Examining Catholic activism in the south-west of France during the middle decades of the sixteenth century, this book argues - contrary to prevailing views - that the phenomenon was both widespread and militant even before the formation of the Catholic League in 1576. Whilst recent research has provided a far greater understanding of the Huguenot struggle for security and legitimacy, there has not been a correspondingly thorough investigation into the grass-roots Catholic reaction to this, and by dismissing episodes of pre-League Catholic militancy as limited and ephemeral, a distorted picture of French confessional conflict and rivalry is painted. Utilizing surviving material from the provincial archives at Bordeaux, Toulouse, Agen, and at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, this book provides ample evidence for placing the birth of Catholic activism in the period preceding the Wars of Religion, highlighting the confessional tensions that exploded throughout the 1540s and 1550s. As competing bands of religious enthusiasts, and municipal and court officials, fought first with words, then with weapons, for supremacy of the community in the towns of the south-west, a steady escalation of confrontation can be traced. Within this atmosphere of rising tension, it is shown how Catholic militancy mirrored the organizational and fund-raising capacity of their Protestant rivals, and how the local military elite rose to support their co-religionists at the outbreak of formal hostilities in 1562. The ascendancy of Catholic militants in key urban centres by 1570 would deal a fatal blow to Protestant plans for supremacy of the south-west.
'Kevin Gould provides us with an interesting insight into Catholic activism in southern France during the critical decades of the early civil wars.' Catholic Herald ’Catholic Activism is a brilliantly researched and well-written book that breaks new ground in our understanding of local and regional strategies prior to and during the Wars of Religion...This book should be mandatory reading for all scholars of sixteenth-century religious history.’ Renaissance Quarterly ’There is a strong narrative line through the cases studies and the book holds the reader's interest easily. There is good cross-referencing about individuals and themes within the nine substantive chapters. The introduction is clear and the conclusion judicious in its findings. These qualities will doubtless appeal to specialist historians of the period, but will also be useful to graduate students as well as final year undergraduates looking for a clear exposition of the impact of the Wars of Religion on a local area and the relevant historiography... His book is written with clarity, conviction, and a certain verve...’ H-France Review ’... A notable strength of this book is its lucid analysis of the different strands of Catholic opposition that emerged in the regions surrounding Bordeaux, Agen, and Toulouse by 1560, and the gradual coalescence of these strands into an effective Catholic coalition. Gould uses an impressive array of primary sources ranging from royal correspondence, the registers of the Parlements, town council deliberations, and military documents as well as contemporary memoirs and chronicles ... Gould's book excels as a political study of relations between regional elites and makes a convincing case for identifying an effective Catholic opposition in France long before the emergence of the Catholic league.’ Sixteenth Century Journal ’Catholic Activism in South-West France is based on solid and extensive archival research. Gould does an excellent job of tracing