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Fortress of the Soul

Violence, Metaphysics, and Material Life in the Huguenots' New World, 1517-1751

Neil Kamil

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French Huguenots made enormous contributions to the life and culture of colonial New York during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Huguenot craftsmen were the city's most successful artisans, turning out unrivaled works of furniture which were distinguished by unique designs and arcane details. More than just decorative flourishes, however, the visual language employed by Huguenot artisans reflected a distinct belief system shaped during the religious wars of sixteenth-century France.

In Fortress of the Soul, historian Neil Kamil traces the Huguenots' journey to New York from the Aunis…

French Huguenots made enormous contributions to the life and culture of colonial New York during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Huguenot craftsmen were the city's most successful artisans, turning out unrivaled works of furniture which were distinguished by unique designs and arcane details. More than just decorative flourishes, however, the visual language employed by Huguenot artisans reflected a distinct belief system shaped during the religious wars of sixteenth-century France.

In Fortress of the Soul, historian Neil Kamil traces the Huguenots' journey to New York from the Aunis-Saintonge region of southwestern France. There, in the sixteenth century, artisans had created a subterranean culture of clandestine workshops and meeting places inspired by the teachings of Bernard Palissy, a potter, alchemist, and philosopher who rejected the communal, militaristic ideology of the Huguenot majority which was centered in the walled city of La Rochelle. Palissy and his followers instead embraced a more fluid, portable, and discrete religious identity that encouraged members to practice their beliefs in secret while living safely—even prospering—as artisans in hostile communities. And when these artisans first fled France for England and Holland, then left Europe for America, they carried with them both their skills and their doctrine of artisanal security.

Drawing on significant archival research and fresh interpretations of Huguenot material culture, Kamil offers an exhaustive and sophisticated study of the complex worldview of the Huguenot community. From the function of sacred violence and alchemy in the visual language of Huguenot artisans, to the impact among Protestants everywhere of the destruction of La Rochelle in 1628, to the ways in which New York's Huguenots interacted with each other and with other communities of religious dissenters and refugees, Fortress of the Soul brilliantly places American colonial history and material life firmly within the larger context of the early modern Atlantic world.

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Fortress of the Soul

Neil Kamil

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Reviews

Reviews

Well-researched tome that is 'the story of a subterranean culture on the move, its membership fragmented by chronic warfare, exclusion, and political instability and actively in search of new modes of security.'

Imaginative and innovative treatment of the French Reformation.

This lavish volume presents a wide-ranging and complex reading of its rather amorphous subject.

Fortress of the Soul demands deep respect from its readers... quite evidently the product of decades of scholarly labor.

Ambitious in its goals, complex in its interpretation and methodology, and groundbreaking in its approach.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
7
x
10
Pages
1088
ISBN
9780801873904
Illustration Description
178 halftones, 12 line drawings
Table of Contents

List of Figures and Maps
Preface

Introduction
Part I: The Art of the Earth
Chapter 1. A Risky Gift: The Entrance of Charles IX into La Rochelle in 1565
Chapter 2. Palissy's Fortress: The Construction of

List of Figures and Maps
Preface

Introduction
Part I: The Art of the Earth
Chapter 1. A Risky Gift: The Entrance of Charles IX into La Rochelle in 1565
Chapter 2. Palissy's Fortress: The Construction of Artisanal Security
Chapter 3. Personal History and "Spiritual Honor": Philibert Hamelin's Consideration of Straight Lines and the Rehabilitation of the Nicodemite as Huguenot Artisan of Security
Chapter 4. War and Sûreté: The Context of Artisanal Enthusiasm in Aunis-Saintonge
Chapter 5. Scenes of Reading: Rustic Artisans and the Diffusion of Paracelsian Discourses to New Worlds
Chapter 6. American Rustic Scenes: Bernard Palissy, John Winthrop the Younger, and Benjamin Franklin
Chapter 7. The River and Nebuchadnezzar's Dream: War, Separation, "the Sound," and the Materiality of Time
Chapter 8. The Art of the Earth
Part II: The Fragmentation of the Body
Chapter 9. "In Patientia Sauvitas," or, The Invisible Fortress Departs
Chapter 10. Being "at the Île of Rue": Science, Secrecy, and Security at the Siege of La Rochelle, 1627–1635
Chapter 11. The Geography of "Your Native Country": Relocation of Spatial Identity to the New World, 1628–1787
Chapter 12. La Rochelle's Transatlantic Body: The Commons Debates of 1628
Chapter 13. "Fraudulent father-Frenchmen": The Huguenot Counterfeit and the Threat to England's Internal Security
Chapter 14. "The destruction that wasteth at noonday": Hogarth's Hog Lane and the Huguenot Fortress of Memory
Part III: The Secrets of the Craft
Chapter 15. Hidden in Plain Sight: Disappearance and Material Life in Colonial New York
Chapter 16. Fragments of Huguenot-Quaker Convergence in New York: Little Histories (Avignon, France, 1601–1602; Flushing, Long Island, 1657–1726)
Chapter 17. Reflections on a Three-Legged Chair: Sundials, "Family Pieces," and Political Culture in Pre-Revolutionary New York
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Neil Kamil

Neil Kamil is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.