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Let God Arise: The War & Rebellion of the Camisards.

Let God Arise: The War & Rebellion of the Camisards. By W. Gregory Monahan. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. 300. $115.00.)

This is an excellent book. It will become the standard text in any language on the Camisard War of 1702-1704, which opposed royal troops of "church and state" to the Protestant rebels of the Cevennes, in south central France, north of Montpellier and south of the Mont-Lozere. The author closely follows, of course, the monumental six-volume work of the Protestant minister and historian Henri Bose, whose La Guerre des Cevennes, 1702-1710 appeared over the period 1985-1993. But Gregory Monahan does this without neglecting other recent works.

Although this book focuses on "histoire evenementielle,'" Monahan is completely conversant with the social background of the "primitive rebels" whose saga he recounts. To this reviewer's mind, however, the author downplays its effect: "Here," he writes,

   not too surprisingly, [reviewer's emphasis] artisanal occupations
   dominated: 68 percent were identified as artisans of one type or
   another, while only 32 percent could be identified as peasants. Of
   the artisans, 103, or 62 percent, came from the textile trades,
   with wool-combers and weavers most common. (89)

Unsurprisingly? To overlook this dimension of the rebellion is to make a mere traditional, rural, and religious uprising of this proto-industrial revolt. And on this last score, Monahan's emphasis is again idiosyncratic: the primitive--one might even dare to say, the "psychiatric"--nature of the Camisard mindset, so clearly laid out in Daniel Vidal's Le Malheur et son prophete. Inspires et sectaires en Languedoc calviniste (1685-1725), is of course on Monahan's agenda, but in brief and in passing. In the reviewer's opinion, however, the popular Calvinism of the Camisards is insufficiently described in these pages.

Hence, the ambiguities of Monahan's conclusion: on the one hand, he writes that "prophetism lay at the heart of the Camisard discourse. It represented a brilliant rebirth, a liberation not only from the constrictions of a monarchy in alliance with the church they shared but even from a Reformed church of which younger Protestants by 1701 had no living memory" (259). But he also thinks, and more rightly so, that "even over the course of 300 years, the violence of the Camisard War reverberates into the ethnic and religious conflicts of the present with a depressing but all too familiar ring of righteous hatred, of murder in the name of God, of cruelty and suffering in the name of rigid and intolerant belief" (260).

There is a difference of opinion, then. But there are many mansions in the House of the Lord and in that of Clio also.

Patrice Higonnet

Harvard University

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Author:Higonnet, Patrice
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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