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Religious polemic and Huguenot self-perception and identity, 1554-1619

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Luc Racaut



This is a paper in a co-edited collection of essays. It is 10,000 words long. Abstract: The single most important text for the elaboration of Huguenot culture and identity is undeniably Jean Crespin’s Histoire des Martyrs. First published in 1554, it went through severall editions before the definitive edition produced by Simon Goulard in 1619. Between those two dates, Protestantism had achieved a modicum of political recognition with the Edict of Nantes of 1598, ending forty years of civil war. Crespin’s Histoire des Martyrs celebrates the exemplary deaths of French men and women who suffered persecution under the Valois monarchy. A keystone in the elaboration of a distinct Huguenot identity and culture, the Histoire des Martyrs owes much to the Anglican and Lutheran tradition, from which it borrowed its format and much material. It relied on the testimony of individuals who flocked to Geneva to flee the persecutions, a phenomenon which has been well studied. But what is perhaps less well known is that it owes a great deal to the Catholic adversary. The elaboration of a distinct Huguenot culture and identity did not take place in a vaccuum. It results from a dialectic, often hostile, between Catholic polemic and Protestant response. Extract of review in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2003): ‘Luc Racaut raises the issue of the medium of print as a force for the promotion of a distinctive Huguenot identity. Racaut examines the multiple editions of Jean Crespin’s Histoire des Martyrs from the perspective of an ongoing dialectic between Catholic and Huguenot polemicists, providing an interesting window into the evolving self perception of the movement’.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Racaut L

Editor(s): Raymond A. Mentzer, Andrew Spicer

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published


Year: 2002

Pages: 29-43

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Place Published: Cambridge


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780521773249