This book examines one of the most remarkable political myths of the modern era. The image of a Jesuit conspiracy against state, society, and modern civilization haunted the imaginations of European liberals for most of the nineteenth century. This book examines the operations and structures of this conspiracy theory in one of its main centres of influence: France. It examines the functions which the Jesuit myth performed in nineteenth-century French politics, and provides a detailed analysis of its thematic development, rhetorical strategies, and internal tensions. The book relates the influence of anti-Jesuit beliefs to the Jesuits' own position in nineteenth-century society and religious and political life; but its major contribution is to show how the myth expressed the deeper anxieties and served the broader mental needs of French liberals and republicans in an age of political instability. At the cost of encouraging mistrust and intransigence in French politics, the Jesuit myth played an important part in forging the political identity of the moderate French Left. In an innovative Conclusion, the author also places the Jesuit myth in the large context of long-term evolutions in the character and significance of conspiracy theories as an ingredient in modern political mentalities.
'Geoffrey Cubitt's original and important book, the first serious study of the Jesuit myth, provides many startling and even comical insights into the fears and fantasies of the nineteenth-century French Left. Cubitt uses them here as the basis for an incisive analysis of conspiracy theory inside France and beyond.'
Robert Tombs, The Observer
`Cubitt's book captures the reader's attention with fascinating accounts of conspiracies, intrigues, manipulations, and deceptions to the point that one almost beleives in this Jesuit myth...Geoffery Cubitt has written an intriguing account of nineteenth century French Life. His political and social-historical research is quite extensive'
'well-researched, well-written study'
Times Literary Supplement
`This book is...much more than a study of a minor strain of political paranoia. Everybody interested in conspiracy theories, of whatever sort, should read it. Written with extreme care, clarity and historical imagination.'
Ecclesiastical History vol 46 no1
`Geoffrey Cubitt has brilliantly elected to examine the response to the Jesuits in nineteenth-century France...perceptive history...'
American Historical Review
`G. Cubitt studies with talent the obesession of the French political class.'
Modern and Contemporary France
`admirably both clarifies a specific topic and opens up more general themes'
John M. Roberts, Merton College, Oxford, EHR, June 1996