The Huguenot Society of Maryland

The Effects of the Huguenots' Dispersion

The departure of the Huguenots from France drained the country of many of its most talented, honest, affluent, and industrious citizens. Sizable sections of France were left depopulated. Large amounts of capital left France, hastening its financial decline. Furthermore, the harshness of Louis XIV towards the Huguenots alienated many Protestant countries, particularly England, Germany, and those in Scandinavia.


Louis and his advisors discovered to their surprise that the Huguenots’ value to France was far, far greater than their numbers would have suggested. Before the Huguenots fled France, the country had achieved the lead among European industrial nations. After the Huguenots’ departure from France, England became the predominant industrial country. The Huguenots were not the sole cause of the changes in the fortunes of these two countries, but they were a major factor.


The Huguenots enriched the countries where they made their new homes. They brought with them new capital, managerial know-how, skills in manufacturing, such as weaving silks and woolens, and the making of hats, paper, knives, watches, clocks, furniture, surgical instruments, jewelry, and silver and gold objects — just to list a few. Professionally, they were medical doctors, scientists, lawyers, writers, printers, engineers, teachers, mathematicians, painters, sculptors, bankers, and farmers. Individual Huguenots again and again rose to the very top of their professions in the various countries in which they settled.


The Thirty Years’ War had devastated much of continental Europe. The Huguenots’ moves into The Netherlands and Brandenburg (Prussia) revitalized these countries. By 1700, the Huguenots made up twenty per cent of the population of Berlin (and had their own main church just off of the Unter den Linden).


To England, they gave new vigor, making possible its industrial ascendency and artistic achievements, such as the Golden Age of English silver, which dates from 1720 to 1830.