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The Huguenots in Later Stuart Britain

Volume I – Crisis, Renewal, and the Ministers’ Dilemma

Robin Gwynn is a historian of Early Modern England, formerly Reader in History at Massey University, New Zealand. His speciality has long been the study of Huguenot refugees and the French communities in Britain, and in 1985 he was Director of the “Huguenot Heritage” tercentenary commemoration under the patronage of H.M. The Queen. His books include the widely acclaimed Huguenot Heritage (2nd edn, Sussex Academic Press, 2001), and editions of later seventeenth century letters and consistory minutes of the largest of the many French churches in England.

The Huguenots in Later Stuart Britain is planned as one work to be published in three interlinking volumes (titles/publication dates detailed below). It examines the history of the French communities in Britain from the Civil War, which plunged them into turmoil, to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, after which there was no realistic possibility that the Huguenots would be readmitted to France. There is a particular focus on the decades of the 1680s and 1690s, at once the most complex, the most crucial, and the most challenging alike for the refugees themselves and for subsequent historians.

The work opens with the Calvinist French-speaking communities in England caught up in the Civil War. They could not avoid it, with many of their members largely assimilated into English society by the 1640s. Generally they favoured the Parliamentarian side, but any victory was pyrrhic because the Interregnum supported the rights of Independent congregations which undermined their whole Calvinist structure. Weakened by in-fighting, in the 1660s the old-established French churches then had to reassert their right to exist in the face of a sometimes hostile restored monarchy and episcopacy, a newly licenced French church emphasizing its Anglicanism and its loyalty to the crown, and the challenges of the Plague and the Fire of London which burnt the largest French church in England to the ground. They were still staggering to find their feet when the first trickle and then the full flood of new Huguenot immigration overwhelmed them.

As for the newly arriving Huguenot ministers, not prepared for the England to which they came, they found they had to resolve what was often an intense personal dilemma: should they stand fast for the worship they had led in France, or accept Anglican ways? – and if they did accept Anglicanism, to what extent? It is demonstrated that many ministers took the Anglican route, although Volume II will show that the French communities as a whole, old and new alike, voted with their feet not to do so. A substantial appendix provides a biographical account of over 600 ministers in the orbit of the French churches across this period.

Volume II: Settlement, Churches, and the Role of London (978-1-84519-619-6) was published in December 2017; and Volume III: The Huguenots and the Defeat of Louis XIV’s France (978-1-84519-620-2) is due out in 2020.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-618-9
Hardback Price: £95.00 / $140.00
Release Date: August 2015
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-767-4
Paperback Price: £37.50 / $55.00
Release Date: December 2017
Page Extent / Format: 464 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Tables
List of Illustrations
Chronological Table
Note on Dates
Glossary of Terms



I. French Communities in an English Snare

II. The Calvinist Ideal: the organization and discipline of the French Church of London

III. Fears, Challenges and Renewal: non-conformist survival under Charles II

IV. Conformist Models

V. Tracking the Ministers

VI. Jetsam of the Revocation: Huguenot refugee ministers and the dilemmas they faced

Biographical Dictionary of Huguenot Ministers, Lecteurs and others associated with
the Ministry of the French Protestant Churches in Britain, 1640–1713

Select Bibliography

This very welcome and pioneering study, the first of three proposed volumes, provides a history of French Huguenot communities in England from the civil war through the 1680s, and includes a helpful dictionary of Huguenot refugee ministers associated with the French Protestant churches in Britain from 1640 to 1713. Subsequent volumes will cover the impact of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) on England and its Huguenot communities, and how the French refugees became involved in the British-led coalition against their former sovereign, Louis XIV. The current study’s strength is its concentration on the earliest Huguenot congregations and how they were affected by the vicissitudes of English royal policy, ranging from Elizabethan and Jacobean benign neglect, to Laudian harassment and the unprecedented freedom allowed during the interregnum, to the shift from Charles II’s “toleration” to his successor’s anti-immigration course. Gwynn also does a nice job of laying out the internecine struggles among the various congregations, especially in London where the largest churches were organized, and the process of assimilation that took place over time as immigration declined until the late-17th-century resurgence. This valuable history of a heretofore neglected subject also serves as a useful reference work. Essential.
Choice, B. Lowe, Florida Atlantic University

For a long time the history of the Huguenots in Britain received curiously little attention from scholars. Those who did take an interest focused mostly on the Elizabethan period, such as the French historian Bernard Cottret, and before him the Baron de Schickler. Yet historians have long recognised that the size and impact of Huguenot immigration was considerably larger in the later seventeenth century, when an estimated 50,000 French Protestants arrived in the British Isles to escape persecution in Louis XIV’S kingdom. Robin Gwynn has devoted his long career to studying this period, and has now published the first volume in what will be a trilogy on the Huguenots in later Stuart Britain, charting their fate and fortunes from the Civil War until the Peace of Utrecht. Gwynn’s aim is not only to bring together his own research and that of others, but also to demonstrate that the Huguenots are more than just an interesting minority, as he argues that ‘they critically influenced the course of events in mainline English and European history’.
Reviewed by David van der Linden, University of Groningen, in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History 

This is the first of three volumes which will mark the culmination of Robin Gwynn’s career as a historian of the Huguenots in Britain. He has established himself as the pre-eminent writer on the topic through Huguenot Heritage (1985), his celebration of the Huguenot presence and achievements, and many specialist scholarly publications. He now seeks to draw the threads together in a dense, massively researched, synthesis which, if this first volume is any guide, will become an essential departure point for future students of the Huguenots in Britain. The volume falls into two parts, the first of which deals with the problems faced by the clergy in ministering to émigré congregations. Since their beginnings in 1550, Stranger churches had been in an anomalous position, allowed to worship and to govern themselves in different ways from the Protestant established church. Their position became more difficult when Anglican bishops, notably Laud, tried to force them to conform to the Church of England. They survived, but the divisions created among them by the civil wars - members of the clergy gave vociferous support to both sides - made their position delicate at the Restoration. While most congregations continued to worship as non-conformists, others, led by the new church at the Savoy, became known as conformists. This was somewhat misleading: the Savoy church used the French liturgy used in Jersey, which was quite similar to that of the non-conformists. There was a brief but rigorous attempt to impose a fully Anglican liturgy under James II, which further increased the complexities of the ‘dilemma’ facing incoming ministers: how far to compromise their religious practice in order to win acceptance from the English authorities. The experience of individuals is followed up in the second part of the book, a very substantial biographical dictionary which will be a mine of information for future scholars.
... Even in itself, this volume is a very significant achievement, which will be consolidated in the remaining volumes. I have one query. Despite talking of ‘Britain’ there is very little on Scotland. Very few ministers settled in Scotland, which in the ‘killing times’ of the 1680s was not an attractive destination. But by 1690 Presbyterianism was fully re-established, with the General Assembly and a structure of church governance similar to that which had existed in France. Why, then, did so few Huguenots settle there? Was the comparative wealth of England more attractive than a poorer country, which in the 1690s suffered some of the worst famines in its history? Were sympathetic bishops like Compton more congenial to deal with than hard-line Covenanters? And, considering Ireland, how far did Huguenots prefer to settle in areas where the predominant Protestant church was the Church of Ireland, rather than Presbyterian Ulster? These are questions which could perhaps be addressed in the future volumes.
John Miller, Queen Mary University of London, writing in The Huguenot Society Journal, Vol. XXX (2016)

Reviewed in German by Alexander Schunka, Berlin, in Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 48 (2021), 87–21.     

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