The martyrology of Jean Crespin and the early French evangelical movement
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Jean Crespin's 'Histoire des vrays tesmoins' was the official martyrology of the French Reformed Church. Published in Geneva in 1554, this collection has been consistently quarried as a fundamental source for the study of the early Reformation in France. Historians and other commentators of the period 1523-1555 have made use of this collection of martyr stories as a repository of reliable first-hand evidence as to the nature and make-up of the early French evangelical movement. However, the central theme of this dissertation is that the 'Histoire' is, in fact, far from a reliable source. Written with a profoundly different sense of objectivity than twentieth-century ideals of history-writing, Crespin's collection must be used with more care and circumspection than has previously been the case. Written by a firm adherent to Calvin's nascent regime in Geneva, Crespin's collection was compiled within well-defined traditions of Christian martyrology as a pedagogical tool, which necessarily affected its authenticity as a historical souce. The eight chapters of the thesis offer a corrective evaluation of the reliability and woth of the 'Histoire' as evidence in assessing this period. Crespin's ambitions and methodology are set out, as are the traditions of history-writing within which he operated (chapter 2). Subsequent chapters show how an uncritical analysis of the 'Histoire' has distorted our view of the period of the French Reformation up to the establishment of open Calvinist churches in 1555. This is especially the case when it is shown that the edition most used by modern-day historians is, in fact, the least reliable (chapter 7). For Crespin, concurrent persecution in other parts of Europe confirmed the righteousness of the Protestant cause. Consequently, the 'Histoire' became the most international of all the Protestant martyrologies that were produced in the sixteenth century, something that is relected in chapter 6.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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