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The Religious Origins of the French Revolution: From Calvin to the Civil Constitution, 1560-1791 Hardcover – July 24, 1996

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (July 24, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300064780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300064780
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,220,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I think the best way to approach this review for me is to explain why I bought this book. I have always been interested in the causes and consequences of the French Revolution, and most of the explanations that I had read, class differences, economic crises, internal political problems, somehow did not seem to me to give an adequate explanation, or explanations. Then I read Jonathan Israel's volumes on the Enlightenment (there are 4 now-all from Oxford- the last covering the French Revolution) and while they covered the intellectual background extensively, they were not specific to the religious background of the French Revolution. There is now a great deal of new research on the French Revolution and it's political and intellectual background as it is viewed by many historians as a starting point for modernity.
This book by Dale K. Van Kley explores in detail the development of the religious struggle between Protestants and Catholics and the long and complicated struggle with the French monarchy for power, roughly from the period- 1560-1790. Kley covers such issues as the gradual erosion of the Church in the French monarchy, Jansenism, and the long and very bitter fight over this development in the church, the papal bull Unigenitus (proclaimed by Clement XI on Sept 8 1713, that condemned 101 propositions from P. Ouesnel's Reflexions morales sur le Nouveau Testament) and finally what Van Kley calls the "desacralization' of the monarchy- a very important series of events that was noted at the time by observers who underestimated its long-term impact on the monarchy and on the Church as a whole. Van Kley narrates how the once close alliance between Church and State gradually came apart under the stress of the Wars of religion, political conflict, and social strains. It is a sobering tale.
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