Historical Communities

Cities, Erudition, and National Identity in Early Modern France


Historical Communities reveals the importance of urban history writing in early modern France, from the 1560s to the 1660s, both for individual towns and the French kingdom. Grounded in published and manuscript works, archival sources, correspondence, and research notes, the book demonstrates how historical traditions mattered to city inhabitants and how local elites combined historical narratives with social and political objectives. Numerous conflicts emerged, including debates regarding city origins, the early French Church, noble genealogies, and the memory of the French Wars of Religion. Simultaneously, provincial scholars maintained active contacts within the Republic of Letters, grounding local research and writing in developing erudite methodologies and making them integral to the ongoing process of forging a French historical identity.

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Hilary J. Bernstein, Ph.D. (1996, Princeton University), is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Author of Between Crown and Community: Politics and Civic Culture in Sixteenth-Century Poitiers (2004), she has published numerous articles on French urban historical culture and memory.

1 The Dynamics of Local History
2 Urban History and the French Kingdom
3 The Republic of Letters and the Fortunes of Erudite History
4 Urban History: A Preview

1 Writing Urban History
1 Historical Writing in Sixteenth-Century Le Mans
2 Local Audiences and Historical Traditions
3 The Politics of Historical Erudition in the Duchy of Burgundy
4 Historical Disagreement and Community Identity in Seventeenth-Century Le Mans

2 Municipal History and Urban Privileges
1 Historical Writing at the Hôtel de Ville
2 Municipal History in Print
3 The Comparative Impulse and Its Effects

3 François de Belleforest, National Sentiment, and Local Scholarship
1 Belleforest and the French People
2 Local Testimonies, Urban Contacts
3 Belleforest, Historian
4 Local History in Print

4 Origin Stories
1 Origin Stories: Evolution and Persistence
2 The Prestige of Classical Antiquity

5 Urban History and Capitalité
The Rivalry between Clermont and Riom
1 The Argument from Antiquity and the Debate over Gergovia
2 Capitalité and the Rivalry between Clermont and Riom
 2.1 The Treaty of 1557 and the “County of Clermont”
 2.2 The “Sénéchaussée d’Auvergne,” the Seat of Royal Justice, and Religious Rivalries

6 Ancient History, Sacred History, and French National Sentiment
1 Ancient Gaul and the Nature of France
2 Roman Aquitaine and the French Church
3 Gallic Aristocracy, French Monarchy

7 Genealogical History and Local History
André Duchesne and the History of France
1 The Cour de Justice of Guyenne and Historical Investigation
2 Duchesne and the “Perfect Topography” of France
3 Genealogical History and the Counts of Autun
4 Conclusions

8 Irreconcilable Histories?
André Duchesne and the Contested History of Reims
1 Nicolas Bergier: A Man of Connections
2 André Duchesne and the History of Reims
3 Competing Historical Visions
4 Jean Rogier’s Historical Memoranda

9 Recent History
Remembering the Wars of Religion
1 Strategies of Circumspection, Stance of Silence
2 Public Memory, Personal History
3 Catholic Histories, Protestant Sources
4 Orléans and the Wars of Religion

Conclusion: Looking Back on Local History


All interested in early modern European historiography and early modern France, including urban history writing, archives, the Republic of Letters, and the French Wars of Religion.
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