In this intellectually impressive and beautifully-written book (the author’s own translation of a work that appeared in German in 2013 as Mit Gott Rechnen), Damien Tricoire breathes new life into the study of religion and politics in seventeenth-century Europe by comparing the political implications of the Catholic Reformation in Bavaria, France and Poland-Lithuania. At the heart of his argument is the idea that this involved a fundamental remodelling of the ways in which contemporaries perceived relations between heaven and earth. The eschatological anguish of the sixteenth century changed into a ‘universalist’ model that sought unity between heaven and earth as part of a universal hierarchy of divine love; this involved a new sense of compromise and cooperation between the spiritual and temporal that refused the subjugation of one by the other. Some might dispute this interpretation—it is noteworthy, for example, that by stopping in the 1660s Tricoire avoids moments when the spiritual and temporal were not so harmonious, such as the conflict between Louis XIV and the papacy in the 1680s. Still, he offers insightful analysis of the way religious representations affected monarchies and their policies. Historians have often been concerned to weigh up ‘political’ factors against ‘religious’ ones in considering, for example, the motivations of actors in the Thirty Years’ War (often confusing ‘religious’ for ‘confessional’ in the process). A better approach, Tricoire suggests, is to recognize the inclination of contemporaries to ‘compter sur Dieu’, in other words to anticipate divine responses to any given action as part of evaluating its potential success, an attitude that was integrated into political decision making in what Tricoire labels the ‘calcul politico-religieux’. God’s potential reaction needed to be taken into account and could not be separated from the territorial, dynastic and other motivations normally interpreted as ‘political’. It was in this context that a ‘statist’ Marian patronage was developed in the three case studies, following the lead of Wittelsbach Bavaria in the 1610s and well-known to French historians thanks to Louis XIII’s vow of 1638. Tricoire charts the use of processions and public monuments to incorporate a much wider body of the population into this devotion than had been possible with the cults of dynastic saints. He situates this in the frame of the ‘universalist’ nature of the Catholic Reformation. Marian devotion was about establishing a universal hierarchy between heaven and earth, with the state participating in the Virgin’s glory and assuring itself of her protection. Tricoire’s comparative approach allows him to demonstrate, however, that similar processes could produce vastly different results in different contexts. In France, the propagation of ‘universalism’ favoured the strengthening of the monarchy and was broadly accepted by the elites. The dévots who opposed the foreign policies of Louis XIII and Richelieu were not simply the old Leaguers according to Tricoire; they accepted the ‘universalist’ model but merely opposed a different calcul politico-religieux to that of the crown. In Poland-Lithuania, on the other hand, the effort to develop a sacralized, ‘universalist’ model of monarchy from the 1620s on, part of which was the conception of Mary as patron and queen of Poland, strengthened the monarchy in the short term but ultimately did not carry enough of the nobility with it. Ladislas IV’s calcul was based on a providential role for Poland centred on war with the Ottomans, an idea that proved particularly unpopular following the Cossack uprising of 1648 and the Swedish ‘deluge’ of 1655, events interpreted by many as divine punishment. The chapters comparing France and Poland from the 1640s to 1660s (Bavaria disappears after 1650) are excellent and insightful. Ultimately they show that the propagation of Catholic Reform could have contrary results—Jean Casimir’s defeat and abdication and Louis XIV’s triumph in the 1660s, for example. Tricoire does not, of course, reduce everything to a result of Catholic Reform and recognizes the multiplicity of other factors, but he does show how religious ‘calculation’ was built into political decision making in such a way that it will be hard for future historians to write it off anachronistically as irrational or irrelevant. Although the book is based on vast research in several languages, sometimes the sources do not quite match the conclusions. For example, the idea that there was a ‘growing adhesion’ to the ‘universalist’ conception of government in Poland in the 1620s and 1630s is mainly based on panegyric literature, which is not varied enough to prove the point. Similarly, Tricoire’s assumption that the 1638 vow made the feast of the Assumption an early fête nationale is mainly based on official sources; he does not seek out other sources to explore it from the bottom up and see how it was really perceived by the ordinary people of France away from the centres of political authority. The assertion that interpretations of the Frondes do not in general acknowledge a religious dimension makes no reference to Richard Golden’s Godly Rebellion, which argued just that (although very differently to Tricoire). And, as Denis Crouzet points out in an otherwise laudatory preface, the seventeenth-century novelty of concepts such as the calcul is perhaps overplayed. Still, this is an excellent, ambitious and thought-provoking work that should be essential reading for all interested in seventeenth-century religion and politics. For French historians, Tricoire’s comparative approach offers an important warning against the distortions that can result from an overly national focus (he casts doubt, for example, on the existence of a distinct ‘French school of spirituality’). The book seems sure to stimulate productive debate for many years to come. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
French History – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 27, 2018
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