When the Edict of Nantes ended the French Wars of Religion on 13 April 1598, it ordered in its first article that ‘the memory of everything which occurred … during all the previous troubles, and the occasion of the same, shall remain extinguished and suppressed, as things that had never been’.1 It declared forgetting to be the order of the day and echoed edicts of pacification issued at the end of the preceding civil wars, reprising the terms used in peace treaties signed throughout early modern Europe. More than a rhetorical commonplace, this article posed the problem of how to find historical distance from controversial events, and how to negotiate traces of the recent past that had an enduring presence in collective memory.2

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Despite the edicts of pacification and their repeated compulsions to forget, historians have demonstrated how the memory of the...

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