Church, Society and Religious Change in France, 1580-1730 Joseph Bergin

Publication date:
12 May 2009
506 pages: 234 x 156 x 51mm

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This wide-ranging and authoritative book is the first to fully synthesize the French experience of religious change in the period stretching between the Reformation and the early Enlightenment. The traumatic experiences of the wars of religion and the continuing challenge of Protestantism, made France an unusually potent site for significant religious upheavals and developments. The country was a crucible for theological doctrines and inventive practitioners, which generated considerable conflict but also stimulated religious reform and innovation. The dynamism of the French version of the Catholic Reformation surpassed anything elsewhere in Europe.Vividly rendering the religious history of France through its social, institutional and cultural contexts, Joseph Bergin explores the different agents, instruments and techniques employed to engineer religious transformations. Through a comprehensive examination of a huge volume of didactic religious literature, he shows how new religious ideas and practices were disseminated across French society in the hopes of shaping a new kind of devout Catholic. Assured, nuanced, and ground-breaking, this book illuminates the continually developing interaction between church and society in France, and uncovers the religiosity of the seventeenth century.

Joseph Bergin is Professor of History at Manchester University, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His previous books include The Rise of Richelieu, Cardinal Richelieu, and Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, all published by Yale University Press.

"Bergin has built his reputation as the world’s leading authority on the early modern French church through a formidable series of studies … he has attained the stature of … a great historian: someone after whom nobody could ever hope to work the field in the same terms as before."-William Doyle, French History

"[Bergin’s] new work Church, Society and Religious Change in France, 1580-1730 is a monumental study that only a scholar with his past achievements could contemplate undertaking … A focused and readable survey.  There is no question that this book is an important and welcome addition to the field … This book is more than just a survey, it also provides a guide to where further research will transform our understanding of the French Church."–Eric Nelson, Reviews in History

"The accessibility of a work of such scope makes it worth the the cover price alone.  Moreover, in its crucial contributions to historical methodologies which force us to rethink a French “Catholic Reformation” which had fizzled out by 1660, makes this book an essential text for students and academics alike."–Jenny Hillman, Journal of Early Modern History

"Bergin provides a valuable study of the kind of church that people would actually have encountered in seventeenth century France…He does so with masterful expertise and balance, drawing on many years of research. This is a well written book which can be read from cover to cover with pleasure."—Edward Howells, Heythrop Journal

"How does he do it? This most recent work by Joseph Bergin is a great achievement and should immediately be regarded as the standard work on the subject"—Nicole Reinhardt, Francia

"This book is a work of synthesis by a historian who is a master of the subject. As such it will prove of inestimable value not only to scholars of the Roman Catholic Church in the long seventeenth century in France, but also to historians of religious reform, to generalists as an indispensable work of reference, and to anyone interested in an exemplary study of the intersection of social and cultural history in an early modern French context … it is a marvel of rigorous contextualisation … the work is superb. It has taken me to a new level of understanding of how the church actually worked in seventeenth-century France."—Susan Rosa, H-France Forum

"A magnificently written book ... brilliant."—Nicole Lemaitre, H-France Forum 

"This book is a monumental achievement."—Keith P Luria, H-France Forum

"This is a very impressive book, which is even greater than the sums of its many parts. It is also very readable, making it the first book to turn to on the subject for academics and non-academics alike."—Mack P Holt, Journal of Ecclesiastical History