This original look at the French Reformation pits immovable object--the French appellate courts or parlements--against irresistible force--the most dynamic forms of the Protestant Reformation. Without the slightest hesitation, the high courts of Renaissance France opposed these religious innovators. By 1540, the French monarchy had largely removed the prosecution of heresy from ecclesiastical courts and handed it to the parlements. Heresy trials and executions escalated dramatically. But within twenty years, the irresistible force had overcome the immovable object: the prosecution of Protestant heresy, by then unworkable, was abandoned by French appellate courts.
Until now no one has investigated systematically the judicial history of the French Reformation. William Monter has examined the myriad encounters between Protestants and judges in French parlements, extracting information from abundant but unindexed registers of official criminal decisions both in Paris and in provincial capitals, and identifying more than 425 prisoners condemned to death for heresy by French courts between 1523 and 1560. He notes the ways in which Protestants resisted the French judicial system even before the religious wars, and sets their story within the context of heresy prosecutions elsewhere in Reformation Europe, and within the long-term history of French criminal justice.
Superb. One of Monter's greatest contributions is simply the amount of fresh information he provides, based on intensive research in a number of different French archives in which the manuscripts of French parlements are kept. This fresh information makes possible Monter's greatest single discovery: that the peak of prosecutions for heresy came in the reign of Francis I in the late 1540s, not during the reign of Henri II in the 1550s, thus before the organization and rapid spread of Calvinist Protestantism in France--a conclusion that is counterintuitive. Monter's presentation is excellent. He has organized his material clearly and logically, presented it with appropriate use of dramatic detail, and written it fluently.
Offering fascinating detailed analyses of individual cases, Monter convincingly shows that contrary to the opinions of Protestant martyrologists and generations of historians, the most intense prosecution of Protestants occurred not in the 1550s but in the 1540s...This superb book is a must for anyone interested in the French Reformation.
Retells the story of the French Reformation and the wars of religion from a novel and arresting point of view. The great strength of the work is Monter's reading of the actual court records in order to determine what really happened to heretics at trial. This gives him some numbers, definitive to a point, certainly far more so than what the martyrologists tell us. In addition, and more important than the numbers I think, these parliamentary court records allow him to recreate the actual proceedings and events, from first interrogation to execution, one of the most fascinating parts of the book. Monter's critical juxtaposition of judges and martyrologists is illuminating and convincing.
Monter's task is locating and examining the records of heresy trials was formidable, given the lack of indexing and the difficulty of deciphering handwritten documents. Thanks to his decade-long effort, he is able to present a chronological account of the actions of the tribunals and the punishments which were regularly handed down Judging the French Reformation is successful in examining the clash between the French judiciary and the Protestant Reformation.
William Monter's Judging the French Reformation thoroughly revises our understanding of the persecution of Protestants in sixteenth-century France The task, he was told, was impossible. The eight to ten Parlements operating in this period had left too many records, and they were too poorly organized and too poorly catalogued for a single scholar to work through in a single lifetime. Happily, Monter proved the naysayers wrong. With his usual diligence, a gift for getting quickly to the heart of the matter, and a real talent for synthesis, he dove into the archives, recovered the relevant cases, and reemerged with a powerfully convincing story – a story that turns the traditional view on its head.
Monter explores the ways in which Protestants resisted the French judicial system prior to the religious wars, setting their story within the context of heresy prosecutions elsewhere in Reformation Europe and within the long-term history of the French criminal system.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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