Paolo Aranha deposited “Les meilleures Causes embarassent les Juges, si elles manquent de bonnes preuves”: Père Norbert’s Militant Historiography on the Malabar Rites Controversy in the group Asia Lusitana on Humanities Commons 2 years, 10 months ago
Norbert Bar-Le-Duc (1697- 1769), also known as Abbé Jacques Platel, Pierre Parisot, Pierre Curel, traversed identities and continents, making a career out of controversy, becoming knowns as “le fameux Père Norbert”. He worked in South India as a missionary in 1736-1739 and thereafter played a pivotal role in the Malabar Rites controversy. Back to Europe, Norbert developed a literary offensive against the Jesuits, using historical memoires that accompanied Benedict XIV’s ban of the Malabar Rites (1744), while being condemned by the Holy Office in 1745 and 1751. Norbert’s life took an adventurous turn, the condemnation leading him to seek refuge in Holland and England where, ever the eclectic, he also established a tapestry factory. He later moved to Portugal as the protegé of the Marquis of Pombal. A major author against the Jesuits, he engaged with Jansenism, freemason networks, English early industrial entrepreneurship and Pombalism, changing his identity to assert himself in opposition to the Society of Jesus. This chapter considers the peculiar form of historiography that he developed in order to carry out his anti-Jesuit polemic. His own polemical “history of the present” was based on the use and abuse of the archives of Propaganda Fide in order to wage a successful war against the Society of Jesus. His works were often written in a careless and repetitive style but were always supported by a rich, if not pletoric, set of documentary evidence. He was a historian with the mind of a lawyer: he knew that “the best causes embarass the Judges if they are deprived of good evidence”.