While the French Revolution has been much discussed and studied, its impact on religious life in France is rather neglected. Yet, during this brief period, religion underwent great changes that affected everyone: clergy and laypeople, men and women, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. The 'Reigns of Terror' of the Revolution drove the Church underground, permanently altering the relationship between Church and State.
In this book, Nigel Aston offers a readable guide to these tumultuous events. While the structures and beliefs of the Catholic Church are central, it does not neglect minority groups like Protestants and Jews. Among other features, the book discusses the Constitutional Church, the end of state support for Catholicism, the 'Dechristianization' campaign and the Concordat of 1801-2.
Key themes discussed include the capacity of all the Churches for survival and adaptation, the role of religion in determining political allegiances during the Revolution, and the turbulence of Church-State relations.
In this masterly study, based on the latest evidence, Aston sheds new light on a dynamic period in European history and its impact on the next 200 years of religious life in France.
"As a synthesis both of recent work and of older studies in religious history, it is a tour de force... The great contribution of this book is to the history of the French Revolution, and here the picture of events that emerges from Aston's account is in certain respects an unfamiliar one... Those of us who teach courses on Enlightenment and French Revolution, as well as general readers wanting a detailed, well-written synthesis of the religious history of this complex period, are very much in Nigel Aston's debt."~H-France Reviews
"A comprehensive survey of the religious history of France from the eve of the Revolution through the early years of the nineteenth century. It is work of great erudition, drawing on an immense array of secondary materials and printed sources... The book is undoubtedly the best general study of religion in the French Revolution to appear in English since John McManner's short synthesis of 1968."~Catholic Historical Review
"This will be the book on the subject. It is based on a great deal of the author's own primary research on the topic, and draws on an enormous body of secondary sources. It is very-well written, and is an excercise in a humane kind of social history... a splendid book."~Prof. Colin Jones, University of Warwick
"Nigel Aston brings ideal credentials to the writing of this useful and important book... [His] fine and valuable book is... the first comprehensive history of religion and the French Revolution to appear in English... A fine and highly important and useful book. Strongly recommended for inclusion in all libraries, academic or public, that have any interest in either the history of the French Revolution or post-Enlightenment religion."~History: Reviews of New Books
"Aston's study promises to be extremely useful for scholars of Jews in the modern period. The author strikes a nice balance between synthesis and detail in achieving an extremely readable summary of the large literature on Christianity and the Revolution. Scholars of the Haskalah interested in parallel movements within French Christianity will thus find this text an extremely convenient starting point. Moreover, Aston deserves special praise for making an effort to normalize the history of Protestants and Jews by including them alongside the Catholic Church."~Jewish Quarterly Review