • Larsen, Anne R. “Review Essay: French Women and the Early Modern Canon: Recent Conferences, Editions, Monographs, and Translations.” Renaissance Quarterly 53.4 (2000): 1183–1197.

            DOI: 10.2307/2901461Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            A good introduction to literature on 16th-century women as writers and as political figures published during the last part of the 20th century.

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          • Roelker, Nancy Lyman. “The Appeal of Calvinism to French Noblewomen in the Sixteenth Century.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2.4 (1972): 391–418.

            DOI: 10.2307/202311Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Analyzes the strong support given to the Protestant Reformation by a large number of noblewomen.

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          • Wilson-Chevalier, Kathleen, and Éliane Viennot, eds. Royaume de fémynie: Pouvoirs, contraintes, espaces de liberté des femmes de la Renaissance à la Fronde. Champion, 1999.

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            An interdisciplinary collection of essays on women’s agency, their exercise of power, and their representation in art and literature.

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          Women’s Economic Roles and Legal Position

          Davis 1986 explores women’s work in artisanal families in Lyons. Loats 1997 modifies these findings somewhat after looking at women and the crafts in Paris. Collins 1989 focuses on the 17th century but gives good background on women’s work in rural and urban settings. Diefendorf 1995 looks at how women fared with respect to property law and inheritance practices.

          • Collins, James B. “The Economic Role of Women in Seventeenth-Century France.” French Historical Studies 16.2 (1989): 436–470.

            DOI: 10.2307/286618Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Although focused on the 17th century, also contains useful background on women’s economic role in both rural and urban households during the second half of the 16th century.

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          • Davis, Natalie Zemon. “Women and the Crafts in Sixteenth-Century Lyon.” In Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe. Edited by Barbara A. Hanawalt, 167–197. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1986.

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            A pioneering article that uses archival sources from Lyons to examine women’s role in domestic production and the household economy. Concludes that most women did not have a distinct work identity but rather adapted their work to fit with that of their fathers and husbands.

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          • Diefendorf, Barbara B. “Women and Property in Ancien Régime France: Theory and Practice in Dauphiné and Paris.” In Early Modern Conceptions of Property. Edited by John Brewer and Susan Staves, 170–193. London: Routledge, 1995.

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            Provides an overview of women’s legal situations in both Roman law and customary law regions of France, along with an archival analysis of how actual practice differed from legal theory in two sample regions.

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          • Loats, Carol L. “Gender, Guilds, and Work Identity: Perspectives from Sixteenth-Century Paris.” French Historical Studies 20.1 (1997): 15–30.

            DOI: 10.2307/286796Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Uses notarial contracts to study women’s role in the Parisian work force, concluding that, while many women worked alongside their husbands in the crafts and/or carried on their trade after their death, others had a distinct work identity separate from that of their husbands.

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          Education and Print Culture

          Huppert 1984 remains a good introduction to secondary education in the Renaissance. Farge 1985 serves this purpose for the Faculty of Theology at the University of Paris. Febvre and Martin 1984 (originally published 1958) pioneered the study of the social and cultural impact of the invention of printing. Much subsequent research on the subject is collected in Chartier and Martin 1982, an essential reference work on the book trade and reading community in the Renaissance. For those who do not read French, some of the contributions made by Roger Chartier, one of the foremost French historians of the book, are available in English in Chartier 1987.

          • Chartier, Roger and Henri-Jean Martin, eds. Histoire de l’édition française. Vol. 1, Le livre conquérant: Du Moyen Age au milieu du XVIIe siècle. Paris: Promodis, 1982.

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            A collaborative work that covers book production, bookselling, the workers involved in the book trades, the reading community, and uses of the book itself.

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          • Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Uses of Print in Early Modern France. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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            A translation of eight essays originally published as separate articles and brought together in Lectures et Lecteurs dans la France d’Ancien Régime (Paris: Seuil, 1987). Several were originally published in Histoire de l’édition française. Although the majority of the texts discussed here date from the 17th and 18th centuries, there is interesting material on how the urban populace, though not fully literate, made use of printed materials.

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          • Farge, James K. Orthodoxy and Reform in Early Reformation France: The Faculty of Theology of Paris, 1500–1543. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1985.

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            Offers a good overview of the organization of Faculty of Theology (often wrongly equated with the Sorbonne) of the University of Paris and the course of studies offered there, followed by a prosopographical study of its graduates and an examination of its consultative role on cases of heresy and other issues involving the intersection of church and state.

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          • Febvre, Lucien, and Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing, 1450–1800. Translated by David Gerard. London: Verso Editions, 1984.

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            A translation of L’apparition du livre. Paris: Éditions Albin Michel, 1958. A path-breaking study that asked what needs printing served, what roles it assumed, and how it served as an agent of change.

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          • Huppert, George. Public Schools in Renaissance France. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984.

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            Traces the rise and spread of public secondary education in 16th-century France and its struggles to compete when religiously based collèges were subsequently founded and drew off many of the students from elite families.

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          Humanism and Humanistic Scholarship

          Studies of the early stages of French humanism have tended to focus either on the Christian humanism Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and the evangelical reformers with whom he was associated or on the more secular philology of Guillaume Budé. Imbart de la Tour 1905–1935 is the classic work on the evangelical reformers; Bedouelle 1976 looks at the “spiritual itinerary” of Lefèvre d’Étaples and his approach to Scripture. McNeil 1975 examines the career of Guillaume Budé. Those who read French will find more satisfaction in Gadoffre 1997, which reflects lengthy immersion into French humanism in the era of Francis I. Huppert 1999 looks at less prominent humanists, singling out their more forward looking ideas. Skalnik 2002 examines a prominent member of the next generation of humanists, Pierre de la Ramée, and argues for his importance as a teacher and reformer. See also History, Law, and Philosophy for studies of legal humanism, and Literary Culture for works on Rabelais, Montaigne, and other writers strongly influenced by humanistic method and thought.

          • Bedouelle, Guy. Lefèvre d’Étaples et l’intelligence des écritures. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1976.

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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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          • Gadoffre, Gilbert. La révolution culturelle dans la France des humanistes: Guillaume Budé et François Ier. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1997.

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            A collection of related essays focusing on the cultural policy of Francis I and the generation of humanists, especially Guillaume Budé, who served him as advisors, diplomats, and cultural reformers.

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          • Huppert, George. The Style of Paris: Renaissance Origins of the French Enlightenment. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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            Examines the education and ideas of a group of young scholars and writers, many of them now largely forgotten, in whose ideas the author identifies origins of ideas on social equality, toleration, and freedom of thought later popularized in the Enlightenment. Clearly written and provocative in its sweeping claims.

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          • Imbart de la Tour, Pierre. Les origines de la Réforme. 4 Vols. Paris: [S.l.] : Q, 1905–1935.

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            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 Vol. 3, on French evangelical reformers are especially relevant.

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            • McNeil, David O. Guillaume Budé and Humanism in the Reign of Francis I. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1975.

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              Looks at French humanism through the prism of Guillaume Budé, usually considered the “father of the French Renaissance.”

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            • Skalnik, James Veazie. Ramus and Reform: University and Church at the End of the Renaissance. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2002.

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              A well-rounded study of teacher and philosopher Peter Ramus; goes beyond his “Ramist method” and challenge to Aristotle’s philosophy in portraying him as an educational reformer and humanist philosopher.

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            History, Law, and Philosophy

            Franklin 1963 and Kelley 1970 both look at the relationship between historical studies and the law. The latter in particular traces modern historicism and historical relativism to the work of 16th-century French legal scholars and their historical approach to the law. Schiffman 1985 raises questions about this definition of historical relativism; Schiffman 1991 offers a different interpretation of historical relativism, which he links to the underlying search for order that characterized French Renaissance scholarship.

            • Franklin, Julian H. Jean Bodin and the Sixteenth-Century Revolution in the Methodology of Law and History. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963.

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              Examines the impact of changes in historical method on legal studies in the works of such humanistically trained legists as François Hotman, François Baudouin, and Jean Bodin.

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            • Kelley, Donald R. Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship: Language, Law, and History in the French Renaissance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

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              A dense, sometimes difficult study of the evolution of historical scholarship under the influences of Renaissance philology, the study of law, and the challenges of religious schism.

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            • Schiffman, Zachary S. “Renaissance Historicism Reconsidered.” History and Theory 24.2 (1985): 170–182.

              DOI: 10.2307/2505280Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Takes a critical approach to the argument that a modern historical consciousness, or “historicism,” had its origins in Renaissance legal scholarship.

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            • Schiffman, Zachary Sayre. On the Threshold of Modernity: Relativism in the French Renaissance. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

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              On the search for an underlying order to the world in the historical and philosophical scholarship of the French Renaissance.

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            Nature, Natural Philosophy, and Science

            Although approaching the question of Renaissance science from a variety of viewpoints, scholars tend to agree that the period was characterized by a new attention to observation and experience without advancing as far as a true scientific method of inquiry. Céard 1977 looks at the fascination with nature—especially in its accidents and more bizarre forms—in literature and medical texts of the Renaissance. Jeanneret 1997 describes a 16th century fascinated by metamorphosis and change. Close observation of nature also takes on an important role in Blair 1997, which looks at a neglected work of Jean Bodin and Lestringant 2003, which explores cosmographer André Thevet’s perception of the world. Heller 1996 takes a very different approach to the question of Renaissance science, focusing on technological innovation as a response to economic change.

            • Blair, Ann. The Theater of Nature: Jean Bodin and Renaissance Science. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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              A masterful study of a difficult and generally neglected book, Bodin’s Theater of Nature, providing insights into the history of science and its practice in the period when Aristotelian science was under attack but the scientific method not yet practiced.

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            • Céard, Jean. La nature et les prodiges: L’insolite au XVIe siècle. Genève: Droz, 1977.

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              A classic study of the perception of nature in the early modern writings; encompasses humanist texts but also medical treatises, but also works of history and philosophy.

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            • Heller, Henry. Labour, Science and Technology in France, 1500–1620. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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              Combines the study of economic issues with the study of technology, arguing that the prosperity of the early 16th century encouraged an interest in technological improvements. Focuses more on literature encouraging technological innovation than on actual achievements.

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            • Jeanneret, Michel. Perpetual Motion: Transforming Shapes in the Renaissance from da Vinci to Montaigne. Translated by Nidra Poller. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

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              Originally published as Perpetuum mobile: Métamorphoses des corps et des œuvres de Vinci à Montaigne. Paris: Éditions Macula, 1997. Examines the Renaissance tendency toward a closer observation of nature and expands upon this to try to grasp the nature of creative drive in the Renaissance. Although not limited to France, includes good observations of the contribution of French thinkers.

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            • Lestringant, Frank. Sous la leçon des vents: Le monde d’André Thevet, cosmographe de la Renaissance. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2003.

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              A collection of articles whose overriding theme is the way in which old ways of thinking based on learned sources gave way to a new reliance on ocular testimony and personal experience as ways of understanding the world.

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            Literary Culture

            The subject of the literature of the French Renaissance is vast and deserves a separate entry. In the meantime, the works listed here offer just a few points of entry into the literary culture of the French Renaissance. McFarlane 1974 takes on the difficult task of synthesizing a contextualized overview of French Renaissance literature between the late 15th and late 16th centuries. Cruickshank 1968 presents essays on a variety of literary figures. These essays are not recent enough to reflect current literary trends and interpretations, but they can serve as useful introductions to these authors, and many of the essays have held up well. Yates 1947 is also still useful despite its age and offers insights into literary and court culture through the prism of sixteenth-century academies. Sealy 1981 disputes the role Yates attributes to the palace academy of Henry III. Hampton 2001 asks what it meant to be French in the 16th century and how this was reflected in works of literature.

            • Cruickshank, John, ed. French Literature and its Background. Vol. 1, The Sixteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.

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              An aging but still useful collection of essays by different scholars on major literary figures of the French Renaissance and on the historical, cultural, and religious context in which they wrote.

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            • Hampton, Timothy. Literature and the Nation in the Sixteenth Century: Inventing Renaissance France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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              Approaches French Renaissance literature from the perspective of the formation of national identity; looks at constructions of what it meant to be French, notions of community and the impact of religious schism on these notions.

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            • McFarlane, Ian Dalrymple. A Literary History of France: Renaissance, 1470–1589. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1974.

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              A broad synthesis of 16th-century French literary currents and writers, which manages to include many little-known figures alongside more familiar ones. Provides a useful overview, despite some overly sweeping generalizations about historical context.

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            • Sealy, Robert J. The Palace Academy of Henry III. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1981.

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              Examines the literary debates presented at the court of Henry III between 1576 and 1579, interpreting them in the context of the king’s desire for further education in moral and natural philosophy and playing down their broader literary and philosophical contribution.

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            • Yates, Frances Amelia. The French Academies in the Sixteenth Century. London: The Warburg Institute, 1947.

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              The classic study of French academies (including both Baïf’s Académie de Poésie et de Musique and the palace academy of Henry III), giving interesting background on French Neoplatonism, the literary circle of the Pléiade, and court culture.

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            François Rabelais

            Heath 1996 offers a succinct introduction to the writings of François Rabelais. Bakhtin 1984 argues for interpreting Rabelais within the context of Renaissance festive forms. Bowen 1998 takes a different approach to his humor and probes the historical context for his satire. Taking a biographical approach, Lazard 1993 sets him into the broader context of French Renaissance humanism. Screech 1979 emphasizes his evangelical humanism. Febvre 1982 uses the question of Rabelais’s faith as a starting point for a broader inquiry into religious belief and doubt in the Renaissance.

            • Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhailovich. Rabelais and his World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.

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              First published in English in 1968. Argues that Rabelais’s writings can only be understood in the context of Renaissance festive forms, which relied heavily on the grotesque and on carnivalesque reversals intended to subvert traditional authorities.

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            • Bowen, Barbara C. Enter Rabelais, Laughing. Nashville and London: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998.

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              Attempts to answer the question of how Rabelais left his readers laughing by looking at the historical context for the tales, thereby paradoxically showing the seriousness of his comic enterprise and its relation to humanism, medicine, and legal issues important at that time.

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            • Febvre, Lucien Paul Victor. 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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              Translation of Le problème de l’incroyance au XVIe siècle: la religion de Rabelais. Paris: Éditions Albin Michel, initially published in 1942. Addresses the problem of Rabelais’s religious beliefs—or lack thereof—and uses this for broader discussion of the role of religion in daily life.

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            • Heath, Michael J. Rabelais. Tempe: Arizona State University, 1996.

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              A brief introduction to the writer and his writings organized by book, it sets out the major themes of each work in a clear way and can serve as a useful starting point for further reading.

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            • Lazard, Madeleine. Rabelais l’humaniste. Paris: Hachette, 1993.

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              Attempts to synthesize recent scholarship on Rabelais for a general audience; sets Rabelais’s writing into the broader context of French humanism.

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            • Screech, Michael. Rabelais. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979.

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              A serious study by a prominent scholar; emphasizes Rabelais’s evangelical humanism.

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            Michel de Montaigne

            Frame 1965 remains for many the standard English biography. Lazard 1992 is a more recent synthetic biography. Burke 1981 approaches Montaigne from the perspective of a cultural and intellectual historian. Regosin 1977 and Nakam 1982 seek to discover the extent to which Montaigne did, as he claimed, take himself as his subject. Hoffmann 1998 takes a different approach to this question by looking less at internal evidence from the Essays and more at the circumstances under which they were published. Cameron and Willett 2003 offer a good sampling of recent interpretations of the writer and his work.

            Art and Architecture

            In 1981, art historian André Chastel declared that too little was known to “draft an accurate overview of French Renaissance art” (Chastel 1981). Since that time a considerable amount of work has been done to fill in this picture. Zerner 2003 comes closest to offering the synthesis Chastel declared impossible. Babelon 1989 is a useful reference work on the architecture of French châteaux in the Renaissance. Babelon 1977 covers domestic architecture in Paris during the later Renaissance.

            • Babelon, Jean-Pierre. Demeures parisiennes sous Henri IV et Louis XIII. New edition. Paris: Les Éditions du Temps, 1977.

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              Focusing on the renewal of Paris after the Wars of Religion, looks at construction costs and techniques, the distribution of lodging within Parisian houses, and the architecture and décor of the hôtels, or townhouses, wealthy Parisians built for themselves.

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            • Babelon, Jean-Pierre. Les châteaux de France au siècle de la Renaissance. Paris: Picard & Flammarion, 1989.

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              A massive and profusely illustrated reference work, arranged chronologically in eight sections, each containing an introductory overview and then descriptions of individual châteaux.

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            • Chastel, André. “French Renaissance Art in a European Context.” Sixteenth Century Journal 12.4 (1981): 77–103.

              DOI: 10.2307/2539879Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              An ambitious attempt to synthesize the distinguishing characteristics of French Renaissance art from an institutional and psychological perspective.

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            • Zerner, Henri. Renaissance Art in France: The Invention of Classicism. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003.

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              A translation of L’art de la Renaissance en France: L’invention du classicisme. Paris: Flammarion, 1996. A thorough reassessment of the art of the Renaissance in France. Focusing on the artistic and architectural innovations of the mid–16th century but also addressing the transition from the Flamboyant Gothic of the later Middle Ages and covering a variety of forms of artistic expression.

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            Cultures, Popular and Elite

            Davis 1975 offers pioneering essays on the cultural values of working men and women as they encountered religious change, engaged in popular revolt, and took part in a variety of other activities. Davis 1987 approaches popular values from a different perspective, asking how men and women convicted of crimes constructed narratives that might gain them a royal pardon. By contrast, Muchembled 1985 approaches popular and elite culture as separate and contesting ways of understanding and patterns of behavior. He argues that, by around 1600, elites were engaged in a project of social discipline that aimed at stamping out all remnants of popular culture. Briggs 1989 avoids such rigid dichotomies; his essays on the witch craze and the Catholic reform movement of the early 16th century nevertheless also emphasize the distance between popular and elite beliefs and behaviors.

            • Briggs, Robin. Communities of Belief: Cultural and Social Tensions in Early Modern France. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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              Masterful essays on attitudes and behavior in the 16th and 17th centuries; good background on the problem of witchcraft and witch hunts, on popular revolts, and on the role of church and state in disciplining a populace perceived to be unruly.

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            • Davis, Natalie Zemon. Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays. Stanford, CA; Stanford University Press, 1975.

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              A collection of pioneering essays on the social experience, cultural values, and behavior of peasants, artisans, women, and other groups that until that point had been largely excluded from traditional historical writing.

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            • Davis, Natalie Zemon. Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987.

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              Davis deconstructs the pleas for a royal pardon made by men and women convicted of serious crimes in order to show how people from different stations of life shaped narratives of their crime in terms that might gain their release. In doing so, she uncovers interesting dimensions of popular values and attitudes toward violence and anger.

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            • Muchembled, Robert. Popular Culture and Elite Culture in France, 1400–1750. Translated by Lydia Cochrane. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985.

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              Originally published as Culture populaire et culture des élites dans la France moderne (Xve-XVIIIe siècles). Paris: Flammarion 1978. Argues that the popular culture built on local custom and practice and blending Christian and pagan elements flourished on a local basis in France through the Renaissance but was then repressed by the centralizing forces of the state.

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            France Overseas

            The first chapter of Eccles 1990 offers a concise overview of French attempts to establish American colonies in the 16th century. Frank Lestringant, who has devoted much of his career to the literature on the French Age of Discovery, has conveniently brought together previously published essays in Lestringant 1996. His study of royal cosmographer André Thevet (Lestringant 1991) captures well the role that imagination (as opposed to observation) played in this literature. As this suggests, the account that Jean de Léry left of his voyage to Brazil in the 1550s, recently translated and republished (Léry 1990), should be treated as a work of literature and not an objective account of the French failure to establish a colony in Brazil. McGrath 1996 makes this point well in his critique of the standard narrative of the French failure in Brazil. McGrath 2000 likewise offers a revisionist argument, suggesting that French attempts to found a colony in Florida were spurred more by strategic and commercial goals than by the desire to establish a Huguenot refuge, as Lestringant and other historians who privilege French sources have claimed.

            • Eccles. William John. France in America. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

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              Covers several hundred years of French presence in America in a brief synthesis. The first chapter, “False Starts,” covers the initial era of exploration and settlement; a valuable bibliography is appended.

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            • Léry, Jean de. History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil. Translated by Janet Whatley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

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              A translation of Léry’s Histoire d’un voyage faict en la terre du Bresil, first published in 1578 and then in an expanded edition in 1580.

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            • Lestringant, Francis. André Thevet, cosmographe des derniers Valois. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1991.

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              Although Tevet made only one brief trip to Brazil and one to the Holy Land, he wrote extensively on cosmography and held the title of king’s “cosmographer.” His works tell us more about the imagined world of the Age of Discovery than about the discoveries themselves.

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            • Lestringant, Frank. L’expérience huguenote au Nouveau Monde (XVIe siècle). Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1996.

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              A collection of essays on the French encounter with the New World and its peoples and the way this encounter was constructed in literary accounts.

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            • McGrath, John T. The French in Early Florida: In the Eye of the Hurricane. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

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              Revisionist interpretation of French attempts to establish colonies on the southeastern coast of North America. Departs from the usual presentation of these ventures as attempts to establish a Protestant refuge: rather, it depicts them as Crown-sponsored colonies established for strategic and commercial reasons. It also is revisionist in its reassessment of Spanish and Portuguese sources.

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            • McGrath, John T. “Polemic and History in French Brazil, 1555–1560.” Sixteenth Century Journal 27.2 (1996): 385–397.

              DOI: 10.2307/2544140Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              A critical reassessment of traditional accounts of the failure of French attempts to colonize Brazil in the 1550s; argues that too much credence has been given to unreliable sources, in particular the accounts of Jean de Léry and Jean Crespin’s Book of Martyrs.

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            LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

            DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399301-0020

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