The 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes by France’s King Louis XIV, prompted a mass exodus of between 400,000 and 2 million French Protestants, i.e., Huguenots. Fearing for their lives, the Huguenots dispersed to the Dutch Republic, Prussia, Denmark, England, South Africa, and the French and English colonies of the New World. The Huguenot diaspora was costly for France because many of the exiles were skilled tradesmen and merchants pivotal to France’s modernizing late-17th-century society.
The scholar G. Elmore Reaman has surveyed the runup to this mass movement, including the French religious wars that preceded the issuance of the Edict of Nantes by Henry IV in 1598, in his authoritative book, The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the United States, South Africa, and Canada. The author’s primary focus, as the title suggests, is upon the Protestant dispersal itself. Reaman goes to lengths to dispel the misconception that Huguenots played little or no role in the founding and settlement of French Canada, for example, in citing the role of Admiral Gaspar Coligny in sustaining the Crown’s mission to establish French Canada. Researchers with early Protestant connections in the Province of Ontario, Canada, in particular, will find numerous ancestral references in the volume. The author also follows “the trail” of a number of Huguenot families who settled in the Carolinas, New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Finally, the rich appendices at the back of book are full of clues as to the origins and New World re-settlement in these Protestant individuals and families in both New France and the English colonies. Samples of the same follow below:
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