Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Hatred in Print: Catholic Propaganda and Protestant Identity during the French Wars of Religion

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Hatred in Print: Catholic Propaganda and Protestant Identity during the French Wars of Religion

Article excerpt

Hatred in Print: Catholic Propaganda and Protestant Identity during the French Wars of Religion. By Luc Racaut. [St Andrews Studies in Reformation History.] (Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing. 2002. Pp. xiv, 161. $74.95.)

No one today questions the importance of printing for the success of the Protestant Reformation. Elizabeth Eisenstein's work in the 1970's made the case, and numerous historians since have affirmed her argument. As Luc Racaut points out, however, it is based almost entirely on a "German paradigm," which he argues does not hold for France. He proposes in this brief work, a product of the sixteenth-century French religious book project at St Andrews University, that French Catholics were highly successful in exploiting printing in defense of the traditional faith, and it was a major factor in keeping France Catholic.

Racaut emphasizes that printing in France, centered in Paris, had been from early on associated with such conservative institutions as the University of Paris and the Parlement, while much of French Protestant printing was done outside the realm and brought in. Therefore, the Catholics were in a better position to take advantage of printing for their polemical attacks than the Huguenots, in part because Calvin was careful not to allow the use of Geneva as a source of polemics against the French crown. In addressing the issue of why the French religious wars were so violent, the author provides a valuable survey of the literature over the past three decades on the question of whether the violence was motivated largely by socio-economic factors or religious concerns. While he comes down on the side of religious motivation, he feels that Denis Crouzet has overemphasized eschatological anguish as an explanation for the religious violence. Racaut explains the Catholic violence against the Huguenots primarily as the result of a process of demonizing them through printed works. The remainder of the book is devoted to analyzing that process largely for the decade before the religious wars erupted in 1562.

The author first devotes a chapter to showing how Catholic printed works had an impact on public discourse despite a high illiteracy rate among the French people. …

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