In From a Far Country Catharine Randall examines
Huguenots and their less-known cousins the Camisards, offering a
fresh perspective on the important role these French Protestants
played in settling the New World.
The Camisard religion was marked by more ecstatic expression
than that of the Huguenots, not unlike differences between
Pentecostals and Protestants. Both groups were persecuted and
emigrated in large numbers, becoming participants in the broad
circulation of ideas that characterized the seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Randall vividly portrays this
French Protestant diaspora through the lives of three figures:
Gabriel Bernon, who led a Huguenot exodus to Massachusetts and
moved among the commercial elite; Ezéchiel Carré, a Camisard who
influenced Cotton Mather's theology; and Elie Neau, a
Camisard-influenced writer and escaped galley slave who established
North America's first school for blacks.
Like other French Protestants, these men were adaptable in their
religious views, a quality Randall points out as quintessentially
American. In anthropological terms they acted as code shifters who
manipulated multiple cultures. While this malleability ensured that
French Protestant culture would not survive in externally
recognizable terms in the Americas, Randall shows that the
culture's impact was nonetheless considerable.
Subjects: History, Religion
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