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The Huguenots and French Opinion, 1685-1787

The Enlightenment Debate on Toleration

By Geoffrey Adams
Subjects History, Religion
Series Editions SR Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889202092, 349 pages, April 1991
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889209046, 349 pages, January 2006

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The Huguenots and French Opinion, 1685–1787: The Enlightenment Debate on Toleration by Geoffrey Adams

List of Illustrations




I. The Edict of Fontainebleau: The Rationalization of Intolerance

II. Thunderous Applause, Discreet Dissent: The Intellectual Reaction to the Revocation

III. A Three-way Impasse: The Huguenots, The Clergy, and The State


IV. An Abstract Combat: Voltaire's First Battles Against Intolerance, 1713–1750

V. Montesquieu and the Huguenots: A Conservative’s View of Minority Rights

VI. A Friend in the Enemy Camp: The Abbé Prévost

VII. Controller–General Machault Provokes a Public Debate on Huguenot Rights, 1751–1760

VIII. Encyclopedists and Calvinists: An Exercise in Mutual Aid

IX. A Case Study in Incompatibility: The Philosophe Voltaire and the Calvinist La Beaumelle, 1750–1756

X. Mutual Disenchantment: Voltaire and the Genevans, 1755–1762

XI. Distant Cousins: Rousseau and the French Calvinists

XII. The Stage in the Service of Huguenot Emancipation: Voltaire, Fenouillot de Falbaire, and Mercier

XIII. Reaction Put to Rout: The Dictionnaire Philosophique, the Last of the Encyclopedie and the Bélisaire Affair, 1764–1767


XIV. The 1760s: From Words to Deeds

XV. The Calas Affair: A Catalyst for the National Conscience, 1762–1765

XVI. Large Expectations, Limited Gains: The Reform Efforts of Turgot and Malesherbes, 1774–1776

XVII. Conservatives and Pragmatists Try Their Hand: Necker, Armand, and the Parlementaires, 1776–1784

XVIII. Genteel Conspirators: Breteuil and Malesherbes Set the Stage for Reform, 1784–1787

XIX. Spurs to Action: The D’Anglure Affair and the Dutch Crisis, 1787

XX. Toleration Triumphant: The Edict of 1787


Selected Bibliography



The decision of Louis XIV to revoke the Edict of Nantes and thus liquidate French Calvinism was well received in the intellectual community which was deeply prejudiced against the Huguenots. This antipathy would gradually disappear. After the death of the Sun King, a more sympathetic view of the Protestant minority was presented to French readers by leading thinkers such as Montesquieu, the abbé Prévost, and Voltaire. By the middle years of the eighteenth century, liberal clerics, lawyers, and government ministers joined Encyclopedists in urging the emancipation of the Reformed who were seen to be loyal, peaceable and productive. Then, in 1787, thanks to intensive lobbying by a group which included Malesherbes, Lafayette, and the future revolutionary Rabaut Saint-Étienne, the government of Louis XVI issued an edict of toleration which granted the Huguenots a modest bill of civil and religious rights.

Adams’ illuminating work treats a major chapter in the history of toleration; it explores in depth a fascinating shift in mentalités, and it offers a new focus on the process of “reform from above” in pre-Revolutionary France.