Hatred in print : aspects of anti-Protestant polemic in the French Wars of Religion
The medium of printing has been persistently associated with Protestantism. As a result, a large body of French Catholic anti-Protestant material was to a large extent ignored. In contrast with Germany, there is evidence to suggest that French authors used printing effectively and aggressively to promote the Catholic cause. During the French Wars of Religion, French Catholics were far more innovative than they were given credit for: the German paradigm of a leaden-footed Catholic response to the Reformation was inappropriately applied to France. This is ironic given that it was the Catholic cause which ultimately prevailed. In seeking to explain why France remained a Catholic country, the French Catholic response must be taken into account. Catholic polemical works, and their portrayal of Protestants in print in particular, is the central focus of this work. The first chapter is devoted to a historiographical discussion of the problem of violence in the French Wars of Religion. The next two chapters are concerned with the comparison between Protestantism and medieval heresies, and particularly the recourse in polemic to the topos of the Albigensian Crusade. The next chapter addresses the use of cultural archetypes such as 'the world turned upside down' and the reversal of gender roles to deride the impact of the Reformation. The last two chapters are an attempt to assess the impact of the Catholic polemic on the Protestant culture and identity and on the emerging public opinion. Rather than confront the Reformation on its own terms, the Catholic reaction concentrated on discrediting the Protestant cause in the eyes of the Catholic majority. They had a considerable impact on their readership and on an illiterate audience (through the interaction between written and oral), and on the French Protestants' own self-perception and identity. This thesis aims to contribute to the ongoing debate over the nature of the French Wars of Religion, to explain why they were so violent and why they engaged the loyalties of such a large portion of the population. This study also provides an example of the successful defence of Catholicism developed independently and in advance of Tridentine reform which is of wider significance for the history of the Reformation in Europe.