The Monasteries of France by Derek Beales

Derek Beales, "Edmund Burke and the Monasteries of France," The Historical Journal, 48, 2 (2005), pp. 415–436.


Burke’s Reflections contains a section of about ten pages on the monasteries of France, deploring not only the confiscation of their property but also the destruction of the institutions themselves, which are defended for their contribution to learning, beauty, and agriculture and for their general social role. Their ‘superstition’ is vindicated as preferable to that of the philosophes. Burke maintains that they could and should have been reformed, rather than suppressed. This discussion of monasteries has been almost wholly ignored by commentators and editors. The following article considers these pages against the reality of French monasticism, itself a neglected theme, and shows their centrality to Burke’s critique of the Revolution.

Cambridge Journals