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

Publication date:
15 Jun 2009
Yale University Press
506 pages: 229 x 152mm
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The definitive account of the nature of French religious life across the ‘long seventeenth century’

This readable and engaging book by an acclaimed historian is the only wide-ranging synthesis devoted to the French experience of religious change during the period after the wars of religion up to the early Enlightenment. Joseph Bergin provides a clear, up-to-date, and thorough account of the religious history of France in the context of social, institutional, and cultural developments during the so-called long seventeenth century.

Bergin argues that the French version of the Catholic Reformation showed a dynamism unrivaled elsewhere in Europe. The traumatic experiences of the wars of religion, the continuing search within France for heresy, and the challenge of Augustinian thought successively energized its attempts at religious change. Bergin highlights the continuing interaction of church and society and shows that while the French experience was clearly allied to its European context, its path was a distinctive one.

Joseph Bergin is professor of history at the University of Manchester, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His previous books include Cardinal Richelieu, The Making of the French Episcopate and Crown, Church and Episcopate under Louis XIV, all published by Yale.

"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