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  • Réforme catholique, religion des prêtres et “foi des simples”. Études d’anthropologie religieuse (XVIe–XVIIIe siècles) by Dominique Julia
  • Joseph Bergin
Réforme catholique, religion des prêtres et “foi des simples”. Études d’anthropologie religieuse (XVIe–XVIIIe siècles). By Dominique Julia. [Cahiers d’Humanisme et Renaissance, Vol. 118; Sous-collection Ad Deum nfl 2.] (Geneva: Librairie Droz. 2014. Pp. 525. €75,00/$98.40 paperback. ISBN 978-2-600-01753-4.)

Now that the quarante glorieuses of postwar French historiography are themselves becoming an object of increasing historical curiosity, several scholars who are little known to a wider public have been gaining the recognition they deserve. The golden age of the French historical sociology of religion, as it was called, was inspired primarily by the distinguished medievalist Gabriel Le Bras; the subsequent shift toward religious anthropology was the work of an early modernist who was the radical opposite of Le Bras, Alphonse Dupront. Dominique Julia managed the feat of being a disciple of both men! It was Dupront, who published scarcely anything during his lifetime, that founded an influential research institute, the Centre d’Anthropologie Religieuse Européenne (CARE), of which Julia, an indefatigable researcher and participant in collective projects, has been a pillar over the years. The essays in this collection cover only part of his oeuvre, as Julia has been active in several other major fields of research without ever abandoning his earlier terres d’élection. These include the history of schooling, literacy, reading habits, universities, colleges, teaching orders, pedagogical credos, childhood, pilgrimages, miracles, and historiography. Nor is this all: from the outset, his publications have been accompanied by the hard-graft of inventorying and editing extant sources. Hardly any of this enormously varied output, which runs to approximately 200 items, has been in book form, apart two early forays—one with Michel de Certeau and Jacques Revel on language politics during the French Revolution, another with Roger Chartier on education in early-modern France.

This reviewer has long considered Julia a master of the extended and thoroughly researched monographic article, which has become so rare in any language today. Indeed, the volume under review contains two such publications—“La Réforme post-tridentine en France” (pp. 137–231) and “Un miracle à Paris en 1725” (pp. 343–410)—both of which have hitherto been available only in Italian publications that can be difficult to find. The first of them dates from 1973 and remains the most comprehensive and lucid synthesis of the research done by Le Bras’s disciples on pastoral visitations as a source for the history of popular religious practices. It is supported here by two further essays on the Tridentine reform’s campaign to separate popular “profane” culture from authorized religion and on the culture of the French clergy in Champagne, one of whom, the famous Jean Meslier, was a secret atheist. A major debate of the 1970s concerned the subject of de-Christianization before 1789. Julia’s long essay on that question deals with the evolution of the eighteenth-century Diocese of Auxerre, where the religious culture [End Page 639] imposed by a Jansenist bishop and clergy led to bitter divisions by the 1760s, prefiguring similar changes elsewhere in France. A third essay examines the political questions—an unusual subject for Julia—which produced an ever-widening gap between church and monarchy under Louis XV. By contrast, the essay on the 1725 miracle in Paris, which dates from 2007 and arose from more recent research inspired by Dupront on pilgrimages and miracles at the CARE, is unfortunately the most isolated of the collection and would have benefited from being flanked by one or more essays from Julia’s pen on this subject.

Finally, as Julia is also a learned and astute guide to historians’ methodology, with an impressively wide range of interdisciplinary reference, it is no surprise that the volume opens with three essays on historiography, but with a characteristic focus on sources and their relative value. One of the essays reprinted here was first published in the celebrated 1970s collection Faire de l’Histoire. In 1995, Julia coedited Passés recomposés...


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