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Creating Catholics

Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France

Karen E. Carter

Publication Year: 2011

The religious education of children represents a critical component of the Catholic Reformation that has often been overlooked by historians of early modern Europe. In Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France, Karen E. Carter examines rural schooling in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—the period when community-supported primary education began—and brings to light a significant element of the early modern period. Carter scrutinizes Catholic religious education in rural parishes in France through its two leading forms: the explosion of Catholic catechisms for children and their use in village schools. She concentrates on educational opportunities for rural peasants in three French dioceses: Auxerre (in Burgundy) and Châlons-sur-Marne and Reims (in Champagne). Carter argues that the study of catechism in village schools was an integral part of a comprehensive program, implemented by both clerical and lay leaders, for the religious, ethical, and moral education of children. Her research demonstrates that the clergy and a majority of the lay population believed in the efficacy of this program; for this reason, parish priests taught catechism in their parishes on a weekly basis, and small village communities established and paid for a surprisingly large number of local schools so that their sons and daughters could receive an education both in basic literacy skills and, through memorization of catechism, in Catholic faith and practice.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-19

One of the most interesting questions in the study of religion centers around belief: why do adherents of a particular religious confession believe what they believe? For the early modern period in France, this question has often led historians to matters of religious conversion...

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Chapter 1: The Science of Salvation

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pp. 23-57

Bishop Bégon of the diocese of Toul was just one of several early modern French bishops to refer to a knowledge of Christian truths as a science. For example, a bishop of Saint-Claude described his newly revised catechism as the “science of salvation” and emphasized that any child who...

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Chapter 2: The Catechetical Method

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pp. 58-97

By the end of the seventeenth century, efforts to reform the Catholic Church were well under way in most French dioceses. Bishops were more committed to residing in their dioceses and overseeing both administrative and spiritual affairs. Accordingly, many bishops dedicated themselves...

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Chapter 3: The Cur

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pp. 101-135

When Bishop Félix Vialart de Herse of Châlons-sur-Marne issued a catechism for his diocese in 1660, he outlined his views of the Catholic Reformation in his introductory ordinance. He described the Catholic Church as a “bonne Mère” and the spouse of Christ, whose goal was the eternal...

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Chapter 4: The Village Schoolmaster

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pp. 136-171

At the end of the seventeenth century in the diocese of Reims, two clergymen shared jurisdiction over the teachers of the petites

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Chapter 5: Boys and Girls at School

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pp. 172-197

As part of his effort to combat Protestantism after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Louis XIV issued an edict requiring every parish in the kingdom to establish primary schools where all French boys and girls could learn to read, write, and recite their catechism:...

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Chapter 6: Learning to Read, Write, and Recite

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pp. 198-226

Students in the petites

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pp. 227-232

In 1695 a peasant boy named Valentin Jamerey-Duval was born and baptized in the village of Arthonnay, in what is today the department of the Yonne. Valentin spent the early years of his life in abject poverty—his mother, a widow, could barely eke out a living for her family, and when she...


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pp. 233-270


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pp. 271-308


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pp. 309-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780268076900
E-ISBN-10: 0268076901
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268023041
Print-ISBN-10: 0268023042

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2011