Background of the Huguenot Migration
Compared with the transfer of material and cultural goods, or technologies and ideas, the migration of people between cultural systems usually involves more fundamental change and a greater degree of upheaval. Transfer processes (regarding human skills and ideas, language as well as religion) are always part of migrations. The Huguenots – French Protestants who left their native country mainly after 1685 and settled in other European countries, as well as in North America and South Africa – can be viewed as a classic example of early modern migration. Since the Huguenots had left France as refugees, they did not have the option to return to their country of origin either temporarily or permanently until the late-18th century. However, the Huguenots were not passive victims; rather, they played a large role in shaping many aspects of the conditions of their migration. In the following, I will analyse the preceding events, conditions and consequences of the mass migration of French Protestants to other countries in the late-17th and early-18th centuries.
A degree of uncertainty remains regarding the origin of the term "Huguenot". However, the term unquestionably originated as a pejorative term which non-Protestants used to refer to Protestants in France. In contemporary research, it is predominantly believed – in line with earlier assumptions – that the term originated from a ghost by the name of "Roi Hugo" (King Hugo), who, according to legend, wandered the streets of Tours; the diminutive form of the name was adopted to refer to the secret nocturnal gatherings of French Protestants in the early-16th century. Another thesis, which is supported by linguistic evidence, states that the term is etymologically linked to the term Eidgenossen (confederates) by the common etymon eyguenot, and that it originally referred to the supposed coalescing of French Protestants into a religious "party" which was gaining political influence.1 It should also be emphasized that both a narrower and a broader "Huguenot" concept are in use in the academic discourse. The narrower concept – which is the one referred to in this article – defines Huguenots as the members of the Reformed church of France who emigrated from France from the 1680s onward due to increasing discrimination against their confession. The broader concept of Huguenots, on the other hand, includes other Reformed groups, such as the inhabitants of the Alpine valleys of Savoy and France who are referred to as Waldensians (Vaudois).2
In 1685, Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) issued the Edict of Fontainebleau revoking the Edict of Nantes, which had enshrined the confessional coexistence of Catholics and Huguenots in law since 1598. Indeed, the French Reformed church had come under increasing pressure from the beginning of the 1680s because Louis XIV viewed France's bi-confessionalism as an obstacle to absolutist rule. The persecution of the Huguenots reached its climax in the so-called "dragonnades", the billeting of soldiers in Huguenot households with the aim of forcing the members of these households to convert to Catholicism. In spite of the strict ban on emigration, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes precipitated a mass exodus of Huguenots. Of approximately 900,000 French Protestants, it is estimated that c. 150,000 to 200,000 left France, i.e., about a fifth of the Huguenot population or one per cent of the total population of France.3
The routes of escape and the final places of settlement demonstrate that the migration of French Reformed Protestants was a process with implications and consequences which were pan-European, even global. Europe-wide communication was required to direct the flow of refugees. Immediate assistance in the form of food and accommodation was needed, and long-term solutions regarding settlement had to be found. The inducements offered by receiving countries and the final conditions of settlement were affected by numerous factors: the political, religious, economic, social and cultural contexts of the receiving countries, but also the way the Huguenot refugees perceived themselves and were perceived by others. Both of these factors, in turn, affected the long-term consequences of the migration, both with regard to the integration or assimilation of the Huguenots in the receiving countries, and with regard to how the Huguenot migration was perceived and described.
Central Features of the Settlement of Huguenots in Europe
The Huguenot refugees were initially received by the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, and by the Netherlands and England. Due to their close proximity to France, these were the countries which the Huguenots fled to in the first instance. The imperial city of Frankfurt am Main, which has been described as a "Drehscheibe des Refuge" (hub of the Huguenot migration), also played an important role as a primary destination and transit point.4 Regions of Europe which were geographically further removed (the German territories, particularly Brandenburg-Prussia and Hesse-Kassel, as well as Ireland, Denmark and Russia) and the colonies (the South African and North American colonies of the Netherlands and Britain) were secondary or even tertiary receiving countries, since the Huguenots generally only arrived there after transiting through one of the primary receiving countries. These countries must also have been less attractive to Huguenots as places of settlement because the Huguenots initially hoped to return to their country of origin in the near future. The trend becomes clear when one looks at a map of Europe – Ireland to the west is as far removed from France as Brandenburg-Prussia to the east5 – and when one compares the numbers of Huguenots received by the individual countries.
With the exception of Switzerland, the Huguenots settled permanently in very large numbers in the primary receiving countries. Estimates for the Dutch Republic range from 35,000 to 75,000 refugees, though the true number is probably around 50,000 settlers. England received about 40,000 refugees. Due to the increasing difficulties involved in providing for the Huguenots, the Protestant cantons of Switzerland made substantial efforts to find other territories for the refugees to settle in. Ultimately, only about 20,000 refugees remained in Switzerland. In general, the secondary and tertiary receiving countries received fewer refugees the further they were removed from France. It is estimated that Brandenburg-Prussia settled about 14,000–Hesse-Darmstadt, Brandenburg-Bayreuth, Brandenburg-Ansbach, Hanau-Münzenberg) were medium-sized and small territories. In total, German rulers settled around 40,000 refugees in their territories. Approximately 10,000 Huguenots settled in Ireland, and about 2,000 settled in Denmark and Sweden. The numbers for the tertiary receiving countries beyond central and western Europe are considerably smaller. About 1,500–2,000 Huguenots settled in the British North American colonies. About 200 settled in the Dutch Cape Colony, and about 600 refugees settled in Russia.6
There are two features of the settlement of Huguenots in Europe in the late-17th and early-18th centuries which may appear surprising from a modern perspective: first, the pan-European organization and communication involved; and, second, the active involvement of the Huguenots in determining the conditions of settlement, and the bargaining power and choice which they had in this process. In the context of the search for countries of settlement for the Huguenots, "divisions of labour" developed in Europe, and various communication networks were utilized to provide long-term solutions to the refugee problem. On the one hand, the primary receiving countries of the Netherlands, Switzerland and England made efforts to move a portion of the Huguenots on to other countries and/or made financial assistance available to facilitate the settlement of these Huguenots in other countries. Additionally, diplomatic and dynastic links were an important factor in this process. For example, Swiss representatives negotiated with German territories on the settlement of Huguenots. The Danish queen Charlotte Amalie (1650–1714), who used her influence to get Huguenots settled into Denmark, was the sister of the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and the niece of the Elector of Brandenburg. The French Reformed community which was already in existence in Frankfurt am Main played a central role in providing for the migrants and negotiating their settlement in other territories. In contrast to our modern concept of refugees – which is often influenced by television images – as people who, after crossing the sea or the desert, end up in detention camps or prisons awaiting their fate, representatives of the Huguenots (often priests or noblemen) played an active role on their behalf. In Frankfurt, diplomats, representatives of the refugees and emissaries of rulers of German territories came together to negotiate settlement conditions. Representatives of the Huguenots in Switzerland travelled to potential countries of settlement with financial assistance from the cantons. The various privileges and inducements offered by the German territorial rulers were circulated and compared throughout Europe.7
In contrast to other refugees and, in particular, to the majority of modern-day refugees, the Huguenot refugees were able to affect the conditions under which they were settled. The reason for this relates to two factors. First, they received sympathy and support as religious refugees in the Reformed countries of Europe, particularly in the initial period. Second – and this was probably of greater importance – the Huguenots were considered desirable as immigrants. Their craft skills – for example, in the processing of textiles – were in demand, and European governments hoped that the arrival of Huguenot entrepreneurs would lead to the founding of new manufactures. Especially the German territories – after the destruction of the Thirty Years' War – continued to lag behind the most economically developed European countries and, in particular, France. At the end of the 17th century, economic activity and population numbers still had not recovered from the destruction of the war, and, in line with mercantilist economic theory, German states sought to promote Peuplierung (population increase) and to stimulate the economy. The fact that the Huguenots came from a country whose culture was viewed as the leading culture in contemporary Europe and whose language was the lingua franca, particularly of the continental elites, was also a significant factor. Due to all these factors, the Huguenots had – in spite of their displacement from France – more bargaining power and freedom of choice in their search for a new place of settlement than one would usually assume in the case of refugees.8
The next sections describe and compare the conditions of Huguenot migration in various European countries and its longer-term consequences. It should be remembered that the conditions of settlement in each individual country were determined by a unique constellation of factors: the traditions of the receiving country, particularly with regard to previous experiences with the settlement of French Protestants; the current political climate and interests of the receiving country and its government; the religious composition of the population of the receiving country and the policies of that country regarding religion, particularly with regard to the status of the Reformed faith; and, no less importantly, the economic situation in the transfer country, particularly its "backwardness" in comparison with France. Though no two countries were identical with regard to this group of factors, the countries can nonetheless be divided into types. The migration process proceeded in a similar fashion in the countries of each of the types.
Switzerland, England, Ireland and the Netherlands as Receiving Countries
Uniquely among the countries which settled Huguenots, the Swiss cantons had no special legal provisions regarding the settlement of Huguenots. Such special legal provisions existed in all other European countries, but – as detailed below – the scope of the privileges granted and the special status enjoyed by the Huguenots as a result of these privileges varied considerably. A European comparative perspective highlights two points. First, in all European countries, the special rights which gave the Huguenots a privileged position legally, economically, and/or in terms of the status of their religion were qualified, or even contradicted, by laws or regulations which were intended to ensure their short-term or long-term integration or assimilation into the host society. How the pendulum swung between these two aims varied between the individual countries. Second, it should be noted that the granting of privileges and the formation of corporative groups, i.e. groups with (special) rights which were specific to them, was normal in the estate-based societies of early modern central Europe. The nobility, universities, urban guilds – they were all privileged estates or corporations in a society which divided its members into groups with different legal statuses. To that extent, it is questionable whether the characterization of the Huguenots in Brandenburg as a "state within the state"9 correctly reflects the estate-based society which existed there. More recent research has highlighted this fact.10 However, a need for further research exists regarding the controversial issue of whether the German territorial rulers employed the legal instrument of granting privilege, which is deeply rooted in the estate-based society, in order to use the special status of the Huguenots to further the development of the absolutist state and to reduce the power of the indigenous corporative (Lutheran) groups.11
England and Ireland granted fewer privileges to the Huguenots than all of the other European countries except Switzerland. For one, the migration of Huguenots into the kingdoms of the English crown occurred in the context of the changing political interests of the rulers. It was not until after the "Glorious Revolution" and the Declaration for Encouraging French Protestants to Transport themselves into this Kingdom of the coregents William III (1650–1702) and Mary II (1662–1694) in 1689 that the state offered inducements specifically aimed at the Huguenots. (An equivalent act was passed by the Irish Parliament, though it only referred to "Protestant strangers", instead of explicitly referring to the Huguenots.) Additionally, while England did have an economic interest in attracting Huguenots to settle there, England's economy was highly developed and, as a result, the potential benefit was not perceived to be nearly as large as it was in the German territories. In the case of Ireland, there was considerable interest in the economic advantages which the Huguenots could bring as well as in raising the number of Protestants in the country in order to counterbalance the Catholic majority. However, the granting of substantial privileges did not occur there either. A factor which promoted – or at least facilitated – the settlement of Huguenots in England was the fact that an immigration policy had existed there since the 16th century which granted Protestants who were perceived as having the potential to improve the economy the right to practice their religion freely in their own churches. The freedom to pursue the trade or profession of one's choice as well as economic incentives such as freedom from import duties also played a role, though these rights only placed the Huguenots on an equal basis with the native population. In the context of their migration to the lands of the English crown, Huguenots were offered neither a separate legal status nor their own colonies. As regards their churches, they experienced a degree of pressure to conform – in spite of the explicit guarantee of freedom of religious worship – from the established church, because the Churches of England and Ireland feared an alliance between the Reformed French churches and the so-called Dissenters. As a result, a split occurred in the French churches between conformist and non-conformist communities both in England and Ireland. On the whole, the laws and regulations in England and Ireland encouraged the Huguenots to integrate into the host societies instead of granting them a permanent special status.12
Likewise in the Netherlands, the settlement of Huguenots involved the granting of comparatively few privileges. While there was interest in the economic transfer involved in the settlement of Huguenots in the Netherlands, the great number of refugees resulted in a broad social spectrum among the Huguenot immigrants. As well as a relatively high number of nobles, affluent merchants, clergymen, craftsmen and soldiers, many impoverished Huguenots entered the Netherlands, and these had to be provided for from donations and other means. Two factors were of primary importance in the settlement of Huguenots in the Dutch Republic. First, a tradition of extensive freedom of religious worship existed in tandem with the official Calvinist church in the Netherlands. As in England, a French Reformed church, the Wallonian, was already in existence, which the refugees were then able to join. Second, a high degree of particularism was inherent in the structure of the Republic, which, with the States-General, the provinces and the cities, had multiple levels of political activity. This allowed regional and local governments to legislate for the immigration of Huguenots and the granting of rights to them in a way that was consistent with their individual interests and aims. In accordance with the economic interests of the highly urbanized Dutch Republic, the incentives were directed primarily at Huguenot entrepreneurs, merchants and craftsmen. Two basic types of incentives emerged. One was the combination of the granting of burgher rights and free entry into the guilds, and the other was freedom from guild restrictions. Tax exemptions were also common. As in England and Ireland, the refugees were granted neither a special legal status nor colonies. Rather, it is conspicuous in the case of the Netherlands that such privileges as were granted initially, which were small in comparison to other countries, were revoked from the early-18th century onwards.13
The German Territories as Countries of Settlement
The policies of England and the Netherlands with regard to the granting of privileges to the Huguenots contrasted with the willingness of the German territorial rulers to offer comprehensive "packages" of privileges to the Huguenots in order to ensure that their territories benefitted from the migration of the refugees and the accompanying economic transfer. This accommodating approach was motivated by the economic conditions and theories referred to above: it was believed that the arrival of the Huguenots would help to overcome the consequences of the Thirty Years' War by introducing economic innovations and increasing the population. There were nonetheless considerable differences between German receiving countries in terms of the privileges granted to the Huguenots in the area of religion. The decisive factor in these differences was the religion – Reformed or Lutheran – of the ruler.
Brandenburg-Prussia and Hesse-Kassel were the territories which granted the most comprehensive privileges to the Huguenots. The ruling houses of both territories were of the Reformed confession, though the electors (from 1701, kings) of Brandenburg ruled over a majority Lutheran population in the core lands of their territory, meaning that they had religious and political reasons – along with the economic reasons – for favouring the settlement of Huguenots in their territories: The refugees provided support for Brandenburg's Reformed elite. Thus Peuplierung had an added political and religious dimension there. With the Edict of Potsdam, the Great Elector made a direct offer of settlement to the Huguenots as early as 1685. The Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel reacted similarly quickly to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes with an offer of privileges. In both countries, the refugees received considerable economic incentives, such as a period of tax exemption, freedom from guild restrictions or freedom of entry into the guilds, financial support in the purchasing of sites and the building of houses. While these privileges already exceeded those offered in England and the Netherlands, the unique feature of Huguenot settlement in the German territories was that the refugees were granted colonies with substantial special legal and administrative rights. In Brandenburg-Prussia the Huguenots received not only free burgher rights, but also a separate jurisdiction for their colony. The colony also had its own administrative authority, the Französische Kommission (French Commission), the head of which was also a member of the Geheime Rat (Privy Council). In 1709, King Frederick I (1657–1713) issued a Naturalisationsedikt (naturalization edict), which recognized the Huguenots as subjects of the Prussian crown. The edict also explicitly confirmed the Huguenots' separate legal and administrative status, and these remained in existence until the Prussian Reforms. The Französische Kanzlei in Hesse-Kassel, which remained in existence until 1800, combined both functions: jurisdiction and administration.14
Some Lutheran territories also succeeded in attracting Huguenots as settlers by granting similarly extensive privileges. For example, Brandenburg-Bayreuth granted the refugees a long-term special status with regard to jurisdiction and administration in addition to the economic incentives which had been offered from the start.15 However, the decisive differences were in the area of the exercise of religion. There were conspicuous differences in this area between Reformed and Lutheran rulers – as well as among the Lutheran rulers. Even in the late-17th century, the confessional divide within Protestantism had profound effects on the lives of the migrants.
From the outset, the Edict of Potsdam granted the Huguenots in Brandenburg-Prussia freedom of religious worship. This was not surprising in view of the fact that a French community already existed in the territory and that the Huguenots were konfessionsverwandt (closely related in religion) to that of the ruling house of Brandenburg. Additionally, the elector provided the financial means for the maintenance of a preacher for the refugees in each city and he ordered that the Huguenots be allowed to use the churches of the (German) Reformed church in tandem with the German congregation. In 1689, regulations were introduced governing the internal structure and organization of the Huguenot congregations in Brandenburg. These were based on the regulations which had existed in Huguenot congregations in France and in the first Huguenot congregation in Berlin. Both the Calvinist church discipline and the consistory system were retained. At the territorial level, however, the synod system which had been a feature of the Calvinist church in France came into conflict with the principle that the ruler governs the church (landesherrliches Kirchenregiment) and the resulting claims of the house of Brandenburg. The rulers claimed for themselves the right to have the final say in questions of religion, as well as supreme authority regarding the laws governing the church and the enforcement of these laws. Likewise in the Reformed territory of Hesse-Kassel, the Huguenots were allowed consistories at the level of the individual congregations, but they were not allowed to convene synods.16
In the Lutheran territories, the Huguenots were confronted with a broad spectrum of attitudes on the part of the authorities. In general, the Reformed Huguenots were greeted with deep suspicion in territories where the state church was Lutheran, despite the fact that these territories had shown great interest in settling Huguenots in view of the economic stimulus it was hoped they would provide. The estates and the Lutheran clergy often played a prominent role in articulating this mistrust. Brandenburg-Bayreuth and the Electorate of Saxony are the most important examples of this. The spectrum of religious freedoms which were ultimately granted to the Huguenots reached from the granting of considerable privileges, at one end, to the Huguenots not being allowed to practice their religion in public, at the other. In Brandenburg-Bayreuth, Brunswick-Lüneburg and Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, the territorial rulers not only granted the Huguenots freedom of religious worship and a consistory system at the local level, as in the Reformed territories, but they also allowed them to convene synods. While the holding of synods continued in the territories of the Welf dynasty, they were forbidden in Brandenburg-Bayreuth as early as 1732 due to Prussian pressure. On the other end of the spectrum from these Lutheran territories which granted extensive privileges were those authorities which even denied the Huguenots the right to practice their religion freely in public. Among these were the Electorate of Saxony, the imperial city of Frankfurt am Main, and the Kingdom of Denmark. As already mentioned, there was strong resistance to the Reformed Huguenots in these Lutheran areas, particularly on the part of the estates and the clergy, who viewed the Reformed religion as a threat to the religion of the native population.17
Long-Term Consequences of Huguenot Settlement
The motivations of the host countries and the privileges which they bestowed clearly demonstrate that all the receiving territories hoped that the Huguenot refugees would stimulate economic activity by applying their craft skills and by founding manufactures. The extent of the economic privileges granted was usually determined by the degree of economic "backwardness" of the country, as a comparison between the western European countries of England and the Netherlands, and the German territories demonstrates. Where confessional considerations were not an impediment, German rulers offered the most generous terms to the Huguenots. While the factor of "confession" and sympathy towards religious refugees should not be ignored in research into the history of the Huguenot migration, it is easy to overstate the importance of these factors, particularly in view of myths regarding the Huguenot migration which have developed over centuries.18
These myths – which have resulted in the settlement of Huguenots being portrayed in the historiography of the receiving countries as a success, particularly from an economic perspective – have given way to more nuanced interpretations in recent research. The stereotype of the hard-working Huguenots integrating quickly into the host society and playing an important role in the development of the host country contrasts somewhat with the findings of recent research, which identify conflicts with the native populations, which relativize the economic benefits to the host nations of the Huguenot migration and the resulting transfers, and which point to the fact that – particularly in the German territories – the Huguenot refugees long remained a separate minority and distinct from the host society in their language, culture and identity. While recent research does not assume that there was systematic resistance to the settlement of Huguenots among the native populations, there were nonetheless many areas of conflict, particularly concerning the granting of freedom from guild restrictions to the Huguenots or the entry of the Huguenots into the guilds, and, in rural areas, concerning the use of commons by Huguenots. Additionally, the historiography of recent decades has demonstrated that the stimulus which Huguenot craftsmen and owners of manufactures provided to economic activity was quite modest. The Huguenots were often engaged in producing luxury items and the effect which their activities had on the broader economy is estimated to have been rather small. Manufactures, and even rural colonies, required financial assistance from the governments for longer periods; in spite of this, they often did not survive. Finally, resent research has also revised the view that the Huguenots integrated and assimilated quickly. Intermarriage with the native population and the transition from French as the primary language of communication – both of which are important indicators of assimilation – did not become common until the second half of the 18th century. Additionally, the special rights which had been granted to the Huguenots in the German territories remained in existence until the political upheavals and reforms at the end of the 18th century and in the early-19th century.19
However, we must not jump to any hasty conclusions about the long-term consequences of Huguenot migration for Europe. While the economic benefits fell short of the (high) expectations, Huguenot craftsmen and manufacturers were the central agents in the transfer of French production techniques and French tastes, from textile production to wig and glove making, the production of ceramics and pewter, the crafting of gold and silver, clock-making, and the production of weapons. Economic and cultural influences were closely intertwined in this process. Huguenots also played a not insignificant role in the armies of Europe, for example, the Huguenot refugees in the armies of William III of Orange, who were settled in the Irish town of Portarlington after the conquest of England and Ireland in 1688/1689. In many cases, the Huguenot elites, as carriers of the hegemonic French culture and language, exercised great influence on science and culture in their host countries. The network of Huguenot elites which spanned the entire European continent and which gave rise to trade and intellectual networks deserves mention in this context. This "Huguenot international" promoted the transfer of knowledge and culture throughout Europe. In many respects, the Republic of the Netherlands was the centre of this network. Due to the relative freedom of the press, printing, publishing and the book trade flourished there. The publishing activities of Huguenot refugees formed the basis for the Europe-wide république des lettres, in which the Huguenots played a role – among other things – as translators from and into French, Dutch and German, thereby serving as central agents of cultural transfer and the dissemination of knowledge. In the 18th century, these activities helped to spread practical knowledge, such as knowledge of weaving, as well as the ideas of the Enlightenment.20
In general, it remains difficult – in spite of a long tradition of research into Huguenot migration – to evaluate the effects of that migration. As a process in which a large number of people were forced in a short time period to find a new home, the Huguenot migration seems unique in early modern history. However, on closer examination we notice that the population of early modern Europe was constantly on the move, that migration was part of the life experience of many, and that religiously motivated migration was an integral part of European life – witness the Dutch religious exiles of the 16th century and the Salzburg Protestants of the 18th century.21 On the other hand, it must be stressed that the numbers involved in the Huguenot migration were very high by the standards of the early modern period. For example, between 1685 and 1695 more than 45,000 refugees passed through the imperial city of Frankfurt am Main, which had an estimated population of 30,000.22 Research has comprehensively revised the "Huguenot myth" which existed from the 18th, and particularly from the 19th century. However, it must be noted that the Huguenots played an important role in economic and cultural transfers in early modern Europe. In this area in particular, there is scope – in spite of considerable previous research – for research into the long-term consequences of Huguenot migration, particularly consequences that are less conspicuous and more difficult to quantify.