The Historiography of the Society of Jesus during the Years of Its Suppression (1773–1814)

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Paul Shore
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Paul Shore Last modified: November 2016  

During the Years of Suppression

After having been expelled from many European countries and from their colonial empires, the Jesuits were suppressed by the papal breve Dominus ac Redemptor, promulgated on July 21, 1773.1 There followed more than four decades during which the Society of Jesus survived and continued their labors in settings as diverse as the Polish Commonwealth and the newly established United States of America. Serious moves to restore the Society were underway by the first decade of the nineteenth century, with the reintroduction of the Jesuits accomplished in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1804. Pius VII (r.1800–23) favored the Society’s restoration, and the collapse of the Napoleonic system seemed to present an opportunity, with Pius signing the papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum, which universally restored the Society of Jesus on August 7, 1814.

Even before Dominus ac Redemptor was published the debate about the significance and interpretation of the suppression of the Jesuits had begun.2 As Christina Vogel has pointed out, both the Jesuits and their opponents readily entertained conspiracy theories to explain the approaching downfall of the Society.3 During the first years of the suppression former Jesuits and their allies were vigorous apologists for the Society and outspoken critics of its suppression, while the Society’s opponents heaped praise on the forces that had brought about the demise of the order. A sign of the controversial and ambiguous position of the papal act of suppression as well as of the position of former Jesuits was the reluctance of the imperial city of Augsburg, itself split between Catholics and Protestants, to publish Dominus ac Redemptor.4 The Gazzetta ecclesiastica produced by ex-Jesuits and attacking Clement XIV (1769–74) appeared almost immediately after the bull of suppression and was soon publicly burned, the rapid tempo of events suggesting the intensity of the animosity between the two camps.5

Representative of the historical writings hostile to the Jesuits produced during this period is Mathieu-Mathurin Tabaraud’s Du pape et des jésuites which mixes polemics with a sparsely documented historical narrative told from a Jansenist point of view.6 Scholarship, fiction, drama, and polemic dealing with what was then virtually a current event are at times difficult to untangle during this period, as Roísin Healy illustrates with the case of Friedrich Schiller’s novel The Ghost-Seer, a gothic thriller featuring a (post-suppression?) Jesuit secret society seeking to convert a vulnerable Protestant prince.7 But the landscape, emotional and partisan though it appeared, was not always a simple configuration of opposing views each offering one-sided versions of events. In the midst of the apologetics offered by the former Jesuit historian Giulio Cesare Cordara (1704–85) are admissions that Jesuits were often haughty and earned the enmity of other Catholic orders, especially their archrivals the Dominicans.8 From a twenty-first century vantage point, Cordara’s many assessments seem both empirically derived yet still shaped by a baroque piety, since he saw the hand of God at work both in the suppression of the Society and in what he believed would be its restoration.9

The Restoration and Beyond

Following its restoration, the explanation that the Society been suppressed because it had outlasted its usefulness was put forward by a wide array of historians, including Leopold von Ranke.10 Others were less charitable. Giovanni Battista Nicolini, who characterized the Society as “the worst species of knaves,” devoted a section of his History of the Jesuits to the relations of former Jesuits to Frederick II and Catherine I.11 Friend and foe alike understood the suppression as a major historical event to which metaphors and models might be applied. Writing in a period of fervent nationalism, Charles Lazare Laumie drew upon biological metaphors to describe the rise and fall of the Jesuits and saw a great moral lesson in the story of a company of men who had abandoned their national identities and thus could not escape the downfall of their order.12

The appearance of Jacques Cretineau-Joly’s Clément XIV et les jeìsuites 13 published in 1847 (only two years after the appearance of Jules Michelet and Edgar Quinet’s unreservedly hostile Des jésuites),14 marked an important step forward in its use of original documents and its situating of events in a larger historical context. While still strongly inclined to defend the Society, Cretineau-Joly moved beyond simplistic characterization, baroque rhetorical set-pieces, and invective to construct a narrative still of value today. Cretineau-Joly’s sympathies are nonetheless easy to discern. He portrayed Lorenzo Ricci, the last pre-suppression superior general who died in prison in 1775 as a heroic martyr and noted with some satisfaction that even after the suppression former Jesuits prayed for Clement XIV. Cretineau-Joly’s work soon prompted debate and passionate refutation. Augustin Theiner’s history of the pontificate of Clement XIV went far beyond an attempt to rebut Cretineau-Joly’s view of this pope;15 it also included a denunciation of “all the works written by the Jesuits and their friends […] on the subject of the Pontiff and the suppression of the Society of Jesus.”16 As so often has been the case in the writing of Jesuit history, rivalry between Catholic religious orders—Theiner was an Oratorian—was a backdrop for this debate.

The most important work of scholarship dealing specifically with the period of the suppression to be published in the second half of the nineteenth century was Stanislas Zalenski’s (Stanisław Załęski, 1843–1908) pioneering study of the surviving Jesuit project in White Russia.17 In addition to carefully documenting the activities of the exiled Jesuit community within the Russian Empire, Zalenski, who crossed swords with Theiner on many points,18 placed the experience of these Jesuits in the context of the history of Society’s relations with political powers in the region and also included a discussion of Frederick the Great’s responses to Dominus ac Redemptor. Drawing on materials in the Vatican Archives which had not previously figured in historical studies, Zalenski pioneered in documenting the support in the Polish diet of the 1780s for the restoration of the Society, and likewise turned his attention to the impact of the suppression on Austrian Galicia, thereby crossing the national borders of his day and foreshadowing scholarship that would come more than a century later. Zalenski’s work was also a point of departure for later historians of the Society in Russia and neighboring lands where 1820 (the expulsion of the Jesuits from Russian territories), rather than 1814 constituted a major turning point.19 Zalenski was in this way too a precursor of historians who a century later would turn from the earlier focus on Rome and the courts of Western Europe towards a wider world.

Another geographically bounded historical survey, in this case of North America, was prepared by Thomas Hughes, who carefully reproduced primary-source materials in their entirety.20 Hughes did not limit his survey to materials generated by Jesuits and former Jesuits, but included documents from the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and from synods held in the United States. In doing so he brought to light documents dealing with the presence of former Jesuits in Ireland as well as evidence for future Jesuits training there as early as 1801 for life in a “Society now reviving.” Sydney Smith’s monograph on the events leading up to the suppression made judicious use of documentary evidence and avoided polemical characterizations of the Society’s enemies.21 Smith likewise debunked the notion that the enemies of the Society were a homogenous whole, and acknowledged that among these enemies were also Catholic clergy who had resented the influence and power of the Society.

Ludwig von Pastor’s monumental Geschichte der Päpste, a work that arguably transformed Catholic historiography, includes carefully reported details on the suppression and its aftermath, ranging from the complications attendant to the publication of Dominus ac Redemptor to the recommendation of Pius VI in 1792 that laypersons undertake the Spiritual Exercises.22 Pastor’s tone is largely free of polemic and built upon painstaking archival research spanning decades. Since Pastor’s focus was on the diplomatic history of the papacy, at best glancing attention is given to scientific or literary activities of ex-Jesuits and the cultures and climates in which these men worked can only be inferred.

A More Modern Approach

The later nineteenth century was thus a watershed era for Jesuit historiography generally. The reasons for these changes in the approaches to Jesuit history were several. First, while the Society continued to be a source of controversy in the nineteenth century, the stakes for many European states were now simply lower and the attacks of the Jesuits’ opponents (with the possible exception of those engaged in the Kulturkampf) were less organized and relentless than those of the previous century. And while still frequently on the defensive and even banned from many polities, the Society and its historians were generally speaking no longer existentially threatened as they had been shortly before 1773. Meanwhile the audience for works on Jesuit history was evolving. Edifying accounts of “martyrs” such as Matteo Ricci could not be so readily constructed, and they were in any case now of less interest to readers familiar with diplomatic and political approaches to history. Moreover, all historians, Jesuit and non-Jesuit, investigating the suppression and its aftermath increasingly worked in a climate that placed greater reliance on primary sources and thus used as building blocks of their arguments documents on whose validity there might be more general agreement.23 A sign of this was how the Monita secreta continued to go through many printings but was less frequently cited by responsible scholars seeking to make points about later Jesuit history.24 In addition, the post-suppression Society would never again be in the position to dominate education and influence policy in many lands as it had done in previous centuries, so the contemporary political climate presumably played less of a role in flavoring historical analysis than it had a century earlier. This increasing security and acceptance of Catholicism in Victorian England, where Jesuit historians such as Smith worked and where a wide and growing audience for historical writings existed, and the distance of English political elites from the machinations that had brought on the suppression allowed investigation of the period to proceed without many of the historical burdens persisting in many Continental settings.

One outstanding exception in this less overwrought literary climate was Joseph McCabe, who in his popular Candid History of the Jesuits criticized Cretineau-Joly (whom at least one twenty-first-century historian has called an “unsuitable” defender of the Society)25 for quoting a letter of Clement XIV allegedly forged by the Jesuits. Yet McCabe’s relation of the subsequent history of the China mission, while critical, is not fundamentally unfair,26 and his critique of the Society is much more from an anti-Catholic standpoint of former member of the Catholic clergy than from a specifically anti-Jesuit one.27 At the same time, the committed Catholic writer who attacked the Jesuits, a type so prominent in the decades after the restoration of the Society, was becoming less conspicuous in the early twentieth century.

Into the Twentieth Century

The first centenary of the restoration of the Society, falling just as the conflagration of the World War was beginning, passed with virtually no public Jesuit commemoration of or literary reflection on the years of suppression. But following the war, Thomas J. Campbell, a Jesuit, undertook a history of the Society in which considerable space was devoted to these years.28 Not surprisingly, Campbell’s narrative is told almost entirely from a Jesuit perspective, with the four decades of suppression divided into a section on the “sequel” to Dominus ac Redemptor, followed by essays titled, “Russian Contingent” and “The Rallying.” Despite its lack of detailed source references Campbell’s book remained influential for many years and influenced later Jesuit historians of the Society such as William Bangert.29 While Campbell, a man of his time, should not be singled out for his Eurocentric presentation, the contrast between his emphases on political events on that continent and the themes of later scholarship on the Jesuits is striking.

One of the most widely read works on the history of the Society in the mid-twentieth century was The Power and Secret of the Jesuits by René Fülöp-Miller.30 By no means an overly sympathetic commentator on the Society’s history, Fülöp-Miller nevertheless did not linger to explore the details of the suppression years in order to support any theories of Jesuit plots or anti-Jesuit counterplots, and makes only brief reference to the “Society of the Faith of Jesus.” Instead he concentrated on what he saw as the efforts of former Jesuits to counter the impact of the Enlightenment. Fülöp-Miller’s volume was widely read and even today is cited, but like McCabe’s work, it lacks adequate documentation of the suppression period and offers too simplistic a narrative to be of much use to the historian.

The creation of Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu in 1932 assured a long overdue permanent home for scholarship on Jesuit history, albeit one still dominated initially by Jesuit scholars with European roots. Yet the first twenty years of the existence of the Archivum saw almost no space devoted to the years 1773 to 1814.31 More recently this trend has been somewhat altered: in the last two decades a handful of articles has appeared touching on the years of suppression. By contrast, The Journal of Jesuit Studies, launched in 2014, has already published a pioneering study of an ill-fated attempt by the Jesuits of Belarus to persuade the Qing Emperor to reject the advances of the British emissary Lord Macartney.32

The long decades between the appearance of Fülöp-Miller’s book and the revival of interest in Jesuit history beginning in the late 1990s were noticeably lacking in ground breaking scholarship on the years of suppression. John McErlean’s summary of the events surrounding the suppression typifies the straightforward but scarcely innovative way in which this period of the Society’s history was approached during these years.33 Enrico Rosa’s survey of Jesuit history, despite its late date, is lacking almost entirely in citations of primary source materials, and has few references to secondary sources as well.34 Its section on the years of the suppression focuses exclusively on Italy and Russia. Martin P. Harney’s chapter “Interim and Restoration” in his historical survey of the Society draws on Smith’s and Zalenski’s work and also utilizes Pastor’s.35 Harney links the narrative of the Jesuit survival in White Russia with the activities of former Jesuits in England and the United States. Harney’s tone is without overt partisan bias, continuing a trend begun some decades earlier, and his summary of events might only be criticized for seeming to rely entirely on secondary sources and for offering no new interpretations.

Worldwide depression, war, and postwar restrictions on access to archives in settings as diverse as China and Czechoslovakia all contributed to this drought. Less easily documented but perhaps of equal importance was how the realignment of intellectual life of the Society before and following Vatican II also played an indirect role in the way that Jesuit historians chose to engage with the history of their order. Peter McDonough's observation that the institutional culture of the Society in these years came to accommodate “parallel realities alongside of the prescribed hierarchy and heroic mythology”36 is apposite here, since respect for hierarchy and admiration for heroism had heretofore shaped so much of the Society’s narrative about itself during the suppression. The simultaneous decline of Thomism as an intellectual framework with which to explore historical and ethical questions also affected Jesuit-created historiography: in the subsequent confusion some Jesuits, McDonough notes, turned away from intellectual pursuits, while many others left the Society. Suddenly the pool from which many of the leading historians of the Society had always been drawn was shrinking, with no obvious group of scholars at hand to take up the work. That Western Europe, which had been the place of origin of the overwhelming majority of scholarship on the Jesuits, was growing much more secular in outlook, did nothing to help the situation.

In the 1960s and 1970s, several popular histories of the Society appeared; one of the best of these was Christopher Hollis’s The Jesuits: A History, in which the years of suppression were given a chapter with the optimistic title “The Interlude.” Hollis observed that “in some way the years of the Suppression were the most fruitful years of the Society’s history,”37 arguing that because former Jesuits were compelled to continue their work in non-Catholic countries, environments for which he believed the Society was especially suited, they achieved much success. Going further, Hollis asserted that the very opposition these ex-Jesuits faced in some of the places they now found themselves was a particularly good fit since the Jesuit system favors pupils who are destined to go into a society that disregards Jesuit principles. Whether or not such an assertion is generally true, Hollis has hit upon what may turn out to be a very fruitful point of view for examining the history of Society during these years: the relationship of former Jesuits and the organizations they founded to the experience of adversity, an element in the Society’s narrative about itself from the very beginning.

Addressing a very different facet of the suppression, Roy Dalton examined the controversies that emerged when the Society’s extensive properties in Canada were claimed by Sir Jeffery Amherst, and the subsequent struggles over their control that followed.38 In this study, focused on a region where the last former Jesuit died in 1800, the emphasis was entirely on the significance of the Society’s material possessions. Jesuit educational and apostolic missions and their cultural legacy were thus addressed only very obliquely in the debate over whether the remaining resources should be used to support church-run or public schools. Yet Dalton’s study contributes to our broader understanding of the relationship of the pre-suppression Society to the land, particularly in colonial regions, and the way in which Jesuit educators were valued by the communities in which they worked.

Jesuits were not completely forgotten by other historians of the first postwar decades but they were less often on center stage. Thus despite its title Paul Bernard’s Jesuits and Jacobins is not primarily about Jesuits,39 and even less so about the Society as an institution. This work does contribute to the literature on the suppression with its sketches of the careers of former Jesuits of the Austrian province, among them Alois Blumauer and Karl Joseph Michaeler. The contributions of Austrian intellectuals trained in Jesuit schools receive attention as well although the reader gains no glimpses of the spiritual life of the pre-suppression Society or of the political climate that brought on the suppression. With a greater focus on the relations between Jesuits and the communities in which they labored, Magnus Mörner edited a collection of materials on the suppression in Latin America which provides some in-depth examination of its effects on education and on the Native populations the Jesuits served.40 Bernard Basset’s retelling of the travails of the history of the Jesuits of England contains a candid assessment from a Jesuit of the Society’s position in 1773: “The Order may have grown too great, too monopolistic, and, in an unexpected way, too conservative.”41 Such admissions were a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Renewal and Revival

Jean Lacouture’s The Jesuits: A Multibiography announced a new approach to Jesuit history, embracing a popular style but still endeavoring to tackle serious questions about the suppression. Lacouture betrayed a considerable sympathy for the Society, which he described as “founded in epic spirit by a band of fearless adventures,”42 characteristics he contrasted with the “mean spirited” breve of suppression and the supposedly meek way in which the Jesuits accepted the suppression of their order. Lacouture, who unlike many of his predecessors, provided a sketch of the pseudo-Jesuit adventurer Niccolò Paccanari (1773–c.1811), saw the restoration of the Society as a setback for Russia, who heretofore had held a “trump card” in its privileged role of asylum for former Jesuits. Whether this factor played a role in the decision to restore the Society Lacouture does not say. Eva Fontana Castelli deals with Paccanari and his followers in far more depth, in the process making two further contributions to our understanding of the suppression. First, she reproduces in its entirety a detailed list of members of the Compagnia della Fede di Gesù, including coadjutores temporales. Secondly, by exploring how the Paccanarists were viewed alternatively as “true” or “false” Jesuits, Fontana Castelli sheds light on how the Society and former Jesuits were regarded in the first years of the nineteenth century.43

The Field is Transformed

As late as the 1990s, the suppression could still be parsed as an outcome of a struggle between emergent Modernism and the Society’s commitment to Thomist philosophy, and cast by some as a conflict between theories of individual liberty and those emphasizing the common good and the role of the state in achieving this good.44 Yet this reductionist interpretation was being challenged from various directions, including through the reassessment by scholars such as Derek Beales of documents long cited as evidence of anti-Jesuit sentiments held by leading political figures of the time.45 At the same time a more subtle interpretation of the role of Jesuit-led education after 1773 was emerging. John L. Heilbron, while acknowledging that Jesuit scientific compendia in the baroque mode were obsolete as curricula by the late eighteenth century, could also recognize that ex-Jesuit instructors remained an invaluable asset to the universities of the empire.46 Historians of the Czech National Awakening, recognizing its roots in the teaching of former Jesuits, echoed this assessment.47 Meanwhile the genealogy of Jesuit engagement with philosophical empiricism both before and after 1814 was documented by John Inglis.48 The last twenty years have seen five significant developments in the historiography of the period of the suppression. First, as in other branches of Jesuit studies, the preponderance of scholarship is now undertaken by non-Jesuits, and in many cases by non-Catholics. While greater relative objectivity may have therefore been gained, questions remain regarding the ability of non-Jesuits studying Jesuit history to understand the subtleties of Jesuit institutional culture and memory, religious experience, and especially psychology and group identity, especially during a period of dislocation and uncertainty. Much more than simply a change in the professional backgrounds of engaged specialists, this shift indicates a change in the “ownership” of a narrative that for so long was the possession of men who identified deeply with the ethos of the Society, as well as with the suffering experienced by former Jesuits during the suppression. This trend toward greater involvement by non-Jesuits in research on the suppression reflects a larger trend in the historiography of many Catholic orders and indeed in the historiography of Catholicism itself, something likely to have a profound impact on the writing of church history far into the future. Representative of this trend is Yasmin Haskell’s article on the former Jesuit Emanuel de Azevedo (1713–96).49

Secondly, more recent studies have focused on particular fields of endeavor or areas of interest of former Jesuits in the new contexts in which they found themselves after 1773. The years of suppression are no longer a shadowy hiatus presented as a prelude to the restoration of the Society. For example, Maurice Whitehead has written on the continuities and discontinuities found in Jesuit education in England before and during the suppression and has chronicled the survival of formerly Jesuit schools in the Low Countries.50 The themes of survival and renewal, as opposed to suppression and expulsion, and the challenges of defining these concepts with regard to the Society after 1773 have attracted the interest of scholars such as Ronnie Po-chia Hsia.51 At the same time the degree to which the activities of former Jesuits can be counted as part of the narrative of the history of the Society is less certain than it once was.52 Denis Kondakov, focusing on the Francophone ex-Jesuit population in imperial Russia, finds that they balanced their role as protectors of a classical patrimony with the necessity of catering to the tastes of those who were, in turn, their own protectors.53 Agustín Udías has grappled with the problematics of locating the career of Giovanni Antonio Grassi (1775–1849), an astronomer who joined the Jesuits in Belarus, and who was later rector of Georgetown University, between the narratives of the pre- and post-suppression Society.54 Part of the answer to such dilemmas may be found through a more careful examination of the interior lives of these men. Although Brian O’Leary devotes only a small portion of his essay on the history of Jesuit spirituality to the years between 1773 and 1814, he does call attention to the centrality of that spirituality to Jesuit identity and experience (a compelling potential link among former Jesuits and a theme ignored by many of the historians cited here). He also notes that “pure” Jesuit spirituality could be diluted or reshaped during this uncertain period by outside influences, such as the teachings of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle.55 Interpretations such as O’Leary’s raise broader questions about the essential nature of “Jesuitness” that must be considered in future discussions of continuity and identity during the years after 1773. These developments have implications beyond historiography, as modern Jesuit educational institutions, perhaps especially in North America, struggle with new definitions of the Society’s “way of proceeding” and with Jesuit identity in the many settings where few Jesuits remain. Since the institutional histories of Jesuit schools such as Georgetown University can contribute to the historiography of the period between 1773 and 1814,56 the interplay between this historical scholarship and ongoing institutional self-definition will be another factor shaping the historiography of the Society during this period. Thirdly, there has been a renewed interest in several of the most important or representative personalities of the suppression years. St. José Pignatelli (1737–1811),57 Ruđer Bošković (1711–87)58 and Gabriel Gruber (1740–1805) have been the subjects of recently published scholarship (the last work actually written many decades earlier).59 Clorinda Donato has cast light on the largely forgotten work of ex-Jesuits Filippo Salvatore Gilii (Felipe Salvator Gilij, 1721–89) who composed Saggio di historia americana, and Girolamo Tiraboschi (1731–94), who wrote the first history of Italian literature.60 Emanuele Colombo has introduced to readers the little-known Luigi Mozzi de’ Capitani (1746–1813), whom he calls “a key figure in the survival of the Society of Jesus during the years after its suppression.”61 As a founder of institutions, John Carroll (1735–1815) has long received attention from historians of the Society; Raymond A. Schroth, himself a Jesuit, reminds us that Carroll also journeyed from a tolerant attitude to one of disgust at the violence of the French Revolution and a focused concern with preserving his own authority.62 Increasingly, discussions of these individuals have escaped the “good guy/bad guy” polarities of the nineteenth century, although the history of the Society, including the years 1773–1814, remains one dominated by notable personalities.

In a simultaneous fourth development, close examination of Jesuit history in specific geographical regions has required a rethinking of the easy periodization and historical categories of pre- and post-suppression. Bruno Signorelli calls attention to the “long suppression” of Jesuits in lands ruled by the House of Savoy, a process that began with efforts by this dynasty to restrict office holding to absolvents of the University of Torino.63 Andrés Prieto has added to our understanding of the intellectual life of former Jesuits of the Spanish Americas in a wide-ranging study.64 In it, he describes the defense of the nature and peoples of the America as undertaken by former Jesuits such as Luis de Molina (1535–1600) who responded to attacks from the Comte de Buffon and others who claimed that the Americans had spawned inferior animals and humans. Prieto locates these “Creole Jesuits,” exiled to Italy, in the late Enlightenment discourses on the social and natural sciences, thereby shedding light on the connection between pre-suppression Jesuit science and the European literary debates of the 1780s. Yet the connection of these former Jesuits to the intellectual world that had existed before 1773 is also undeniable.

Finally, the approach to this historical period has become noticeably more global, or perhaps more precisely, intentionally less Euro-centric, a trend that reflects a worldwide tendency in the writing of history, and especially the history of missions and religious orders.65 Comparative studies of undertakings of former Jesuits in widely separated settings have appeared.66 In this context, models such as inculturation that have been applied to Jesuit history at other points can now be applied to the years 1773–1814, and the idea that these years must be seen as a profound break with the earlier history of the Society is being reconsidered or at least refined. A recent conference on the restoration of the Society devoted significant attention to the “survival” and even renewal of the Society during the period of its suppression.67 At the heart of many of these investigations lie questions about the essential qualities of the experience of being a Jesuit, and about the degree to which these qualities continued (and can be identified) after the destruction of the Society’s formal institutions.

A number of recent studies suggest where scholarship on the years of suppression might be heading. Mariagrazia Russo and António Júlio Limpo Trigueros have provided future scholars with a valuable resource with their cataloguing of the biographical data of more than one thousand former Jesuits of the Lusitanian province sent into exile in Italy.68 In addition to information regarding birth and educational attainment, we are provided in many cases with details on where these ex-Jesuits (including coadjutores temporales) lived, which points towards future investigation of the impact these men had on the lands to which they had been exiled.

Uwe Glüsenkamp’s study of the fate of German Jesuits who had worked in Spanish and Portuguese colonies aims at a contextualization of their later activities.69 The literary production of these ex-Jesuits receives special attention, and Glüsenkamp offers some quantitative analysis of the contexts in which they ultimately died. The reproduction in this volume of a drawing commemorating ex-Jesuits who died in the prison of São Julião reminds us of how a baroque sensibility and aesthetic persisted in the culture of the colonial missions up to and even beyond the moment of their suppression. Glüsenkamp concludes with the intriguing question of what everyday life might have been like for ex-Jesuits who found themselves in the cloisters of other religious orders, thereby inviting from another angle an examination of the essential qualities of Jesuit identity as experienced by these men.

Geoffry Holt’s short monograph focuses on the post-suppression career of a single Jesuit.70 The letters of William Strickland (1731–1819), which Holt cites extensively, shed light not only on this ex-Jesuit’s service as the president of the Liège Academy and as “administrator” of the property of the abolished Society in England, but also capture some of the flavor of the culture in which English ex-Jesuits moved. In contrast to the baroque aesthetic communicated in the above-mentioned São Julião memorial, Strickland and his colleagues operated in a gentlemanly milieu influenced at least indirectly by the Enlightenment values of eighteenth-century Britain. Paccanari earns a mention but we hear nothing of the scandals that brought him down and that cast a shadow on those seeking to revive the Society. Holt has also produced a work that devotes two chapters to the impending cataclysm of suppression.71 In doing so he draws on correspondence that has attracted little attention elsewhere. What is of value here is not so much a revelation of historical facts but rather a glimpse of the temperament and mood of the men about to be uprooted by events. Holt, a Jesuit, writes in a fairly traditional format, eschewing social history and cross-disciplinary approaches. Yet this form of scholarship is still of considerable value to historians seeking to understand the experience of former Jesuits in Britain. Thomas Morrissey's wide-ranging study of Peter Kenney and his times may be regarded as somewhat less conservative in style, and is also carefully based on archival material.72

Dale K. Van Kley covers the familiar ground of the suppression and its immediate aftermath in an essay on Catholic conciliar reform, but provides something that no other writer so far has mentioned: the image of “a host of angry Jesuits,” who came to act like an “ex-Jesuit international” after 1773.73 Van Kley’s contribution is welcome, since the mass of careful quantitative documentation in much of the literature can obscure the human emotions that were very much part of the experience of suppression for Jesuit and non-Jesuit alike. The negative consequences of the suppression for the mental health and social support systems of former Jesuits is also beginning to receive attention. Writing about the suppression in Mexico, Salvador Bernabéu Albert describes a priest in training and coadjutores temporales who were all “locos” (possibly clinically depressed) and unable to comprehend what had happened to them.74 Many of their compatriots also were feeble or ill—and thus vulnerable as well. The travails of another category of former Jesuits, those in Brittany who as fully professed members of the Society, could not swear unequivocal loyalty to the king of France, is explored by D. Gillian Thompson, who sees them as less the victims of the urbane philosophes than of the provincial parlement and its functionaries.75

The sheer number of scholars currently exploring topics related to the suppression and the wide range of their source materials are striking. Marek Inglot has combed archives in Rome and elsewhere to compile additional documentation of the Society’s sojourn in Russia.76 Anna Peck has reconstructed the story of the Jesuit mission to Siberia, which commenced in 1811.77 Paul Shore has explored the fates of former Jesuits of the Bohemian province and of the Society’s properties after 1773,78 while Thomas Murphy devoted an important portion of his monograph on Jesuit slaveholding in Maryland to the years 1773 to 1814.79 Niccolò Guasti has investigated the complex relations between former Jesuits expelled from Spain and the political leadership of the Italian peninsula after 1773.80 Herman Schwember has explored the impact of the suppression on the economies of Chile and other Spanish colonies.81 Meanwhile Jonathan Wright has made a case for an admittedly more reductive and traditional view of the “momentous historical events” driving the suppression.82 A collection of essays edited by Thomas McCoog has chronicled the experiences of the Jesuits of the English province during the years of suppression.83

The appearance of the Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits,84 which devoted considerable space to the years of suppression, signaled both that the historical study of the Society was now of sufficiently widespread interest to merit such an accessible reference work, and also that the study of the period of suppression needed to be integrated more fully into the history of the post-1814 Society. Yet Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia correctly points out that an adequate survey of the period 1773 to 1814 cannot yet be written since “the greater part of the scholarship remains to be done.”85 Much of this work will likely be initiated in archives and libraries, but there is still a need for interpretive and analytical studies, as, for example, of the already documented educational and journalistic activities of former Jesuits, both collectively and individually.

Where to Next?

The future of the historiography of the suppression period is likely to retain its interdisciplinary character, and will see innovative ways of organizing and comparing documentation of events from the suppression years, a process which has been both supported and influenced by the emergence of what has been called the “third” Society of Jesus since Vatican II and the 31st general congregation. A pioneering example of such new approaches is Bertrand M. Roehner’s comparative and quantitative study of Jesuit expulsions.86 A new volume from Cambridge University Press with more than a dozen essays places the events of the suppression and its aftermath in the broadest possible context.87 The approach found in this collection, which is both multidisciplinary and also in many cases more interpretively daring, represents an advance in the study of the suppression years that is likely to have a major impact on future scholarship.

In the twenty-first century historiography of the suppression, two formerly important categories of contributors, the confessionally oriented anti-Jesuit writer and the equally passionate Jesuit apologist, have vanished from the scene. Yet this does not necessarily mean that the history of the suppression years will now be free from partisan debate and even polemic. The fact that the Jesuits are not merely an historical artifact, but a vital organization, one of whose members at this writing has become the leader of the Catholic Church, ensures that this chapter of Jesuit history, along with others, will continue to be scrutinized.

The lines where such discussions about the years of suppression may be located are not yet clear, but the activities and personalities of former Jesuits, as well as the organizations and networks they sustained, are likely to inspire debates, most probably including scholars not labeled as “experts on Jesuits.” Moreover, there remain categories of former Jesuits, most notably the coadjutores temporales, whose contributions and experiences have yet to be fully incorporated into a narrative of the Society after 1773. Changing perspectives on the relationship between missionary and the missionized are affecting the way primary-source materials from Jesuit missions are approached, and this will undoubtedly influence the assessment of the consequences of the disbanding of these missions. Whole fields of inquiry still await exploration, among them, relations between former Jesuits and women, former Jesuits who left the Catholic Church, anti-Jesuit sentiment among former Jesuits, and the role of the arts in life of ex-Jesuits. The historiography of the years of suppression will likely have a lively and useful future.


1 Thanks to Campion College, Regina, Saskatchewan and to Wolfson College, Cambridge University, for their support during the writing of this essay.

2 An English translation of the entire text of Dominus ac Redemptor appears in Thomas M. McCoog, Promising Hope: Essays on the Suppression and the Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003), 296–312.

3 Christina Vogel, “The Suppression of the Society of Jesus, 1758–1773,” in European History Online, (accessed May 9, 2016).

4 H. C. Erik Midelfort, Exorcism and Enlightenment: Johann Joseph Gassner and the Demons of Eighteenth-Century Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 28.

5 Samuel J. Miller, Portugal and Rome c.1748–1830: An Aspect of the Catholic Enlightenment (Rome: Università Gregoriana Editrice, 1978), 303. See also other controversial responses by ex-Jesuits to the suppression. Ronald A. Binzley, “Ganganelli's Disaffected Children: The Ex-Jesuits and the Shaping of Early American Catholicism, 1773–1790,” American Catholic Historian 26 (2008): 47–77.

6 Mathieu-Mathurin Tabaraud, Du pape et des jésuites, ou exposé de quelques événemens du pontificat de Pie VII…, 2nd ed. (Paris: Égron, 1815).

7 Roísin Healy, The Jesuit Specter in Imperial Germany (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 33–34.

8 Giulio Cesare Cordara, De suppressione Societatis Iesu commentarii, 8 vols. (Padua: Stab. Tipografico L. Penada, 1925). See also Owen Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 377.

9 See Robert E. Scully, S.J., “The Suppression of the Society of Jesus: A Perfect Storm in the Age of the ‘Enlightenment’,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 45, no. 2 (2013): 40.

10 “Es war ein Kriegesinstitut, das für den Frieden nicht mehr paßte.” Leopold von Ranke, Fürsten und Völker von Süd-Europa im XVI. und XVII. Jahrhundert, 4 vols. (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1834–37), 4:201.

11 Giovanni Battista Nicolini, History of the Jesuits: Their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Designs (London: George Bell, 1879).

12 Charles Lazare Laumie, Résumé de l'histoire des jésuites depuis l'origine jusqu'a la destruction de leur société (Paris: Dupont, 1826), 487.

13 Jacques Cretineau-Joly, Cleìment XIV et les jeìsuites (Paris-Bruxelles: Mellier, 1847).

14 Jules Michelet and Edgar Quinet, Des jésuites (Paris: Hachette, 1845).

15 Augustin Theiner, Geschichte des pontificates Clemens XIV (Leipzig-Paris: Didot, 1853).

16 Quoted in R. W. Truman, “Afterword: The Suppression of the Society of Jesus Viewed from the Twenty-First Century,” in Sydney Smith, S.J., The Suppression of the Society of Jesus, Joseph Munitiz ed. (Leominster: Gracewing, 2004), 319–37, at 329–30.

17 Stanislas Zalenski, Les jésuites de la Russie-Blanche, trans. A. Vivier, 2 vols. (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, [1886?]).

18 E.g., 49, 56, 102, and 176.

19 James T. Flynn, “The Role of the Jesuits in the Politics of Russian Education, 1801–1820,” Catholic Historical Review 56, no. 2 (1970): 249–65. See also Daniel L. Schlafly, Jr., “True to the Ratio studiorum? Jesuit Colleges in St. Petersburg,” History of Education Quarterly 37, no. 4 (1997): 421–37.

20 Thomas Hughes, History of the Society of Jesus in North America Colonial and Federal Documents. Volume I, Part II. Nos. 141–224 (1605–1838) (London: Longmans, 1910).

21 This work, cited in footnote 14 above, was originally published in serialized form in The Month, vol. 99 (January–June 1902).

22 Ludwig von Pastor, Geschichte der Päpste seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters, 16 vols. (Freiburg im Breisgau, St. Louis: Herder, 1899–1933). An English translation also exists: Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, Frederick Ignatius Antrobus, ed., 40 vols. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., n.d.).

23 See John W. O’Malley, Saints or Devils Incarnate? Studies in Jesuit History (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 16–17.

24 E. g., The Secreta monita of the Jesuits: Being the Private Rules of the Lion's Provider (London: Aylott and Jones, 1850). See also Sabina Pavone, The Wily Jesuits and the Monita secreta: The Forged Secret Instructions of the Jesuits: Myth and Reality, trans. John P. Murphy (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005).

25 Robert Danieluk, “Some Remarks on Jesuit Historiography 1773–1814,” in Robert A. Maryks and Jonathan Wright, eds., Jesuit Survival and Restoration: A Global History, 1773–1900 (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 334–48, at 336.

26 Joseph McCabe, A Candid History of the Jesuits (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1913), 349.

27 “The book is an excellent example of history as it used to be written in the eighteenth century.” William Walker Rockwell, “The Jesuits as Portrayed by Non-Catholic Historians,” The Harvard Theological Review 7, no. 3 (1914): 358–77, at 366.

28 Thomas J. Campbell, The Jesuits 1534–1921: A History of the Society of Jesus from Its Foundation to the Present Time (New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1921).

29 William V. Bangert, A History of the Society of Jesus (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1986). See also William Bangert, “The Second Centenary of the Suppression of the Jesuits,” Thought 48, no. 2 (1973): 165–88.

30 Originally published as Macht und Geheimnis der Jesuiten (Berlin: Knaur, 1929).

31 A rare exception is Emil Clemens Scherer, "Aus Petersburger Briefen an einen Strassburger Exjesuiten," Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 39 (1951): 167–80.

32 Gregory Afinogenov, “Jesuit Conspirators and Russia’s East Asian Fur Trade, 1791–1807,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 2, no. 1 (2015): 56–76 (doi: 10.1163/22141332-00201003).

33 John McErlean S.J., “Clement XIV and the Suppression of the Jesuits,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 22, no. 87 (1933): 480–93.

34 Enrico Rosa, I gesuiti: Dalle origini ai nostri giorni (Roma: Edizioni "La Civiltà Cattolica," 1957).

35 Martin P. Harney, The Jesuits in History (New York: The America Press, 1941).

36 Peter McDonough, Men Astutely Trained: A History of the Jesuits in the American Century (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 458.

37 Christopher Hollis, The Jesuits: A History (New York: Macmillan, 1968), 177.

38 Roy C. Dalton, The Jesuits' Estates Question: 1760–1888: A Study of the Background for the Agitation of 1889 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968), 18ff.

39 Paul Bernard, Jesuits and Jacobins: Enlightenment and Enlightened Despotism in Austria (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971).

40 Magnus Mörner, ed., The Expulsion of the Jesuits from Latin America (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1965).

41 Bernard Basset, The English Jesuits from Campion to Martindale (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968), 120.

42 Jean Lacouture, Jesuits: A Multibiography, trans. Jeremy Leggett (London: The Harvill Press, 1995) 300.

43 Eva Fontana Castelli, La “Compagnia di Gesù sotto altro nome”: Niccolò Paccanari e la Compagnia della fede di Gesù (1797–1814) (Rome: Institutum Historicum S.I., 2007).

44 E. g., Douglas Letson and Michael Higgins, The Jesuit Mystique (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1995), 49.

45 Derek Beales, “The False Joseph II,” The Historical Journal 18, no. 3 (1975): 467–95.

46 John L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries: A Study of Early Modern Physics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), 143.

47 E. g., Josef Koči, České národní obrození (Prague: Svoboda, 1978). For the continuing importance of ex-Jesuit educators in the Polish Commonwealth see Richard Butterwick, The Polish Revolution and the Catholic Church 1788–1792: A Political History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

48 John Inglis, Spheres of Philosophical Inquiry and the Historiography of Medieval Philosophy (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 58–59.

49 Yasmin Haskell, “Suppressed Emotions: The Heroic Tristia of Portuguese (ex-)Jesuit, Emanuel de Azevedo,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 42–60 (doi: 10.1163/22141332-00301003).

50 Maurice Whitehead, English Jesuit Education: Expulsion, Suppression, Survival and Restoration (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); Maurice Whitehead, “Jesuit Secondary Education Revolutionized: The Académie anglaise, Liège, 1773–1794,” Paedagogica historica 40, no. 1–2 (2004): 33–44.

51 Ronnie Po-chia Hsia, “Jesuit Survival and Restoration in China,” in Maryks and Wright, eds., Jesuit Survival and Restoration, 245–60.

52 See Paul Shore, “Enduring the Deluge: Hungarian Jesuit Astronomers from Suppression to Restoration,” in Maryks and Wright, eds., Jesuit Survival and Restoration, 148–161, at 156.

53 Denis Kondacov, “Les ‘coquins de la Russia Blanche’: La francophonie jésuite en Biélorussie aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles,” in Elena Gretchanaia, Alexandre Stroev, and Catherine Viollet, eds., La francophonie européenne aux XVIIIe-XIXe siècles: perspectives littéraires, historiques et culturelles (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2012), 137–50.

54 Agustín Udías, Jesuit Contribution to Science: A History (Cham: Springer, 2015), 134.

55 Brian O’Leary, “Jesuit Spirituality before and after the Suppression,” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 103, no. 412 (2014/15): 586–97, at 593.

56 Anna Harwell Celenza, “A Jesuit University in the New World: Music’s Cultural Mission at Georgetown University (1789–1930),” in Anna Harwell Celenza and Anthony R. DelDonna, eds., Music as Cultural Mission: Exploration of Jesuit Practices in Italy and North America (Philadelphia: St. Joseph’s University Press, 2014), 167–89. See also Emmett Curran, A History of Georgetown University (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010).

57 José Antonio Ferrer Benimeli, José Pignatelli (1737–1811): La cara humana di un santo (Bilbao: Ed. Mensajero, 2011).

58 R.J. Boscovich: Vita e attività scientifica; His life and scientific work; Atti del convegno, Roma, 23–27 maggio 1988, Piers Bursill-Hall, ed. (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1993). The revival of interest in Bošković had begun some years earlier. Lancelot Law Whyte, ed., Roger Joseph Boscovich, S.J., F.R.S., 1711–1787: Studies of his Life and Work on the 250th Anniversary of his Birth (New York: Fordham University Press, [1961]).

59 Paul Pierling, G. Gruber et les jésuites réfugiés en Russie (Meudon: Plamia, 1999).

60 Clorinda Donato, “The Politics of Writing, Translating and Publishing: New World Histories in Post-Expulsion Italy; Filippo Salvatore Gilij’s 1784 Saggio di storia americana,” in Marc André Bernier, Clorinda Donato, and Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, eds., Jesuit Accounts of the Colonial Americas: Intercultural Transfers, Intellectual Disputes, and Textualities (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 50–80.

61 Emanuele Colombo, “Jesuit at Heart: Luigi Mozzi de’ Capitani (1746–1813) between Suppression and Restoration,” in Maryks and Wright, eds., Survival and Restoration, 212–28, at 228.

62 Raymond A. Schroth, The American Jesuits: A History (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 55–56.

63 Bruno Signorelli, “I Gesuiti sabaudi durante la soppressione (1773–1814),” in Paolo Bianchini, ed., Morte e resurrezione di un ordine religioso: Le strategie culturali ed educative della Compagnia di Gesù durante la soppressione (1759–1815) (Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2006), 109–31.

64 Missionary Scientists: Jesuit Science in Spanish South America, 1570–1810 (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2011).

65 At the same time the European popular mission field and the impact of the suppression on this field still await fuller exploration. These themes receive passing attention in Michael B. Gross, The War against Catholicism: Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 33. See also Colombo, “Jesuit at Heart,” 221–23.

66 E. g., Daniel L. Schlafly, “The Post-Suppression Society of Jesus in the United States and Russia: Two Unlikely Settings,” in John W. O’Malley et al., eds., The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 772–84.

67 This survival can be understood in many forms. Jeffrey Chipps Smith for example frames a study around an enduring “Jesuit artistic diaspora” in a particular geographical region. Jeffrey Chipps Smith, “The Jesuit Artistic Diaspora in Germany after 1773,” in Maryks and Wright, eds., Jesuit Survival and Restoration, 129–47.

68 Mariagrazia Russo and António Júlio Limpo Trigueros, S.J., I gesuiti dell’assistenza lusitana esiliati in Italia (1759–1831) (Padua: CLEUP, 2013).

69 Uwe Glüsenkamp, Das Schicksal der Jesuiten aus der oberdeutschen und den beiden rheinischen Ordensprovinzen nach ihrer Vertreibung aus den Missionsgebieten des portugiesischen und spanischen Patronats (1755–1809) (Münster: Aschendorff, 2008).

70 Geoffrey Holt, William Strickland and the Suppressed Jesuits (London: British Province of the Society of Jesus, 1988).

71 Geoffrey Holt, English Jesuits in the Age of Reason (Tunbridge Wells: Burns and Oates, 1993).

72 Thomas Morrissey, Peter Kenney, S.J., 1779–1841: The Restoration of the Jesuits in Ireland, England, Sicily, and North America (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2014). An earlier edition appeared two decades ago: Thomas Morrissey, As One Sent: Peter Kenney SJ, 1779–1841: His Mission in Ireland and North America (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1996).

73 Dale K. Van Kley, “Catholic Conciliar Reform in an Age of Anti-Catholic Revolution,” in Kathleen P. Long, ed., Religious Differences in France: Past and Present (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2006), 91–140, at 113.

74 Salvador Bernabéu Albert, “El vacío habitado: Jesuitas reales y simulados en México durante los años de la supresión (1767–1816),” Historia mexicana 58, no. 4 (2009): 1261–1303, at 1269.

75 D. Gillian Thompson, A Modern Persecution: Breton Jesuits under the Suppression of 1762–1814 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1999).

76 Marek Inglot, La Compagnia di Gesù nell'Impero Russo (1772–1820) e la sua parte nella restaurazione generale della Compagnia (Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1997). There is also an English-language version: Marek Inglot, How the Jesuits Survived their Suppression: The Society of Jesus in the Russian Empire (1773–1814), ed. and trans. Daniel L. Schlafly Jr. (Philadelphia: St. Joseph’s University Press, 2015).

77 Anna Peck, “Between Russian Reality and Chinese Dream: The Jesuit Mission in Siberia, 1812–1820,” Catholic Historical Review 87, no. 1 (2001): 17–33.

78 Paul Shore, “The Suppression of the Society of Jesus in Bohemia,” Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 65 (1996): 138–56.

79 Thomas Murphy, Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717–1838 (New York: Routledge, 2001). Murphy, a Jesuit himself, also tackled the question of why Jesuit communities freed their slaves.

80 Niccolò Guasti, “I gesuiti spagnoli espulsi (1767–1815): Politica, economia, cultura,” in Bianchini, ed., Morte e resurrezione, 15–52.

81 Herman Schwember, Las expulsiones de los jesuitas, o, los fracasos del éxito (Santiago: Comunicaciones Noreste, 2006), 178.

82 Jonathan Wright, “From Immolation to Restoration: The Jesuits, 1773–1814,” Theological Studies 47, no. 4 (2014): 729–45.

83 Thomas McCoog, ed., Promising Hope: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003).

84 Thomas W. Worcester, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

85 Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia, “Review of The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits , English Historical Review 125, no. 514 (2010): 701–2. To cite only one volume that may prove a rich source of data on the early historiography of this period, the University of Illinois library holds a manuscript by former Jesuit Antonio López de Priego entitled Historia del arresto, expatriacion, viage a Italia y extincion de la provincia Mexicana de la Sagrada Compania de Jesus.

86 Bertrand M. Roehner, “Jesuits and the State: A Comparative Study of their Expulsions (1590–1990),” Religion 27 (1997): 165–92.

87 Jeffrey Burson and Jonathan Wright, eds., The Jesuit Suppression in Global Context: Causes, Events, and Consequences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

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