History ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 5-12-2017


The assumption that civil war era France divided neatly into two ideological parties is common within the historical scholarly literature. There were, more accurately, three ideological groups in France by the outbreak of the Civil Wars in 1562. Firstly was the reactionary party, made up of entrenched forces of the Crown that had adopted much of the outward symbols of the Renaissance/Humanist movement but at root remained essentially regressive. The Moderate Party, secondly, made up mostly of Catholic Humanists and Renaissance scholars who adopted much of the essence of reform, but stopped short of calling for systematic societal change through revolution. Third, was the Huguenot Party who collated renaissance and humanist understandings into a systematized body of thought, and then proceeded to the next logical step of calling for an essential societal revolution.

The 'middle way', described above, preceded the politique party that arose later, becoming prominent especially during the reign of Henri III, but was not identical to it. The middle way that this essay proposes advocated moderate reform in the state as well as the church. It retained much of the outward structures/symbols of the old order but contained the substance of the new changes of the Renaissance. They did not necessarily urge the construction of a powerful, even absolute, royal authority.

This trifold division of French society, as well as the concomitant struggle for power that it entailed, contributed to the violence that typified that second half of the 16th century in France. The Crown and established Church sought to maintain power as well as the fundamental societal structures that undergirded their power. The Moderate Party remained loyal to the old order but raised cautious voices against violence, intolerance, and bloodshed. The Genevan/Huguenot party responded initially by passive acceptance, then with armed conflict.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Charlie R. Steen

Second Committee Member

Dr. Patricia Risso

Third Committee Member

Dr. Linda B. Hall

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Marina Peters-Newell



Document Type


Included in

History Commons