August 11, 2005
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v2.1 Reference

Sacred Boundaries

Religious Coexistence and Conflict in Early Modern France

Religious rivalry and persecution have bedeviled so many societies that confessional difference often seems an unavoidable source of conflict. Sacred Boundaries challenges this assumption by examining relations between the Catholic majority and Protestant minority in seventeenth-century France as a case study of two religious groups constructing confessional difference and coexistence. The book studies bi-confessional communities and families, gender roles, confessional polemics, and conversion narratives to discuss topics that include missions, intermarriage, cemetery sharing, women's religious activities, and the meaning of conversion. Its exploration of how the religious groups found ways to live together provides an approach to studying religious rivalry in other times and places.

To explain how confessional groups in this period could be peaceful as well as contentious, the book offers a new conceptualization of three ways Catholics and Protestants constructed the confessional boundary. In the first, their shared concerns for communal harmony and familial interests led them to blur confessional identities. In another, it led them to reach agreements on sharing civic spaces and institutions; such arrangements made their confessional identities clear, but each group maintained an acknowledged place in communities. And in a third form of boundary, the groups were rigidly divided; Protestants were pressured to convert as a way of reintegrating themselves into communities they shared with Catholics. Yet family members and neighbors of the two faiths found ways to overcome even this harshest of confessional boundaries.

Through its examination of confessional identity and the different means of constructing the boundary between religious groups, Sacred Boundaries provides a new understanding of the enduring concerns of religious intolerance and coexistence. And because the study itself crosses boundaries—in the questions it poses, the topics it treats, and the disciplinary approaches it employs—it will interest scholars in history, religion, anthropology, sociology, women's studies, and literary studies.


Keith P. Luria is Professor of History at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Territories of Grace: Cultural Change in the Seventeenth-Century Diocese of Grenoble.


"Keith Luria has written a luminous and deeply researched study of religious coexistence and conflict in seventeenth-century France. Through burial rites and cemeteries, intermarriages, women's spirituality, and personal conversion accounts, he explores a range in religious borders, from the porous to the negotiated to the exclusionary. Sacred Boundaries helps us understand the historical anthropology of early-modern France and gives new insight into the choices and challenges of our own time."—Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France

"Luria's handling of the Catholic community within the framework of conflict and coexistence with Protestant neighbors is especially fresh and helpful. There is nothing quite like Luria's treatment and it will be regarded as a significant advance in exploring religiously divided communities."—Raymond A. Mentzer, University of Iowa

"The subject is topical, the approach is sophisticated, and the book takes one more deeply into the texture of relations between Catholics and Protestants within the families and communities of early-modern France than any previous study to date. This book applies a powerful new typology of the different ways in which religious groups living in the same community can define the boundaries between themselves. As a result, it has implications for understanding problems of religious coexistence and conflict in all multi-religious societies."—Philip Benedict, Institut d'histoire

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813214115 : sacred-boundaries-luria
$79.95 USD

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