England and the French Wars of Religion- 16th century Pamphlets held at York Minster
Dr Eric Durot, Marie Curie Research Fellow, exploring “The Outbreak of the Wars of Religion: a Franco-British History (1547-ca.74)has curated an exhibition of some of the York Minster Library’s rich collection of sixteenth-century pamphlets concerning English responses to and dimensions of the French Wars of Religion. A digital version of this exhibition has now been launched. For more on this research project see, http://francobrit16.blogspot.co.uk/
The French Wars of Religion (1562-98) were a conflict that pitted Catholics against Protestants. But the civil war was more than a religious war. It entailed rebellions against the crown, inter-communal violence and a struggle between moderate Catholics and radicals. It was a period in which there were new ideas formulated about the monarchy, religious toleration and civil living together.
The French events were also a European phenomenon. Foreign powers were sucked into the conflict. Events there directly impacted England: many French Protestants took refuge across the Channel and Elizabeth I intervened militarily to support the Protestant cause. England’s main enemy, Spain, intervened to support the Catholic cause. The French Wars of Religion were of fundamental importance to the course of British History in another way. Many English Catholics supported the claim of the French princess, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, to the throne of England. In the 1580s France became home to a community of English Catholic exiles, who plotted with French sympathisers to overthrow Elizabeth.
These pamphlets are also a reminder of the explosion of print in the sixteenth century. They are relics of an emerging public sphere which laid the foundations for Britain’s own seventeenth-century civil wars and Revolution.