History and Polemics in the French Reformation by Barbara Sher Tinsley Summary
This work is a story of the Protestant Reformation seen from the viewpoint of a Catholic politician and writer of polemical histories. Raemond was a member of the Bordeaux Parlement (he bought his friend Montaigne's seat) and served as a magistrate in that body until his death in 1601. His histories, frequently cited by European scholars, offer a wealth of sociological detail uncommon to historical works of his era. His books on the mythical female Pope Joan, on the Antichrist, and on the rise and development of Protestantism contain much of interest to modern historians of popular culture or mentalites, especially where radical sectarians are concerned, and for information relating to the earliest beginnings of Calvinism on French soil, about which little has been written. For such subjects Raemond's history remains a valuable primary source. Raemond's significance in European historiography, a study that is attracting renewed attention among scholars, is explored by comparing his views with those of other historians and public figures of his century, both Protestant and Catholic. The first three chapters deal with Raemond's life and literary associations; the fourth with his expose of "Pope Joan." Next follows a consideration of his book on the Antichrist, which, together with the chapter on Joan, offers a survey of many centuries of information and misinformation concerning church history, especially the nature of papal primacy, apostolic purity, and the apocalyptic fears of a variety of writers and theologians. These included Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, and John Bale, who thought that the pope or the Turk was the Beast of the Book of Daniel. Raemond emerges as a gifted, if exotic, writer peculiarly attuned to the (Catholic) majority opinion of his times, but still capable of some penetrating analyses of the motives and tactics of the Protestant party, its founders, and its defenders. The representativeness of his views and his popularity with his readers make him particularly significant for students of the Reformation and Counter (or Catholic) Reformation. In the not distant past scholars tended to dismiss polemical history as unreliable and hence uninformative. Modern readers who study religious history in the present age of increasing ecumenicism and fluctuating social values may have more patience and tolerance for polemical idealists like Raemond and his Protestant critics. The latter were often as polemical and just as fearful of adjusting to a world in which truth was hotly contended and losers in the contest risked not merely their reputations and livelihoods, but their very lives. The last chapter treats of Raemond's Nachleben, or literary afterlife, and illustrates the dynamics of historical criticism in a period marked - even crazed - by misplaced religious zeal and a near absence of tolerance and historical objectivity.