In this book, author Alan Tulchin breaks apart the process of mass conversion in the sixteenth century to explain why the Reformation occurred, using Nimes, the most Protestant town in France, as a case study. Protestantism was overwhelmingly successful in Nimes, since most people converted, but the process culminated in two bloody massacres of Nimes's remaining Catholics. Beginning in 1559, Nimes underwent a revolutionary period comparable to 1789 in its intensity. Townspeople flocked to hear Protestant preachers, and then took over Catholic churches, destroyed statues and stained glass, and zealously took part in the Wars of Religion, which convulsed France beginning in 1562. As the Protestant movement grew, it had to adapt to changing circumstances. Nimes's first Protestants were attracted to Calvin's Eucharistic theology; later converts believed that the Church needed to be cleansed of its excesses to encourage moral reform of the Crown; and in the end, many converted due to peer pressure or under duress.
Thus rather than argue that one factor - whether religious, economic, or political - explains the Reformation, That Men Will Praise the Lord emphasizes that the Protestant movement was the result of compromises forged among its members. The result is a new theory of the Reformation, which explains how previous theories, thought to be incompatible, in fact fit together. In order to prove his thesis, Tulchin constructed a database of all surviving wills and marriage contracts for the period. He also consulted church, court, city council, and tax records. The book thus marries quantitative techniques from the social sciences and anthropology to cultural history in a dramatic analytic narrative.