The Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (English: Historical and Critical Dictionary) is a biographical dictionary written by Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), a Huguenot who lived and published in Holland after fleeing his native France due to religious persecution. The dictionary was first published in 1697, and enlarged in the second edition of 1702. An English translation was first published in 1709. The overwhelming majority of the entries are devoted to individual people, whether historical or mythical, but some articles treat religious beliefs and philosophies. Many of the more controversial ideas in the book were hidden away in the voluminous footnotes, or slipped into articles on seemingly uncontroversial topics.
The rigor and skeptical approach used in the Dictionary influenced many thinkers of the Enlightenment, including Denis Diderot and the other Encyclopédistes, David Hume, and George Berkeley. Bayle delighted in pointing out contradictions between theological tenets and the supposedly self-evident dictates of reason. Bayle used the evidence of the irrationality of Christianity to emphasize that the basis of Christianity is faith in God and divine revelation. But at the same time Bayle sought to promote religious tolerance, and argued strongly against inflexible and authoritarian application of religious articles of faith. This led to a bitter argument with his fellow French Protestant Pierre Jurieu.
- Thomas M. Lennon and Michael Hickson, "Pierre Bayle," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2012) online