This article examines Charles Villers's Essay on the Spirit and Influence of Luther's Reformation (1804) in its intellectual and historical context. Exiled from France after 1792, Villers intervened in important French and German debates about the relationship of religion, history, and philosophy. The article shows how he took up a German Protestant discussion on the meaning of the Reformation that had been underway from the 1770s through the end of the century, including efforts by Kantians to seize the mantle of Protestantism for themselves. Villers's essay capitalized on a broad interest in the question of Protestantism and its meaning for modern freedom around 1800. Revisiting the formation of the narrative of Protestantism and progress reveals that it was not a logical progression from Protestant theology or religion but rather part of a specific ideological and social struggle in the wake of the French Revolution and the collapse of the Old Regime.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_printy/3/