New research by Cédric Chambru studies the effects of the spread of Protestantism at the turn of the 18th century. In 1685, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes ended religious toleration in France and led to an unprecedented wave of out-migration: the Huguenot exodus. Within few years, approximately 200,000 Protestant traders, manufacturers, artisans and farmers departed for neighbouring countries and the New World.
Many observers of the time thought that the relative economic decline of France in the early 18th century originated in the out-migration of Huguenots, which fostered the development and competitiveness of foreign industries, such as watchmaking in Switzerland and textiles in Prussia.
But the new study finds that while the Revocation appears to have slowed the development of literacy in 18th century France, it had limited negative economic outcomes, contrary to the views advanced by many contemporaries.
In line with existing research on Protestantism in the Holy Roman Empire and Switzerland, this study documents a positive and significant relationship between the diffusion of Protestantism and the literacy rate of men, a proxy for human capital, in the late 17th century (1686-90) and the late 18th century (1786-90) at the department level. Increasing the share of Huguenots in a department by one percentage point increased the male literacy rate by 2.3% in 1686-90.
The effect persisted over the 18th century, despite the Revocation. Using new data on the place of origin of Huguenot refugees after 1685, this study shows, however, that the effect of Protestantism on literacy was weaker in departments in which the share of Huguenot refugees was above the national mean.
To analyse the economic consequences of the Revocation, the authors collects a new dataset of crop prices between 1670 and 1700 from 83 different markets located in 48 departments. He finds that there is no difference in agricultural productivity, as measured by annual changes in wheat prices, before and after the Revocation.
In addition, he uses new data on the occurrence of social conflicts from 1670 to 1700, which derived from the Historical Social Conflict Database (HISCOD), to study the effect of the departure of Huguenots on local economic conditions. 
He shows that, prior to 1685, the presence of Protestants is not correlated with the frequency of food riots at the department level. This is no longer true after the Revocation. Departments with a higher share of refugees experienced less subsistence-related conflicts after 1685.
On average, point estimates imply that departments in which the share of Huguenot refugees was above the mean share of Huguenot refugees experienced 5.2% less social conflicts and 6.7% less subsistence-related conflicts after the Revocation in 1685. Overall, that could suggest that remaining population in local areas with large number of out-migrants were better off, at least in the short run.
While the Revocation appears to have slowed the development of literacy in 18th century France, it had limited negative economic outcomes contrary to the views advanced by many contemporaries. In addition, Mara Squicciarini and Nico Voigtländer document that upper-tail knowledge rather than literacy strongly predicted city growth after the onset of French industrialisation. That suggests that the relative decline of literacy following the Revocation did not hinder early French economic development.
 The Historical Social Conflict Database (HiSCoD) is a new online database designed to provide academic researcher and general public with a set of resources for analysing social conflict from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century. It currently includes information on nearly 10,000 social conflict events.
This project is developed by Cédric Chambru (University of Zurich) and Paul Maneuvrier-Hervieu (University of Caen). The website will be accessible in early September at: https://www.unicaen.fr/hiscod/.
Personal webpage: https://cedricchambru.github.io/