The Catholic Historical Review 89.4 (2003) 781-782
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Huguenot Heartland: Montauban and Southern French Calvinism during the Wars of Religion. By Philip Conner. [St Andrews Studies in Reformation History.] (Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Co. 2002. Pp. xiv, 257. $84.95.)
The place of Montauban in the chaotic religious history of early modern France is widely appreciated, though perhaps not fully understood. How ultimately do we account for the strength of Protestantism at Montauban? What, furthermore, was the precise relationship between the town's Reformed Christianity and the Huguenot political movement? As he sets about responding to these and related queries, Conner covers some familiar ground. He also makes original and important contributions to our knowledge of the Reformation in southern France, the so-called Huguenot heartland.
This study benefits enormously from Conner's deep immersion in the manuscript archives. The most stunning aspect is his utilization of numerous notarial registers. These materials demand considerable paleographic skill, are clumsy in their arrangement, and can be daunting by their sheer volume. Yet Conner's efforts have proven extremely rewarding. He has identified seventy-seven pastors who served the Reformed Church of Montauban between 1560 and 1629. Careful investigation reveals that four-fifths were native to the vicinity. They often took theological training at the Academy of Montauban and many were resident property owners. In short, these ecclesiastical leaders were well-integrated members of the municipality. As a result, Conner is able to present an impressive portrait of the local Reformed community, its aspirations and accomplishments.
Conner analyzes the political dynamics of the Huguenot cause by virtue of another manuscript collection, private papers belonging to the Scorbiac family. He is the first to utilize extensively these materials from this aspiring family. The Scorbiac and similar clans advanced through the acquisition of land and offices, and generally sought to transform themselves from bourgeois to noble. They were also part of the Huguenot political movement, although the Scorbiac and others never completely resolved the tension between their Reformed faith and loyalty to the crown. Again, Conner situates activities within the larger context and nicely informs us regarding the interplay of religion and politics.
Other facets of the book are more ambiguous. Conner makes repeated comparison to the Calvinist movement in Scotland and, above all, the Netherlands. The effect can be highly instructive when he deflates the notion of a "United Provinces of the Midi," which Jean Delumeau proposed decades ago and Janine Garrisson subsequently elaborated. On the other hand, the development of civic identity and institutions during the late Middle Ages may be closer to an Italian than a Dutch model. Why, moreover, not make better use of the many fine recent studies of French towns north and south, large and small, whose histories bear on the situation at Montauban?
Finally, this study is deeply colored by the politics of religious conflict, especially the incessant warfare between Catholic and Protestant. It is more difficult [End Page 781] to see the freshness of Conner's insights in this domain. His conclusion that Montauban lent political and military support to a beleaguered French Protestant minority seems weak, particularly in the light of the vigorous originality of other portions of the book. In short, Conner offers much that is creative and new, even if he could have occasionally pressed his inquiry.
University of Iowa