Manchester historian honoured

11 Mar 2010

A University of Manchester historian has received one of the Europe’s oldest and most important history prizes.

Professor Bergin
Professor Bergin

Professor Joseph Bergin was given the prize this month from the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for his book Church, society and religious change in France 1580-1730.

It recognizes the most important works published on the history of France, and is rarely given to non-French language publications.

“It is a great honour to receive this award, and recognition that this book is now regarded as most comprehensive account written in any language – French included – of the subject and period,” said Professor Bergin.

His work, published by Yale University Press, examines the changes within French Catholicism during a crucial period of its history between the wars of religion and the early Enlightenment.

Professor Bergin added: “My book shows how the structures and institutions of the church remained highly resistant to change.

“But the continuing presence of a substantial Protestant minority within France and, later on, internal tensions within Catholicism itself generated a campaign to ‘reform’ religious practices at almost every level.

“France’s Catholic Reformation may have begun later than its European counterparts, but it lasted much longer and went much further that they did

“The result was that by 1700 or so, French Catholicism became the model to follow for many outside of France.”

Professor Bergin has been teaching in Manchester since 1978, and is an internationally recognised specialist in the history of early modern France – especially seventeenth century.

He has as written six major books and in 1994 received the Prix Richelieu for his early work.

Each year the Académie honours three publications with prizes which bear the title of the ‘Antiquités de la France’, first awarded by the Académie in 1820.

The Académie was founded in  1665 by Louis XIV’s most famous minister, Colbert, who gave it the task of embellishing the French monarchy and its achievements by drawing on the members’ classical learning to devise inscriptions and other suitable emblems. 

Notes for editors

Professor Bergin is available for comment

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