From New Babylon to Eden: The Huguenots and Their Migration to Colonial South Carolinaby Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, Bertrand Ruymbeke
Pub. Date: 01/28/2006
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
From New Babylon to Eden traces the persecution of Huguenots in France and the eventual immigration of a small bloc of the French Calvinist population to proprietary South Carolina. Once there, rather than isolate themselves as a separate religious and cultural enclave, they chose instead to integrate into the Southern strain of nascent Anglo-American society. Through intermarriage and adaptation to the new economic, religious, and political environment, Huguenots soon numbered among the most influential and successful colonists and have left a persevering legacy throughout Charleston and the lowcountry. In a volume devoted to the first generation of Carolina Huguenots, Bertrand Van Ruymbeke describes in detail their gradual transformation from French refugees to South Carolina planters.Van Ruymbeke recounts the escalating persecution that led to the Huguenot exodus from France and tells how approximately five hundred émigrés settled in South Carolina. He credits their decision to relocate to the vigorous marketing efforts of the Lords Proprietors, the owners and rulers of the province, who promised the French Calvinists a veritable Eden. The Huguenots quickly discovered the colony was not paradise, but they adapted to the new environment by abandoning their Old World silk, olive oil, and wine trades for the more lucrative pursuits of Indian trade, cattle ranching, and rice planting.
Placing the Carolina migration in the context of the larger Huguenot diaspora, Van Ruymbeke proffers an account that challenges accepted history. Describing their settlement as a process of acculturation and creolization rather than simply assimilation, he contends that the majority of these French Calvinists sought to create their own churches but were thwarted by an Anglicized elite eager to dominate Anglo-Carolinian society. He also reveals that most members of the initial generation were moderately-not exceptionally-prosperous and, rather, that it was their descendants who acquired the wealth often associated with lowcountry Huguenots. Van Ruymbeke concludes with an epilogue describing the Huguenot legacy in South Carolina.
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