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The Devil and the Religious Controversies of Sixteenth-Century FranceRESEARCH conducted by social historians in the past few decades has revealed a rich fabric of religious belief and ritual in late medieval and early modern Europe In concentrating on behavior and practice as opposed to doctrine and dogma these historians have shown that Christianity as understood by the masses was at times far removed from the liturgical and doctrinal controversies of the elite An examination of the accounts of demon possession and of the treatises on demonology written in France in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries can tell us a great deal about the thoughts beliefs and preoccupations of contemporary Christians The impression left by many of these is that the majority were written in an attempt to suppress the unorthodox views of the masses It should be recognized however that many of the Catholic elites defended certain beliefs which their Protestant counterparts regarded as superstitious One cannot speak therefore simply of elite versus popular culture Ritual myth and magic often merged imperceptibly with the beginnings of science a field in which the elites predominated What is certain is that a whole body of thought and belief which a few decades ago was often dismissed as unworthy of serious historical consideration has now been shown to be a fruitful area of researchHistorians working on the ecclesiastical history of France in the early modern period are fortunate in that a rich collection of pamphlets and demonological tracts has survived and has been made widely accessible in a microfiche series One of the earliest accounts in this series describes a demon possession which took place at Laon in 1566 The testimony of three eyewitnesses the Dean of the Cathedral at Laon one of the canons and the Royal notary of the city was compiled by Jean Boulaese professor of Hebrew at the College De Montaigu in Paris1 Boulaeses pamphlet first published in 1573 provides the
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