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  • That Men Would Praise the Lord: The Triumph of Protestantism in Nîmes, 1530-1570
  • Andrew Fix
That Men Would Praise the Lord: The Triumph of Protestantism in Nîmes, 1530-1570. By Allan A. Tulchin (New York, Oxford University Press, 2010) 297 pp. $74.00

This book examines the fortunes, organization, and eventual triumph of the Protestant movement in the southern French city of Nîmes, located between Avignon and Montpelier, during the years 1530 to 1570. The primary focus, however, is on the period of religious and political turmoil [End Page 454] throughout France following the death of King Henry II in 1559 to the armed Protestant takeover of Nîmes in the 1567 uprising known as the Michelade. This book is different from other accounts of urban Reformations in that along with a detailed traditional narrative account of events in Nîmes, Tulchin uses quantitative evidence as an explanatory mechanism for this significant cultural change. According to the author, his work is an attempt to combine two dominant historiographical strands favored by the Annales school—cultural history (as exemplified by Lucien Febvre and Roger Chartier) and quantitative techniques (as exemplified by Fernand Braudel and Marc Bloch). The result is an insightful and well-argued analysis of events in Nîmes within the context of other towns in the region undergoing similar pressure from the Reformation challenge.

Tulchin is well versed in the literature produced by sociological and anthropological approaches to the investigation of religious conversion. Pointing out, correctly, that Reformation historians have made little use of this information, he shows in what ways these approaches can add to, not replace, traditional methods of historical analysis. An example is Tulchin's use of the concept of "cognitive dissonance"—the disinclination to believe two contradictory ideas at the same time—and the resistance that such intellectual conformity presented to religious conversion. To avoid inconsistency, people generally make adjustments, whether rational or not, that allow them to dismiss one of the opposing positions completely.

Although the constraints of cognitive dissonance might seem applicable to the monumental scientific and philosophical transformations that took place in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this model of intellectual transition fails to address the numerous thinkers during this period who were able to maintain two contradictory idea complexes at once without great conflict or anxiety. In fact, the ability to maintain such contradictory ideas at the same time may well be the key to intellectual transformation. Think of such figures as Johannes Kepler (1571-1630); Padua Neo-Aristotelians like Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1571), Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525), Bernadino Telesio (1509-1588), and Tommaso Campanella (1568-1632); Elias Ashmole (1617-1692); and even Isaaac Newton (1642-1727).Tulchin makes adept use of quantitative material to clarify and support his thesis. The book makes use of numerous and informative graphs, charts and "pie charts" along with well-constructed, clear, and reasonably complete statistical databases.

In Chapters 1-6, Tulchin follows a largely traditional narrative format to present the origin, growth, persecution, and ultimate victory of the Nîmes Protestant movement. These chapters are enlightened by quantitative evidence presented in the form of interspersed graphs (for example, "Consistory Elections 1561-62," 127), charts (for example, "Number of Men in Various Occupations," 211-214), and bar graphs (for example, "Average Dowries by Occupation," 21).

Tulchin describes the birth of the Protestant community in Nîmes under the influence of Renaissance humanism, a new concern for moralism [End Page 455] in public life, and an increased emphasis on education during a period of economic hardship. Though initially a small minority in the town, the Nîmes Protestants strove to increase their numbers in the 1550s, motivated both by missionary zeal and the need to defend themselves against a strong Catholic opposition (Chapters 1-3). After the death of Henry II, the situation in Nîmes intensified. By interfering with local procedures and acting harshly toward the Protestants, Francis I, the new king, effectively alienated both sides. The Catholic government of Nîmes enjoyed royal support, but the Estates General called for toleration (Chapter 4). From 1562 to 1567, the fate of Nîmes Protestants ebbed and flowed. In 1562...


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