The Huguenot Refuges

The exodus of French Huguenots to Protestant countries to escape persecution was a crucial event that spanned a century. The “First Refuge” in the 1560s, peaking after the Saint-Bartholomew’ Day Massacre, is distinguished from the “Great Refuge” after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Over 200,000 Huguenots went into exile. Following the first persecutions many Protestants from Normandy and Poitou took refuge in England and founded numerous French churches in London. The United Provinces welcomed the greatest number, and they took an active part in sparking the «Republic of Letters» that culminated in the 18th century.  Calvin’s Switzerland saw the passage of many refugees en route to German speaking countries, especially Brandenburg, which practiced a real policy of hospitality.

But Europe was not the only hospitable area – indeed, many Protestants fleeing France took part in the conquest of the New World, a few went as far as South Africa.

These countries were generally very welcoming, and the economic, cultural and demographic contributions made by the, often highly qualified, refugee population proved invaluable.

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