Penny Roberts is Professor of early modern European History and Chair of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Warwick. She is a Trustee of the Society for the Study of French History and co-editor of the Manchester University Press series ‘Studies in early modern European history’ and, until very recently, of the Oxford University Press journal French History. In 2008, her article on ‘The Languages of Peace during the French religious wars’ was awarded both the Nancy Roelker prize and the Charles Benedetti prize for Peace History. Her most recent book is Peace and Authority during the French Religious Wars, c. 1560-1600 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
The social, cultural, religious and political history of sixteenth-century France with a particular focus on urban and confessional conflict; religious and collective violence; peace-making; judicial truth; religious minorities and their networks.
Clandestine Confessional Networks during the French Religious Wars
The divisions and tensions generated by the French religious wars of the sixteenth century led to the development of a clandestine culture of intelligence-gathering and communication networks which conveyed news and messages across France as well as to and from allies abroad. Royal and regional concerns about Huguenot activities led to heightened vigilance and resulted in the arrest and interception of those carrying suspect letters and packages. Drawing on interrogations and other judicial records, as well as correspondence and reports from local officials, my project seeks to reconstruct this secretive world. In particular, it focuses on the messengers and go-betweens who undertook this work at considerable risk to themselves. Reaching beyond more traditional studies of early modern espionage, this study will show the importance of an understanding of regional contexts as well as the cross-border operation of transnational connections. The effectiveness of royal efforts to curb such activities was dependent on close co-operation with regional officials and local intelligence. The fate of those arrested was determined by royal policy, by whether the crown was contemplating war or negotiating peace. This project will inform us not only how the Huguenot movement was able to sustain its lines of communication despite the crown's efforts to disrupt and curtail them, but will provide a more complex picture of regional, national and international confessional networks.