In “Ending the French Wars of Religion,” Allan A. Tulchin considers why these sixteenth-century sectarian wars—eight of them—recurred over half a century and why they finally ended when they did. The existing literature emphasizes that the French state proved too weak to enforce order, and that each side believed itself favored by God, making them reluctant to compromise and willing to use extreme violence, thus embittering the conflict. Using the political science literature on war termination to gain insight into these recurring wars, Tulchin proposes instead that there was a
“learning curve” that eventually made peace possible. After Catholics failed to destroy the Protestant movement in the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, they grudgingly accepted the Peace of Bergerac (1577). War broke out again seven years later, however, when Henri of Navarre, the leader of the Protestants, became heir apparent. Peace finally held after the Edict of Nantes (1598), not only because it was enforced by a decisive military victory, but because Henri IV’s previous experience as leader of an insurgent party led him to adopt a more open leadership style.