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Opposition and Dissent in Early Modern France


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Professor Julian Swann
  • Assessment: one essay of 5000-5500 words (100%)

Module description

This module will examine the relationship between religious dissent and political opposition from the sixteenth-century Wars of Religion to the reign of Louis XV. Particular attention will be paid to the constitutional theories of representative government and of contract theory developed by both Catholic and Protestant theorists, with the aim of exploring their influence on later opponents of absolute monarchy.

From a Catholic perspective we shall examine how opponents of Louis XIV’s rule, such as the Jansenists or the circle around Archbishop Fénelon drew upon the legacy of earlier writers to develop a critique of ‘absolutism’. Similarly the reaction of French Protestants to the intensification of persecution after 1650 will be examined with the aim of exploring their contribution to the development of a radical critique of Louis XIV’s monarchy. The module will offer an opportunity not only to reconsider the historical debate about the nature of French absolutism, but also to discuss recent controversies on the existence, or otherwise, of the religious origins of the French Revolution.