Saumur is a town of about 30'000 inhabitants on the river Loire in France. In the 17th. century it housed a particularly distinguished Protestant academy (i.e. university), which was closed and demolished at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. It had drawn students from far and wide, William Penn among them from 1662 to 1664. Among its most distinguished teachers was
Moïse Amyraut (1596 - 1664). Penn not only studied under him, he probably also lodged in his house. It is likely that ideas acquired at Saumur helped shape Penn’s later activities and writings.
Amyraut was a keen defender of religious tolerance, and well regarded in that respect by French catholic authorities of the time. Penn not only inscribed tolerance in the constitution of Pennsylvania, but he did so in a way which paved the way to the laïcité of the State. The idea of
education for everyone, boys and girls alike, was rooted in the Reformation from the day - literally -
of its adoption in Geneva; it is likely that Penn discovered it at Saumur, perhaps along with the importance of teaching professional skills to all. A single electoral role with an equal vote for all men is rooted in the Protestant ideals current at Saumur. One wonders how far Penn might have
acquired at Saumur his view that the role of prison is to reform, not only to punish. And that list is only illustrative (as well as speculative). In 1693 William Penn published An essay towards the present and future peace of Europe, by the establishment of an European Diet, Parliament or Estates. A French version was published shortly
after (Essai d’un projet pour rendre la paix de l’Europe solide et durable…). The translation is probably Penn’s own - his fluency in French undoubtedly being another fruit of his stay in Saumur. Even if one simply classifies the essay among the utopian projects which have studded the years, it
undoubtedly foreshadows not only the European Union, but also the United Nations. Oddly enough, the influence of Saumur, and of Amyraut in particular, on Penn’s political ideas has hardly been studied. Hence this essay competition to encourage researchers to explore this area of the foundations of the ideals on which both the United States and modern Europe, among others, were built. It is hoped that this initial encouragement will inspire further, more thorough studies.
The town of Saumur is considering naming after William Penn a square which appropriately abuts the Protestant church. To mark the occasion, the municipal authorities and the association “Saumur et son histoire” are planning a set of events around 19-21 May 2011 on the theme of
William Penn and Saumur.
• It would begin with an academic gathering centred on the fruits of this competition. The event
would be bilingual.
• The academic part would culminate in a day for the general public The public day would of
course be in French.
• The public day would in turn culminate in the ceremony to name the square.
• Meanwhile, at the time of these events an exhibition about William Penn would be on show to the public of Saumur.
The competition is being held in order to encourage the study of the influence of French Reformed thought on William Penn and thence on political thought and expression in the English-speaking world and beyond. Entries must be of academic quality. Young researchers (e.g. doctoral students or people who have completed their doctorate within the last five years) are particularly encouraged, but entries from more established researchers are equally welcome. Entries need not be confined by the boundaries of academic disciplines. One can imagine entries exploring questions of history, philosophy, politics, theology, language or literature among others.
Entries should be of the order of 25’000 - 50’000 characters (around 5-8000 words)They may be in English, French or both. Other languages may also be considered; enquiries may be addressed to Prof. Edward Dommen at the address below).
Entries are to be submitted electronically to Professor Ben Pink Dandelion, Programmes Leader, Centre for Postgraduate Quaker Studies, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and the University of Birmingham B.P.Dandelion@bham.ac.uk
They will be assessed by a jury at present including :
- Hubert Bost, directeur d’études, École pratique des hautes études, La Sorbonne, Paris
- Ben Pink Dandelion
- Jerry Frost (Formerly Professor, Swarthmore College, retired)
- Jeanne Henriette Louis (Formerly Professor of American civilisation, University of
- Didier Poton de Xaintrailles, Professor, Université de la Rochelle
The deadline for submission is Monday 10 January 2011. The competition provides for a first prize and up to four runners-up (not all prizes need be awarded, depending on the quality of submissions). Winning entries will be published in a special issue of the Journal Quaker Studies. The winners will be notified by early March and invited to the colloquium and events at Saumur on 19-21 May 2011 to present their papers. The winners will receive a travel allowance to cover the costs of their participation in the colloquium.
Further information can be obtained from
Prof. Edward Dommen
100 chemin des Mollies,
CH-1293 Bellevue, Switzerland
Telephone: +4122 774 1884
Prof. Edward Dommen
100 chemin des Mollies
CH-1293 Bellevue, Switzerland
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