Anti-Italianism in Sixteenth-Century France


307 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3689-9
DDC 944'.00451




Reviewed by Leonard Adams

Leonard Adams is a professor of French Studies at the University of


Fuelled by religious and political animosity, ethnic cleansing is a
method now commonly used to settle scores in some parts of the world.
Less well-known is the fact that France and Italy became the theatre of
events leading up to this phenomenon during the Renaissance. Yet it
should come as no surprise that ethnic tensions between the two
countries exploded into violence in the 16th century, given the
prevailing class structure and the confrontational political and
religious systems present in European society during the century of
Erasmus, Luther, the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day, the
Protestant Reformation, and the early years of the Catholic
Counter-Reformation. Henry Heller, in a single remarkable volume,
vividly brings to light the complex nature of Italian influence and
French counteraction that had repercussions across Western Europe during
the period. Moreover, his synthetic treatment of the spread of
anti-Italianism in France under the Bourbons remains relevant even at
the present historical conjuncture. What we have in this volume is a
compact portrayal of political and religious strife, related economic
and cultural events, and local hostility shaping French life at a
crucial moment in European history; this account examines an explosive
mixture of hostility, anti-feminism, anti-Semitism, and Machiavellian
politics, not to mention heated anti-Italian propaganda that reached its
peak at the Estates of Blois (1576–1577).

Heller selects pertinent elements from a large variety of historical
data and skilfully weaves them into a compelling narrative. He has met
successfully the challenge of creating a meaningful whole out of a
number of seemingly disparate facts and events occurring at a pivotal
point in the history of France and Italy. To analyze and correlate the
repeated manifestations of anti-Italian feeling is no easy task. Seeking
out the origins of French nationalism and the interplay of an unholy mix
of economics, religion, and the unquantifiable aspects of Franco-Italian
16th-century rivalry while aiming at clarity, succinctness, and
relevance of the factors involved is a rather daunting task.
Seiziиmistes should be grateful for this volume, which, I believe, will
take its rightful place among texts recommended for thoughtful reading.


Heller, Henry., “Anti-Italianism in Sixteenth-Century France,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,