Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Cunegonde's Kidnapping: A Story of Religious Conflict in the Age of Enlightenment

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Cunegonde's Kidnapping: A Story of Religious Conflict in the Age of Enlightenment

Article excerpt

Cunegonde's Kidnapping: A Story of Religious Conflict in the Age of Enlightenment. By Benjamin Kaplan. [The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History.] (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2014. Pp. xxii, 290. S30.00. ISBN 978-0-300-18736-6.)

In this exemplar)' microhistory, Benjamin Kaplan weaves together a story of local religious conflict with broader themes of Enlightenment, toleration, and the political and social history of the Netherlands and Germany in the eighteenth century. Based on a treasure trove of documents in the Dutch National Archives, Kaplan's book connects the intimate details of a mixed marriage to the border politics of a confessionally mixed territory and the actions of the Dutch Republic's ruling elite. In so doing, Kaplan has provided us with a fascinating view of eighteenth-century religious and social history that will be of interest to scholars and general readers far beyond the field of Dutch history.

The kidnapping of the title refers to two related acts in 1762. In the first, a young Catholic woman from Aachen by the name of Cunegonde tries to halt the baptism of her infant nephew in the Reformed (Calvinist) Church of Vaals, a small village on the Dutch-German border (today located at the "Drielandenpunt" where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands come together). Her feeble attempt to seize the child is stopped. Temporarily imprisoned in Vaals, she is freed by a small gang of Catholics from Aachen. This double kidnapping results in a series of escalating acts of religious violence and judicial actions in Aachen and the Dutch Republic. The legal proceedings against Cunegonde and against the Catholicpastor Johannes Bosten (the presumed instigator) form the backbone of the book.

One of the great strengths of this book is Kaplan's ability to use particular details from his story to present a larger social and intellectual portrait of the age. For example, the first chapter tells the story of the fraught marriage of the Reformed Sara Maria Effrans and the Catholic Hendrick Mommers. …

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