1998 marks the 400th anniversary of the legendary Edict of Nantes. This edict, issued by French King Henri IV, successfully permitted religious pluralism for a period of 87 years.
The Mead-Swing Lecture series celebrated this historical event this week. A faithful audience of 20 people followed the speakers of the Mead-Swing Lecture Series through three days of historical dialog. The series will conclude tonight with a round-table chaired by the speakers.
The first lecture in the series, "Religious Hatred in Early Modern France," was presented by Robert Kingdon of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In his proposition, "the Edict was doomed to failure from the beginning" by taking into account the inherent differences in Calvinist and Catholic doctrines.
On Wednesday, Philip J. Benedict of Brown University presented "Securing Pluralism amid Intolerance". He argued that the Edict was successful in integrating two religions to a certain degree, but that the predominant Catholic government did not come close to accepting Protestantism on equal grounds. The Edict was the culmination of 36 years of interspersed war and tense peace. "It was part amnesty, part grant of the right to worship, part civil rights measure, and part court reform," said Benedict.
Carolyn Lougee of Stanford University explored the effect of the repeal of the Edict by Louis XIV through the lives of three distinctly different women in the south-west of France. Her lecture, presented last Thursday, was entitled "Exile: The End of the Edict". A portion of her lecture came from letters written by one of these women. Lougee traced the woman' s descendants through geological charts and wills in order to find the present-day owners of the letters.
Small attendance numbers did not devalue the lectures themselves. College junior Chris Ross said, "I found all the lectures thought provoking. Each of the approaches were so different, and they built upon each lecture."
The lecture series was founded in 1926 by Albert T. Swing (OC 1874) and Alice Mead Swing (OC 1879) to "bring to Oberlin College distinguished speakers on modern developments in science and religion and the relationships between the two." The first Mead-Swing Lecture was given in Finney Chapel by Dr. Carl S. Patton on October 31, 1926. In 1980, the first Mead-Swing Visiting Professorship was given to Joseph W. Daulen. He offered courses in religious history and seminars in addition to lectures.
The Mead-Swing Lectureship committee is expecting to see more activity in coming months. "Andy Evens will be coming to Oberlin to talk about politics in the Middle East, and James Morris is scheduled to come and speak about Islamic Studies," said Artz Professor of History Marcia Colish. Already scheduled but awaiting Mead-Swing funding will be Deborah Lubar, who will give a reenactment of Genesis and the Fall of Man from the perspective of Eve.
Perhaps the most illustrious-and nearest-presentation will occur with Pelligrino University Research Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University. Wilson is well known for major contributions to numerous areas of scientific inquiry, including entomology, the understanding of ecosystems, the importance of biodiversity, and the effect of evolution and natural selection on human nature. Over a two day period, Wilson will give a Mead-Swing lecture, chair an informal discussion with faculty and students in Kettering and participate in a book signing.
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 7, October 30, 1998
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