From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World

From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World

From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World

From a Far Country: Camisards and Huguenots in the Atlantic World

Excerpt

Ce qui fait à la fois la force et la faiblesse des gentilshommes de la
Religion, c’est le grand nombre de fugitifs passé à l’étranger.

—Ducasse, La guerre des Camisards, la résistance huguenote sous
Louis XIV

George and Martha Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay are just a few of the numerous historical figures who felt the influence of the Huguenots, a religious and ethnic minority whose ideas informed American culture in important ways. Until fairly recently, however, other than Charles Baird’s documentation of the history of Huguenot immigration to the New World, the only study specifically to explore the significance of this phenomenon was Jon Butler’s The Huguenots in America. Butler organized his exploration regionally, and unlike the emphasis in this book, theological stance was not one of his primary considerations. His thesis of “rapid assimilation” has been contested by the work of scholars such as Robin Gwynn (Huguenot Heritage, 1985), who maintained that the Huguenots formed a distinct minority element, perhaps for several generations, before being “slowly assimilated.” My research indicates that the French immigrants underwent a lengthy period of adaptation without assimilation, characterized by both a clinging to distinctive religious traits and an overt intention to conform to, and not to contest, the prevailing mind-set of the Puritan New World.

The past few years have seen a dramatic growth of interest in French Protestantism as a marginalized ethnic and religious subculture representing coping mechanisms of minority groups. In particular, the way for further scholarship has been opened by Neil Kamil’s encyclopedic investigation of material culture and the artisanal production of Huguenots in the New York and Long Island areas, as well as in other parts of the colonies; Georgia Cosmos’s monograph, the only one of its kind, on the testimonials of the Camisard prophets; Randy Sparks and Bertrand Van Ruymbeke’s edited collection of essays on religious distinction and integration, including those on the furtherance of the Calvinist polity in London (by Raymond Mentzer) and the transmission of the . . .

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