Date of Award

Fall 2001

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The Reformation was the great crisis of early modem Europe. Within several decades of the early sixteenth century, a continent united by a millennium of Catholicism was suddenly divided. The ensuing problems took centuries to resolve because early modem Europeans proved resistant to the concept of toleration, not to say religious freedom. Indeed, toleration was only a dream, sketched out in the works of the finest minds of the age-Michel de Montaigne, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, and others. Nor was any major state prepared to offer religious freedom to subjects dissenting from the official faith, and indeed, in much of sixteenth-century Europe, religious dissent was tantamount to treason. Voltaire, perhaps the greatest French thinker of the eighteenth century, commented insightfully on the problems raised by religious diversity. Concerned over the atrocities he witnessed committed against Huguenots worshiping clandestinely, Voltaire defined religious tolerance as " ... the endowment of humanity .... the first law of nature." Advocating greater, not less religious diversity, he continued: "[i]f there are two religions in your country, they will cut one another's throats; if there are thirty of them, they will live in peace." Alas, a mind as liberated and rational as Voltaire's was not present in sixteenth and seventeenth century France, where the existence of thirty religions would have meant charges of heresy on all sides. And if even there existed a mind as penetrating as Voltaire's, it is doubtful that the king's irresolute subjects would have listened to him...



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?