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The Reformation: Its History and Legacy (December 2017): The Reformation in France

By Matthew Hill

The Reformation in France

Catholicism had deep roots in France, and it was difficult for Protestants to build a sound base there. John Calvin was born in France but spent most of his adult life in Zurich for reasons of safety. Nevertheless, French Protestants, called Huguenots, played a key role in building Protestant communities in France, though they often existed between tolerance and persecution.

Two helpful studies are Mack P. Holt’s The French Wars of Religion, 1562–1629 and Glenn S. Sunshine’s Reforming French Protestantism: The Development of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557–1572. Holt’s study covers a longer period of time and argues against Marxist interpretations, which privilege socioeconomic forces as the primary engine of French religious wars, and contends that religion was the centralizing factor. Sunshine shifts direction and focuses more on Calvinistic influences and Protestant institution building.