La Saint-Barthélemy. Les mystères d’un crime d’État (24 août 1572)
Translated by Joseph Bergin
Subject Area: History
BIC Categories: Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, France
Published: March 2013
234 x 156 mm
Publisher: Manchester University Press
On 18 August 1572, Paris hosted the lavish wedding of Marguerite de Valois and Henri de Navarre, which was designed to seal the reconciliation of France’s Catholics and Protestants. Only six days later, the execution of the Protestant leaders on the orders of the king’s council unleashed a vast massacre by Catholics of thousands of Protestants in Paris and elsewhere. Why was the celebration of concord followed so quickly by such unrestrained carnage? Arlette Jouanna’s new reading of the most notorious massacre in early modern European history rejects most of the established accounts, especially those privileging conspiracy, in favour of an explanation based on ideas of reason of state. The Massacre stimulated reflection on royal power, the limits of authority and obedience, and the danger of religious division for France’s political traditions. Based on extensive research and a careful examination of existing interpretations, this book is the most authoritative analysis of a shattering event.
PART ONE: THE FRAGILITY OF CONCORD
1. Trial by suspicion: the peace of 1570
2. Politics matrimonial and international
3. The assault on peace
PART TWO: SWORD OF GOD, SWORD OF THE KING
4. Surgical strike
5. Catholic furies
6. The King’s truth, reason of state
PART THREE: ELUCIDATIONS AND RETORTS
7. Protestant misfortune in biblical perspective
8. Political readings of the French tragedy
9. The king’s death, or the meaning of a massacre revealed
Appendix: Sociology of the victims of the Massacre, 1572
Sources and bibliography
Arlette Jouanna is one of the finest historians writing about early modern France today, but apart from academic specialists of the period, she is virtually unknown in the Anglophone world because virtually none of her work has previously been translated into English. Thus, the recent publication by the Manchester University Press of an English translation of her book, The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, is a real cause for celebration. Not only will this book bring her scholarship to a much wider leadership around the globe, but it will also help resolve one of the most difficult tasks for all historians of early modern France: how to explain satisfactorily the events that made up the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacres in 1572.
Above all, Jouanna’s account examines all the available primary sources for the reader in a systematic way. And this, in my view, is her primary contribution. Anyone wishing to continue further research on Saint Bartholomew’s Day now can start here and find all the primary and principal secondary sources in one place. This excellent book offers both a thorough re-evaluation of the primary sources for the Massacre and a careful assessment of the secondary works.
Adding to the value of the book is Joseph Bergin’s highly readable translation. This should become the first book that anyone with a scholarly interest in St. Bartholomew’s Massacre will read.
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