Abstract: Huguenot Identity in mid-19th Century America

Hello World! My name is Geoffrey Ringlee, and I am a rising senior majoring in History and Computer Science. This summer, I am conducting research for my honors thesis on Huguenot identity in the United States from 1830 to 1880. Thanks to the Charles Center and their generous summer research grant, I have the opportunity this summer to search through the archives and annuls of history to learn about an overlooked part of the past.

Below you can find an abstract for my project.

 

From 1685 to 1730, French Protestants, or Huguenots, fled persecution by Louis XIV, the King of France, to the Thirteen Colonies, notably Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia. Once settled, American Huguenots established refugee societies and began enganging with their American neighbors. Previous scholarship has approached their history from an institutional perspective, which emphasizes churches and communities. These institutions notably started to weaken by 1750, and was likely deceased by 1830. It was not until the 1880’s that an overt institutional Huguenot identity re-emerged. Recent scholarship indicates that Huguenot identity may have existed on an individual and personal level, and may have been used by civil, scholarly, and cultural institutions during the period between 1830 and 1880. I intend to build on this research by showing that Huguenot identity remained important for some descendants beyond 1830. In addition, I will research how influences from American society and newly arrived immigrants in the nineteenth century caused those descendants to resurrect the Huguenot identity. These influences culminated in the formation of Huguenot societies by descendants choosing to re-identify with their ancestors’ heritage in addition to their American identity, a process that also shaped how Americans defined what it meant to be “American.”