Reviewed in 1996
Jacques Gres-Gayer's Le Jansénisme en Sorbonne (1643-1656) is a remarkable synthesis of corporatist behavior, including voting analysis and "party" formation, not unlike some works published by political scientists in the 1970s and 1980s. Historians who treat Jansenism and Jesuitism as merely a duel in theology must read this book. The first preoccupation of the Sorbonne Faculty was to maintain its unity. Just how the already established divisions between Richelieu and Ultramontanism mutated into a quarrel between Jansenists and Jesuits is at the heart of the book. Taking Saint-Flour's Journal for 1651 as a foundation for analyzing the role of the delegations to Rome, it becomes clear that a subtle shift occurred from reflection on grace to one of authority in the Church. As a sub-theme, the cultural relations between Roman prelates and their French colleagues is of particular interest, the former commanding and authoritarian to a remarkable degree: theology as such was of little interest to them! The debates and votes are accompanied by a biographical dictionary of the key participants, 300 in all! If the older members of the House of Commons were more strident in their attacks on Charles I than their younger colleagues, it was the younger theologians who tended to support Arnauld in the battle over his condemnation. And the book is a further reminder of the vitality of debate and voting within the First Estate. How often we read about Absolutism being on the rise in works that make no allusion to the Church!