The Consistory and Social Discipline in Calvin's Geneva [Paperback]

Jeffrey R. Watt(Author)

ISBN: 9781648250040 | Published by: University of Rochester Press | Series: Changing Perspectives on Early Modern Europe | Volume: 22 | Year of Publication: 2020 | Language: English 338p, H9 x W6,
Status: In Stock - Available

The Consistory and Social Discipline in Calvin's Geneva


Created by John Calvin, the Consistory of Geneva was a quasi-tribunal entrusted with enforcing Reformed morality. Comprised of pastors and elders, this body met weekly and summoned people for a wide range of "sinful" behavior, such as drunkenness, dancing, blasphemy, or simply quarrels, and was a far more intrusive institution than the Catholic Inquisition. Among the thousands summoned during Calvin's ministry were a pair of women who were allegedly prophets, boys who skipped catechism to practice martial arts, and a good number of people begging for forgiveness for having renounced Protestantism out of fear of death.

This superbly researched book, reflecting author Jeffrey Watt's career-long involvement in the ongoing project of transcribing, editing, and publishing the Consistory records, is the first comprehensive examination of this morals court and provides a window into the reception of the Reformation in the so-called Protestant Rome. Watt examines the role of the Consistory in upholding patriarchy, showing that while Genevan authorities did not have a double standard in prosecuting illicit sexuality, the Consistory exhorted women to obey even violently abusive husbands. He finds also that Calvin and his colleagues vigorously promoted a strong work ethic by censuring people, mostly men, for laziness, and showed a surprising degree of skepticism toward accusations of witchcraft. Finally, Watt demonstrates convincingly that, while the Consistory encountered some resistance, Genevans by and large shared the ideals it promoted and that it enjoyed considerable success in fostering discipline in Genevan society.

This book is openly available in digital formats thanks to a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It may be found here and elsewhere:

Table of Contents

Abbreviations and Illustrations
The Consistory Encounters Resistance
The Push for Religious Uniformity
Educating and Disciplining the Young
Controlling Lust and Regulating Marriage
Superstitions, Magic, and Witchcraft
Promoting the Industrious and Sober Lifestyle
Conflicts, Reconciliation, and the Confession of Sins
Selected Bibliography

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