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Thomas A. Kselman
University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN 46556-4635)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$42,000 (approved)
$42,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2008 – 6/30/2009

Religious Conversion and Liberty in Post-Revolutionary France

I seek a fellowship from the NEH to complete the research and write a draft of a book on conversion and religious liberty in nineteenth-century France. In the wake of the French Revolution the meaning of religious liberty was ambiguous, for it referred both to the rights of religious communities to worship openly and to the rights of individuals to cross religious boundaries. This second and individualistic understanding of religious liberty was imperfectly grasped in a Europe that assumed religious homogeneity within states as the operative principle. Through a study of dramatic conversions in France in the first half of the nineteenth century I will trace this emerging sense of individual religious liberty, and set it against the older understanding of liberty as a communal right. My goal is to write a book on this topic that will interest not only historians of France, but also a general audience concerned with the problems of religious liberty in the modern world.