The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development, 1680-1720

The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development, 1680-1720

The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development, 1680-1720

The Persecution of Huguenots and French Economic Development, 1680-1720

Excerpt

When I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago in 1934-1936, I seriously considered the revocation of the Edict of Nantes as the subject of my doctoral dissertation. As an undergraduate majoring in religion at Duke University, I had been struck by the fact that religious persecution seemed always to strengthen the spiritual fiber of those who were persecuted and to fail short of achieving the ends envisioned by the persecutors. Furthermore, I have never subscribed to the philosophy that holds that economic forces alone determine the course of human development. Spiritual and religious factors, I believe, have exercised an independent influence on the history of mankind, and in some instances they seem to have been more powerful than purely economic forces.

I have also long been intrigued by those hypotheses or presumably accurate interpretations of historical facts which suggest that the expulsion of religious minorities (like the Moors and the Moriscos from Spain, the Jews from Spain and Portugal, the Protestants from the Spanish Netherlands, or the Huguenots from France) has frequently had baneful repercussions upon economic activity and has slowed the rate of economic growth. In the first place, I suspect that many individuals, consciously or unconsciously, have assumed that an edict outlawing a particular religion or ordering a dissident group to leave the country accomplished its purpose. Passing a law and then enforcing that law are two different things. Even the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States did not stop the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating beverages in our interstate and foreign commerce. Yet law enforcement techniques and agencies in the United States of the twentieth century are superior to those which functioned in most countries in the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. In the second place, the figures that have been offered for the number of refugees from a given country often seem too large and too conveniently well rounded to inspire my confidence in their accuracy. I have always believed that, if . . .

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