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«Keeping the Faith: The Story of a Seventeenth-Century Peddler and his Protestant Community Kristine Wirts On August 25, 1685, after a brief stay in ...»

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Keeping the Faith: The Story of a Seventeenth-Century Peddler

and his Protestant Community

Kristine Wirts

On August 25, 1685, after a brief stay in Lyon, Huguenot Peddler Jean

Giraud returned to his mountain community in La Grave. His arrival coincided

with the sound of booming cannon, as companies of cavalry descended on the

small towns and Protestant communities that dotted the valleys of the HautesAlpes. This military sweep was in anticipation of Louis XIV, the Sun King of

France, issuing the Edict of Fontainebleau, revoking the Edict of Nantes and thereby officially banning Protestantism from France, which would happen just a few months later. In the weeks and months that followed provincial authorities carried out the king’s orders by installing dragoons in the homes of recalcitrant Protestants. Throughout, Giraud recorded a harrowing narrative of events in his livre de raison, an account book that merchants typically maintained for record keeping. There, he enumerated the arrests, book burnings, pillaging soldiers, and executions; what was, in effect, the full and crushing power of the state with all its resources brought to bear on Huguenot communities nestled within the numerous valleys high in the French Alps. The Revocation resulted in the mass exodus of Dauphiné’s Protestants, which included all the members of Giraud’s church. Many of these were merchant families, 1 who scattered to Europe and the Americas, Jacques Faucher, Pierre Gravier, Pierre Albert, Jacques Chicot, Paul Mallin, Jean Gallot, Jean Bouillet, and Jean Monet are identified as “marchands de la Grave” in church records for neighboring Mizoën. The same individuals are named in Giraud’s livre de raison as members of his Church in La Grave. Giraud does not mention Jean Bouillet, who is also a La Grave merchant listed in Mizoën church records, but does name other Bouillet family members in his list of La Grave church members. For Mizoën church records see Archives départmentales d’Isere, Mizoën/Protestants. Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures.

Coll. Départmentale, last accessed September 20, 2014, http://www.archives-isere.fr/2369registres-paroissiaux-et-d-etat-civil-de-l-isere.htm. Giraud also identifies La Grave church Keeping the Faith 22 seeking refuge in foreign lands. 2 Giraud and his family were among those escaping to Geneva, carefully slipping through the narrow Alpine passes undetected. They were among the lucky ones; others, who were caught attempting the same, were sent to the galleys or publicly hanged, their severed heads then placed on pikes for all to see. These events, too, found their way into Giraud’s livre de raison.3 Giraud was part of a community of peddlers, many of whom owned shops in nearby cities such as Lyon and Geneva, but maintainedtheir homesteads in rural towns and villages in the French Alps. 4 Their commercial activities meant frequent travel with business commitments, often putting them in contact with others beyond their rural orb. In such interactions, peddlers like Giraud encountered international clients and co-religionists, who shared their interests and tastes, both politically and culturally, despite differences in language, country of origin, and social class. The Alps were also home to numerous rural Protestants, many of whom fled Dauphiné in the wake of the Revocation or went underground, only to resurface years later during the Camisard revolt of 1702. Study of the material culture of Alpine Protestants, especially through the lens of a Dauphiné Peddler such as Giraud, both before and after the Revocation, sheds light on the transnational nature of Huguenot commercial traffic, and the cultural trends and political events, international as well as regional, possibly influencing Huguenot identity.

Giraud’s livre de raison was not so different from other merchant account books in that it detailed much of his routine business (mainly from the 1670s up until his escape to Switzerland in 1686), along with important family events like births, marriages, baptisms, and deaths. The account records and inventories that appear in Giraud’s livre de raison raise important questions regarding Giraud’s role as Alpine peddler and cultural mediator. Like other merchants from the HautesAlpes, Giraud’s peddling connected Alpine people to larger commercial networks.

It was by way of peddlers like Giraud that Alpine residents learned of the outside world, and found new markets for their village products. In his interactions with fellow villagers, Giraud communicated an appreciation for art and music, proper standards of etiquette, and the importance of reading and learning. Giraud identified many books on history and literature in his inventories, but also a vast members who fled during the Revocation in his livre de raison. See Archives départmentales d’Isere. IJ 1102.

According to Giraud, destinations included Winterthur in the Swiss canton of Zurich, Vevey in the canton of Bern, Geneva, London, Cassel in Hesse, Barret, Portugal and Cádiz, Spain, Ireland including Dublin, and the Carolinas.

Archives départmentales d’Isere, IJ 1102.

Laurence Fontaine, History of Pedlars in Europe, trans. Vicki Whittaker (Durham, N.C:

Duke University Press, 1996).

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number of religious texts that he must have carefully kept hidden during the Revocation. Such care points to Giraud’s devotion to his faith and community.

In addition to a significant number of Bibles and devotional texts, Giraud’s Vevey book inventory contained several works of political and religious controversy. Huguenot refugees like Giraud struggled to make sense of events by way of their own religious experiences and historical perspectives. Consequently, works on political prophecy, the apocalypse, and Protestant history may have spoken to a desire for divine explanation and purpose. Other political works, including those by Whig authors, suggest that Giraud may have sympathized with international Calvinists, who shared his political views and convictions. In all, Giraud’s inventories expand our understanding of the cultural values and priorities of an Alpine merchant and his religious community, demonstrating as well, by Giraud’s example, the increasing cosmopolitanism and internationalism of the Huguenot movement, as it sought to regroup and rebuild following the Revocation.

Giraud’s peddling enterprise originated in his home town of La Grave, a village situated high in the French Alps, along a trade circuit that linked Alpine villagers to larger urban centers like Lyon, Grenoble, Geneva, and Turin. Giraud’s records reveal that he sold hats, books, shoes, ladies accessories, and a wide range of textile products. 5 He harvested wood, 6 stocked materials used for storing significant quantities of grain,7 and owned livestock.8 An inventory of his personal possessions at La Grave, drawn up around the time of the Revocation, reflects his tastes and habits. Giraud was a peddler, so it is no surprise that he possessed many chests, cabinets, and baskets, items useful for either storing or transporting merchandise.9 He owned plumes, an inkstand and writing tables for maintaining Listed in his accounts are damask, country cloth, gold and silver string, camelot d’Hollande (a kind of Dutch cloth), London serge, ribbon, taffeta, silk, lace, leather, Indian covers, and non-carded wool. Archives départmentales d’Isere, IJ 1102. Laurence Fontaine also identifies Giraud’s numerous possessions, including books, in her History of Pedlars in Europe (1996), especially pages 107 and 177.

Giraud’s inventories suggest that he leased his wooded and lumbered fields right before his flight from La Grave. Archives départmentales d’Isere, IJ 1102.

Giraud’s inventories list 20 sacks used for storing grain. Giraud also claimed that the soldiers stole 20 sacks of grain from his store house when they first arrived on his property. Archives départmentales d’Isere, IJ 1102.

Giraud owned sheep, which his sister sold for him at market. Other family members also owned sheep. The extent of Giraud’s livestock and that of other family members is unclear. Archives départmentales d’Isere, IJ 1102.

Giraud also owned a garde-robe, furniture used for storing clothes. According to Daniel Roche, cabinets and wardrobes, which were beginning to appear in inventories at this time, illustrates the need for systems of organization that had emerged with increased Keeping the Faith 24 records and correspondence, and torches, candlesticks, lamps, and lanterns, no doubt for late night reading and travel. Along with standard farm implements, Giraud’s inventory lists a strange mix of odds and ends -- rocking cradles, scrap metal, bird cages, weights and measures, multiple “diverse” pairs of shoes, carpentry tools, country cloth and rolls of linen, blankets, a cabinet of “diverse drug and medicines” pommels, ladies’ garments, carpets, tailor’s scissors, sieves, hammers and files, animal hair for padding materials, and numerous cauldrons.10 Such items conceivably reflected La Grave’s regional trade and consumption patterns.

Giraud’s entrepreneurial success afforded him comforts beyond other rural classes. In addition to the standard hearth cremaillière, or hook for hanging pots over the fireplace, Giraud owned a rotisserie and roaster for cooking meat, and two coquemarts, a kind of early modern kettle for boiling water.11 He owned several mattresses and two beds, one with red damask curtains, no doubt a sign of his wealth and rising status as well as his desire for comfort.12 Giraud’s tableware, which was fairly sizable and diverse, consisted of one crystal and four tin cups, porridge bowls, plates including soup plates (assiettes creuses), a marmite, platters, vinegar and olive oil decanters, a salt container, knives, four fourchettes, and over thirty spoons. The variety of tableware is indicative of eating habits involving multiple course meals, while table cloths and napkins, along with table decorations, suggests an appreciation for table etiquette. The presence of a barber’s basin, a “grand” mirror, and cleaning brushes, which can be found with his wardrobe, speak to the importance of personal cleanliness and appearance, which, consumption and ownership of material objects. See Daniel Roche, A History of Everyday Things: The Birth of Consumption in France, 1600-1800 (Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge, 2000).

Such items were possibly used for a home workshop or may reflect regional trade patterns. Farm implements included plows (two airaires and two socs), trident, two sappes, a scraper, and hammers.

An eighteenth-century definition of coquemart may be found in Anotoine Furètiere, Dictionaire universel, contenant generalement tous les mots francois tant vieux que

modernes, et les Terms de toutes les sciences et des Arts: Divise en trois Tomes (La Haye:

Arnoud et Reinier Leers, 1701).

According to Donna J. Bohanan, “Beds were often the dominant element of a room’s

furnishings and objects of luxury.” See Donna J. Bohanan, Fashion Beyond Versailles:

Consumption and Design in Seventeenth-century France (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2012), 61.

Proceedings of the Western Society for French HistoryWirts 25

along with table manners, had become an increasing preoccupation of elites at this time.13 Various cultural artifacts suggest Giraud was both curious and adventuresome. He owned a pair of pocket pistols, fencing swords, and halberd– the pistols likely provided protection while traveling, but fencing swords, were more typical of the aristocracy, or perhaps someone accustomed to ritualized codes for settling matters of personal or family honor.14 The halberd, the medieval-style fighting axe of the Swiss, was by the seventeenth century, at least for a peddler, more likely a show piece or marker of masculine identity. As the known weapon of the Swiss soldier, it might represent the freedom and independence historically associated with neighboring Swiss cities like Geneva. Giraud enjoyed games and was a collector of curiosities. He owned a game of checkers, “dames damier,” and two ostrich eggs, which were, as Michael Hunter has noted “the standard natural exotica of virtuoso cabinets at the time.” 15 Giraud also enjoyed art and music, keeping several tableaus and stringed instruments, including two violins, a Vielle “with foot,” and a trumpet marine, a kind of triangular wooden stringed instrument that was popular during the Renaissance. As was typical of the Dutch Protestants, Giraud preferred natural rather than religious themes for his works of art: his inventory lists three landscapes and seven pictures of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Above all, Giraud treasured books, and went to great lengths to protect them. On July 9, 1685, the King issued an arrêt directed against printers and booksellers, calling for the confiscation of Protestant works. 16 The Count de Taissay posted orders on La Grave’s church doors instructing Protestants to hand over controversial works within twenty-four hours or face corporal punishment.

Local priests, including the curé, Claude Planchet, began confiscating and publicly burning Huguenot texts at La Pierre des Oizaux. Simultaneously, the priest of Mont-de-Lans collected and burned at Mont-de-Lans, Freney, Cucullet, and other towns “all the subjects at the parish known – Bibles, Testaments, prayers, sermons

For evolving ideas of cleanliness see George Vigarello, Concepts of Cleanliness:

Changing Attitudes in France since the Middle Ages, trans. Jean Birrell (Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Robert Nye has suggested that the French middle class may have been adopting the aristocratic custom of the duel at this time. Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 8.

Michael Hunter, “The Royal Society’s ‘Repository’ and its Background,” in The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe, ed. Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), 220.

Elie Benoist, Histoire de l’Edit de Nantes: contentenant les choses les plus remarquables

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