Of what use is the history of Protestantism ? Since one hundred fifty years, the Society of the History of French Protestantism (SHPF) has never avoided the question but it has not answered it either. Instead, it has kept it open and has thus made it more stimulating.
|The foundation in 1852|
The SHPF was founded in 1852 by a group of "advocates of history as a science and friends of the Protestant faith" (amis de la science historique et de la foi protestante). Their goal was "to search for and gather all documents, unpublished or printed, related to the French-speaking Protestant Churches, in order to study them and to make them known" (rechercher et recueillir, pour les étudier et les faire connaître, tous les documents inédits ou imprimés qui intéressent les Eglises protestantes de langue française). In order to make such research and these documents available, the Society publishes a monthly revue, Le Bulletin de La SHP,
After fifteen years of existence, the Bulletin started catering for a larger number of readers by publishing stories and popularized historical articles along with scholarly research in order to build a common Protestant memory. In 1866, the library of the SHPF was likewise created. Two years later, the library disposed of 7,000 volumes and numerous manuscripts. In1885, it moved into the building situated at 54, rue des Saints-Pères.
|The SHPF today|
For over a century and a half, the SHPF has been publishing the Bulletin de la SHPF (a quarterly since 1914). A special issue came out in November 2002 for the 150th anniversary of the SHPF, gathering 25 contributions of historians from various backgrounds concerning the history of the SHPF and the historiography of Protestantism since 1945.
The library continues to be enriched by the addition of ancient books, theses and current works concerning French Protestantism. It is open to researchers from 2 pm to 6 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday all day (10 am to 6 pm) on Thursdays. It lends documents (manuscripts, ancient books, prints) for exhibitions. Since 2001, the entire library catalogue has been computerized.
For several years, a Centre of Protestant Genealogy has been using material kept in the library of the SHPF, more particularly copies of parish records. The Centre regularly publishes Cahiers and enriches the files of the Huguenot Refuges.
The SHPF also contributes to the influence of places that keep Protestant memory alive, namely museums and libraries scattered all over France. The oldest place is the Desert Museum founded in 1911 in the house where the "Camisard" chief Rolland was born, the Soubeyran farmhouse near Mialet in the Gard region.