French Protestant zealots who revolted against the government of Louis XIV early in the 18th century. They were provoked to revolt by the brutal repression of all public practice of their faith following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), and by the apocalyptic writings of certain Protestant intellectuals, notably Pierre Jurieu. They were led by a number of ecstatic, uneducated "prophets" convinced of their own direct inspiration and of the imminent end of the world. Their first great act of violence was the assassination in 1702 of an archpriest, François de Langlade du Chayla, a leader in the suppression of Protestantism in the Cévennes. Immediately thereafter the Camisards organized armed bands to resist government punitive action in rural parts of the southern French provinces of Dauphiné, Vivarais, and, above all, the Cévennes. They found an effective amateur military leader in Jean Cavalier and won some sympathy and a little support from Protestant nations. They fought with fanatic ferocity but were no match for the armies of LouisXIV. The revolt had been effectively crushed by 1704, when many of its leaders fled into exile abroad. Later flare-ups of violence were easily contained by government troops. The movement was repudiated by the more responsible Protestant leaders in France, notably Antoine Court, and some of its characteristic claims, particularly of direct revelation, were condemned by a secret provincial synod of the French Reformed Church of the Cévennes (1715). But the Camisards' excesses provided an excuse for continuing sporadic persecution of French Protestantism throughout much of the rest of the 18th century.
See Also: nantes, edict of
Bibliography: h. m. baird, The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 2 v. (New York 1895) v.2. a. ducasse, La Guerre des Camisards (Paris 1946). c. almeras, La Révolte des Camisards (Paris 1960). f. vernet, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50) 2:1435–43. r. voeltzel, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 1:1603–04.
[r. m. kingdon]