Catholiques et protestants sur la rive gauche du Rhin: Droits, confessions et coexistence religieuse de 1648 à 1789. By Laurent Jalabert. (Brussels: Peter Lang. 2009. Pp. 546. $72.95. ISBN 978-9-052-01479-1.)
This nuanced and sophisticated study examines religious developments in the German-speaking territories to the west of the Rhine River in the century and a half after the end of the Thirty Years' War. These territories were profoundly affected in this period by the growing power of France, which supported the expansion of Catholicism in a predominantly Protestant region. Laurent Jalabert shows, however, the complex consequences of French efforts in the context of international wars, the institutions of the Holy Roman Empire, and the particularist traditions of the region. Ultimately Jalabert argues that the efforts to promote Catholicism led to a growing "pluriconfessionalism" and a rough-and-ready toleration in the context of everyday life in the towns and villages.
Jalabert has conducted extensive archival research across a region that stretches from Alsace in the south to the region around Trier and Mainz in the north and from the Lorraine in the west to the Rhine in the east.The political fragmentation of the region was a cause of religious divisions and certainly complicates the research. One strength of Jalabert's study is its sensitivity to this complexity. Another is his familiarity with German, French, and English-language scholarship, a breadth that remains unusual in this field.
Jalabert's well-organized study is divided into three chronological periods. He begins by examining the Peace of Westphalia and its impact in the region up to the 1680s. The second period of the study reflects French historiography and focuses on the dramatic impact of King Louis XIV's France on the region between about 1680 and first decade of the eighteenth century. The last and longest section examines the development of religious identity, confessional cultures, and religious coexistence across the eighteenth century. Part I emphasizes that religious minorities, particular Catholic minorities, appeared across the region in the aftermath of the war, mostly because authorities were not choosy about who arrived to farm fields and rebuild houses. In part ? the emphasis shifts to the role of the French state. In the western territories, many of which were "reunited" with France, Louis XTV's officials aggressively supported Catholic minorities, building churches, paying for priests, supporting conversion campaigns, and making life difficult for Lutheran or Reformed ministers. …