the Cevennes after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes expressed themselves in French, as if, for these inspired illiterates, only that language could carry the sign of divine intervention.
A second phenomenon is worthy of note. The comparison of literacy rates between Catholic and Protestant communities does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Protestants consistently advanced more rapidly than Catholics. To be sure, the English Puritans' beliefin God's active presence in everyday life strengthened their spiritual self-examination and self-discipline and motivated a desire in the seventeenth century to write autobiographies and personal journals. So too the Quakers, who believed that individual perfection was achieved gradually through a process of daily self-discipline, were all able to sign their marriage acts by the second half of the eighteenth century, while in the rest of England two-fifths of men and two-thirds of women could not. In the coastal parishes of Lutheran Oldenburg in northern Germany, all men and women knew how to read, while 70 per cent of men and just under 50 per cent of women could write. These exceptionally high rates were due both to the large number of schools built in the different communities, and to the strict monitoring by Lutheran pastors who made frequent visits to their parishioners' homes to verify reading competency. In this instance, church policy and scholastic exigencies resulted in near total literacy.4 Nevertheless, historians have perhaps been too quick to suggest the overall superiority of Reformed towns over Catholic towns. The differences which exist are not necessarily related to religion alone. Indeed, within the complex set of factors that account for the history of literacy, it is difficult to isolate the advantages of a particular faith, and literacy differences may derive less from religious than from socio-economic distinctions. On occasion, in seventeenth-century England, the Puritan message was better received in less literate urban environments. In the Catholic town of Koblenz in the central Rhineland at the end of the eighteenth century, 86 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women signed their marriage acts. (The gender differences seem primarily due to the movement of women from lower-class rural areas to find work as servants in the town.) The high figures resulted from both an extremely dense elementary school infrastructure (where every parish had a school and populated, widely scattered parishes had several) and near universal school attendance among seven- to eleven-year-old children - as required in the late eighteenth century by a decree of the Elector of Trier. The statistics for Koblenz are probably valid, moreover, for the whole of the Catholic Rhineland at the end of the eighteenth century, since similar attendance rates in the same years are seen in Cologne, Bonn, and Mainz. Literacy percentages for the free Lutheran town
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