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A Free Reading Passage on the Huguenots for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

4 min read

May 26

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The Huguenots are a referenced topic in the Regions of the British Colonies topic in Period 2 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Huguenot refugees
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The Huguenots, French Protestants who followed the teachings of John Calvin, experienced a tumultuous history marked by periods of tolerance and severe persecution. Their story is intertwined with the religious and political landscape of France.


In the late 16th century, France was engulfed in religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, known as the French Wars of Religion. These conflicts were brutal and devastating, tearing the nation apart. Henry IV, a Protestant who converted to Catholicism to ascend to the French throne, sought to bring peace and stability to his divided country. In 1598, he issued the Edict of Nantes, a landmark decree that granted substantial religious freedoms to the Huguenots.


The Edict of Nantes allowed Huguenots to practice their religion freely in designated areas, granted them civil rights, and permitted them to hold public offices. They were also allowed to maintain fortified towns for their protection. This edict brought a period of relative peace and stability, enabling the Huguenots to thrive economically and socially.


Despite the initial success of the Edict of Nantes, tensions between Catholics and Huguenots never fully disappeared. As the 17th century progressed, the Catholic majority and the monarchy grew increasingly uncomfortable with the privileges and autonomy enjoyed by the Huguenots. This unease was exacerbated by the rise of Louis XIV, who sought to consolidate his absolute power and viewed religious unity as essential for a strong and stable state.


Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, ascended to the throne in 1643. A devout Catholic, he was determined to achieve religious uniformity in France. Under his reign, the pressure on the Huguenots increased. The monarchy gradually eroded the provisions of the Edict of Nantes through a series of restrictive measures known as the dragonnades. Huguenot churches were destroyed, their schools were closed, and their civil rights were systematically undermined.


The culmination of these efforts came in 1685 when Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the Edict of Nantes. This new decree outlawed Protestantism in France, forced the conversion of Huguenots to Catholicism, and prohibited them from emigrating. The revocation marked the beginning of a severe persecution, during which many Huguenots faced imprisonment, torture, and execution.


Despite the prohibition on emigration, thousands of Huguenots fled France to escape persecution. They sought refuge in more tolerant areas such as England, the Dutch Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Africa, and the American colonies. This mass exodus, known as the Huguenot Diaspora, had significant demographic and economic implications for France, as many of those who fled were skilled artisans, merchants, and professionals.


First, the Huguenots attempted a colony in Florida. In 1564, French Huguenots led by René Goulaine de Laudonnière founded Fort Caroline near present-day Jacksonville. This colony aimed to create a haven for Huguenots facing persecution in France. However, it faced significant challenges, including conflicts with Spanish forces, who viewed the French presence as a threat to their territorial claims. In 1565, Spanish troops led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés attacked and destroyed Fort Caroline, effectively ending the Huguenot presence in Florida.


After the disaster in Florida, Huguenots began to join the British colonies. Many Huguenots settled in colonies such as New York, South Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts. They brought valuable skills and trades, particularly in areas like weaving, silversmithing, and winemaking, which helped to boost local economies. In South Carolina, Huguenot settlers along the Cooper River and in Charleston played a crucial role in the colony’s agricultural and commercial success. Their influence extended to architecture, education, and religious practices, as they established French Reformed churches that still stand today. The Huguenots’ emphasis on hard work, education, and community cohesion contributed to the social fabric of the colonies, fostering a spirit of tolerance and resilience. Their integration into colonial society also enhanced cultural diversity, blending French traditions with those of other European settlers. 


In the late 17th century, a proposed bill in London threatened to restrict the economic opportunities of Huguenot refugees in the American colonies by preventing them from working as merchants. This bill aimed to protect English merchants from competition, reflecting the growing tension between established British traders and the skilled, industrious Huguenot immigrants who had fled religious persecution in France. The Huguenots, known for their expertise in trade, craftsmanship, and business, had quickly established themselves as successful merchants and artisans in their new homes, contributing significantly to the local economies. The proposed legislation sparked significant controversy, as it clashed with the economic interests of colonial governors and the broader colonial society, who valued the economic boost and cultural enrichment provided by the Huguenots. Ultimately, the bill did not pass, allowing Huguenots to continue their economic activities and further integrate into colonial commerce. Their continued presence and entrepreneurial spirit played a crucial role in the economic and social development of the American colonies, fostering diversity and innovation in burgeoning markets.


The Huguenots left a lasting legacy both in France and in the countries where they found refuge. Their contributions to the arts, sciences, and economy enriched the societies they joined. In places like South Carolina and New York, their influence can still be seen today in historic sites and family names. The Huguenot story is a testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of a people who, despite facing severe persecution, continued to uphold their faith and contribute significantly to the development of the modern word.



PRINTABLE READING PASSAGE ON HUGUENOTS

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Huguenots FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about the Huguenots?





The Regions of British Colonies


Period 2


AP U.S. History




Huguenots



#Huguenots

Cate O'Donnell

4 min read

May 26

6

0

0

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