Cover: Judging the French Reformation: Heresy Trials by Sixteenth-Century Parlements, from Harvard University PressCover: Judging the French Reformation in HARDCOVER

Judging the French Reformation

Heresy Trials by Sixteenth-Century Parlements

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$95.00 • £82.95 • €86.95

ISBN 9780674488601

Publication Date: 09/10/1999


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 map, 6 tables tables


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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.—Barbra B. Diefendorf, Catholic Historical Review

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.—Alice J. Strange, French Review

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.Law and Social Inquiry

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.—Jeffrey R. Watt, Religious Studies Review

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.—Robert M. Kingdon, University of Wisconsin–Madison

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.—Steven Ozment, Harvard University

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