Mobile menu

Books
Right arrow
Creating Catholics

Creating Catholics

Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France

Karen E. Carter

The religious education of children represents a critical component of the Catholic Reformation that has often been overlooked by historians of early modern Europe. In Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France, Karen E. Carter examines rural schooling in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—the period when community-supported primary education began—and brings to light a significant element of the early modern period.

Carter scrutinizes Catholic religious education in rural parishes in France through its two leading forms: the explosion of Catholic catechisms for children and their use in village schools. She concentrates on educational opportunities for rural peasants in three French dioceses: Auxerre (in Burgundy) and Châlons-sur-Marne and Reims (in Champagne). Carter argues that the study of catechism in village schools was an integral part of a comprehensive program, implemented by both clerical and lay leaders, for the religious, ethical, and moral education of children. Her research demonstrates that the clergy and a majority of the lay population believed in the efficacy of this program; for this reason, parish priests taught catechism in their parishes on a weekly basis, and small village communities established and paid for a surprisingly large number of local schools so that their sons and daughters could receive an education both in basic literacy skills and, through memorization of catechism, in Catholic faith and practice.

“Karen E. Carter’s Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France is a well-written, informative, and original piece of scholarship that helps to fill a large gap in our understanding of French religious life in the latter part of the early modern period. Carter shows how church and Bourbon state interests in promoting a devoutly Catholic and obedient populace intersected in the religious education of its children. Using a rich body of sources, she provides a much more textured understanding of the everyday functioning of primary school education than has so far been undertaken.” — Megan Armstrong, McMaster University

“Karen Carter’s book delivers a great deal more than its title promises. It rescues the history of French catechetical ambitions during the Catholic Reformation from serious neglect, and firmly anchors it in the practice of primary education within a regional context. Above all, she restores the agency of lay Catholics in an age of increased clericalisation by showing why they wanted schooling for their children and paid for it from their own pockets. This astute and economical combination of hitherto discrete subjects fills an important gap and offers historians new ways of approaching familiar questions.” — Joseph Bergin, University of Manchester

“This book makes an excellent contribution to early modern history in general, and particularly to the fields of religious history and French history. The central argument that the teaching of catechism by parish priests and the broad instruction available at the petites écoles found in most villages had a broad impact on the lives, particularly the religious lives, of townspeople and villagers, should interest historians, people in religious studies, and students of education.” — Marc R. Forster, Connecticut College

ISBN: 978-0-268-02304-1
328 pages
Publication Year: 2011

Pdf   Download Table of Contents

Karen E. Carter is assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University.

“Karen Carter examines catechisms and visitation records from multiple dioceses to explore why, by the time of the French Revolution, French Catholics knew—and zealously embraced—‘the doctrines and behaviors of their religion.’ . . . contributes significantly to our understanding of early modern history and offers a model for effective catechesis today.” — First Things

“Aside from the impressive amount of research that underpins this book, Carter should be commended for its engaging style and organization . . . . [It is] a broad ranging and original piece of research that transforms our understanding of primary education in France and the dynamic process that underpinned the dissemination of the Catholic Reformation into rural communities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.” — H-France Review

“The author’s central thesis that the Catholic Reform cannot simply be understood as primarily a seventeenth-century development and as a ‘top-down process of institutional reform’ is a compelling corrective to quietly accepted historiographical assumptions.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“In convincingly demonstrating the agency of both lay and clerical Catholics in this domain, Carter adds to the growing body of evidence that discounts the definition of confessionalisation as a process of social disciplining imposed by the institutional authority of the Church and the State.” — Ecclesiastical History

“By using an impressive number of catechisms and parish records, Carter is able to argue that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Catholic educational practice, seen in its own context, was neither backward nor reactionary but engaged with contemporary understandings of hierarchy and social order, and organized its teaching to respond to the needs and expectations of both lay people and clergy . . . Creating Catholics offers readers a valuable, detailed, and well-written inquiry into early-modern catechesis and education.” — American Historical Review

“This is a very enriching book for any student both of the period of French History between the Religious Wars and the French Revolution as well as for any mission historian of the French Missionary Movement of the 19th century.” — Missiology: An International Review

“Karen Carter’s Creating Catholics offers much more than its title might imply, and will be of interest to readers interested in topics ranging from the Reformation to the French Revolution, and from the history of childhood and education to the history of state building. It makes a fine contribution to early modern European history overall.” — Renaissance and Reformation

“This book is a contribution to our growing understanding of the spread of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on the ground. Its subject is principally the religious education of the young through a study of the content, level of provision and take-up of catechetical instruction and elementary education. . . . This is a well-written and entertaining study that is to be commended for treating lay Catholics as active rather than passive consumers of the Counter Reformation.” — European History Quarterly

“Carter’s insightful book explores the evolution of primary education in rural France across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. . . . While the book addresses the historical debates on reformation and education, scholars of rural life, education, childhood, and family life will also find it of great interest.” — Religious Studies Review

“Elegantly written and persuasively argued, Creating Catholics is divided into two main parts. The first examines diocesan catechisms used throughout seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France, while the second, somewhat lengthier part analyzes primary education in the three dioceses under investigation. The author thus situates her discussion in dialogue both with historians of early modern religion and with historians of education.” — The Journal of Modern History

“[Creating Catholics] is well-written, carefully argued, clearly organised, is steeped in its documentary sources and it has a substantial bibliography. For scholars it offers an important nuancing of our understanding of how a central discipline of the Catholic Reformation played out locally in France up to the period of the French Revolution." — The Heythrop Journal

Pdf   Download Excerpt

P03346

Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome

The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania


Translated by Larry F. Field
Edited and Introduced by Lezlie S. Knox and Sean L. Field

P03282

Suspicious Moderate

The Life and Writings of Francis à Sancta Clara (1598–1680)

Anne Ashley Davenport

P03252

Beyond the Inquisition

Ambrogio Catarino Politi and the Origins of the Counter-Reformation

Giorgio Caravale
Translated by Donald Weinstein

Creating Catholics

Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France

Karen E. Carter

 Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France
Paper Edition

The religious education of children represents a critical component of the Catholic Reformation that has often been overlooked by historians of early modern Europe. In Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France, Karen E. Carter examines rural schooling in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—the period when community-supported primary education began—and brings to light a significant element of the early modern period.

Carter scrutinizes Catholic religious education in rural parishes in France through its two leading forms: the explosion of Catholic catechisms for children and their use in village schools. She concentrates on educational opportunities for rural peasants in three French dioceses: Auxerre (in Burgundy) and Châlons-sur-Marne and Reims (in Champagne). Carter argues that the study of catechism in village schools was an integral part of a comprehensive program, implemented by both clerical and lay leaders, for the religious, ethical, and moral education of children. Her research demonstrates that the clergy and a majority of the lay population believed in the efficacy of this program; for this reason, parish priests taught catechism in their parishes on a weekly basis, and small village communities established and paid for a surprisingly large number of local schools so that their sons and daughters could receive an education both in basic literacy skills and, through memorization of catechism, in Catholic faith and practice.

“Karen E. Carter’s Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France is a well-written, informative, and original piece of scholarship that helps to fill a large gap in our understanding of French religious life in the latter part of the early modern period. Carter shows how church and Bourbon state interests in promoting a devoutly Catholic and obedient populace intersected in the religious education of its children. Using a rich body of sources, she provides a much more textured understanding of the everyday functioning of primary school education than has so far been undertaken.” — Megan Armstrong, McMaster University

“Karen Carter’s book delivers a great deal more than its title promises. It rescues the history of French catechetical ambitions during the Catholic Reformation from serious neglect, and firmly anchors it in the practice of primary education within a regional context. Above all, she restores the agency of lay Catholics in an age of increased clericalisation by showing why they wanted schooling for their children and paid for it from their own pockets. This astute and economical combination of hitherto discrete subjects fills an important gap and offers historians new ways of approaching familiar questions.” — Joseph Bergin, University of Manchester

“This book makes an excellent contribution to early modern history in general, and particularly to the fields of religious history and French history. The central argument that the teaching of catechism by parish priests and the broad instruction available at the petites écoles found in most villages had a broad impact on the lives, particularly the religious lives, of townspeople and villagers, should interest historians, people in religious studies, and students of education.” — Marc R. Forster, Connecticut College

ISBN: 978-0-268-02304-1

328 pages

“Karen Carter examines catechisms and visitation records from multiple dioceses to explore why, by the time of the French Revolution, French Catholics knew—and zealously embraced—‘the doctrines and behaviors of their religion.’ . . . contributes significantly to our understanding of early modern history and offers a model for effective catechesis today.” — First Things

“Aside from the impressive amount of research that underpins this book, Carter should be commended for its engaging style and organization . . . . [It is] a broad ranging and original piece of research that transforms our understanding of primary education in France and the dynamic process that underpinned the dissemination of the Catholic Reformation into rural communities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.” — H-France Review

“The author’s central thesis that the Catholic Reform cannot simply be understood as primarily a seventeenth-century development and as a ‘top-down process of institutional reform’ is a compelling corrective to quietly accepted historiographical assumptions.” — The Catholic Historical Review

“In convincingly demonstrating the agency of both lay and clerical Catholics in this domain, Carter adds to the growing body of evidence that discounts the definition of confessionalisation as a process of social disciplining imposed by the institutional authority of the Church and the State.” — Ecclesiastical History

“By using an impressive number of catechisms and parish records, Carter is able to argue that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Catholic educational practice, seen in its own context, was neither backward nor reactionary but engaged with contemporary understandings of hierarchy and social order, and organized its teaching to respond to the needs and expectations of both lay people and clergy . . . Creating Catholics offers readers a valuable, detailed, and well-written inquiry into early-modern catechesis and education.” — American Historical Review

“This is a very enriching book for any student both of the period of French History between the Religious Wars and the French Revolution as well as for any mission historian of the French Missionary Movement of the 19th century.” — Missiology: An International Review

“Karen Carter’s Creating Catholics offers much more than its title might imply, and will be of interest to readers interested in topics ranging from the Reformation to the French Revolution, and from the history of childhood and education to the history of state building. It makes a fine contribution to early modern European history overall.” — Renaissance and Reformation

“This book is a contribution to our growing understanding of the spread of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on the ground. Its subject is principally the religious education of the young through a study of the content, level of provision and take-up of catechetical instruction and elementary education. . . . This is a well-written and entertaining study that is to be commended for treating lay Catholics as active rather than passive consumers of the Counter Reformation.” — European History Quarterly

“Carter’s insightful book explores the evolution of primary education in rural France across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. . . . While the book addresses the historical debates on reformation and education, scholars of rural life, education, childhood, and family life will also find it of great interest.” — Religious Studies Review

“Elegantly written and persuasively argued, Creating Catholics is divided into two main parts. The first examines diocesan catechisms used throughout seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France, while the second, somewhat lengthier part analyzes primary education in the three dioceses under investigation. The author thus situates her discussion in dialogue both with historians of early modern religion and with historians of education.” — The Journal of Modern History

“[Creating Catholics] is well-written, carefully argued, clearly organised, is steeped in its documentary sources and it has a substantial bibliography. For scholars it offers an important nuancing of our understanding of how a central discipline of the Catholic Reformation played out locally in France up to the period of the French Revolution." — The Heythrop Journal