Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


France, Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, French Protestants


Henri IV's Edict of Nantes (1598) granted official tolerance to French Protestants and ended the Wars of Religion that had raged throughout France during the second half of the sixteenth century. On October 22, 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Some two hundred thousand French Protestants sought exile in neighboring countries and in North America. The economic effects of the Protestant diaspora were disastrous for France; its cultural effects, unexpected and far-reaching. Much of the French publishing industry set up shop outside of France's national borders, in London, Geneva, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam, where publishers circumvented French regulations and censorship and then smuggled their books into France. Indeed, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes actually fostered the expansion and enhanced the international prestige of the French language, as some of its most accomplished and influential users, notably

Pierre Bayle, fanned out across the Old and New Continents. In this way, ironically, the designated enemies of the realm did as much to promote the language abroad as did its armies and its diplomats; Jean-Pierre Seguin uses a military metaphor, characterizing Bayle's famous periodical Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres as leading a French "conquete". The displacement of Latin as the lingua franca of the Republic of Letters, already well underway since the Renaissance, was thus accelerated during the Classical Age.