François Furet (French: [fʁɑ̃swa fyʁɛ]; 27 March 1927, Paris – 12 July 1997, Figeac) was a French historian, and president of the Saint-Simon Foundation, well known for his books on the French Revolution.
He was elected to the Académie française in March 1997, just three months before he died in July.
Born in Paris on 27 March 1927, into a wealthy family, François Furet was a brilliant student who graduated from the Sorbonne with the highest honors and soon decided on a life of research, teaching and writing. He received his education at the Lycée Janson de Sailly and at the faculty of art and law of Paris. In 1949, Furet entered the French Communist Party, and in 1956, he left the party. After beginning his studies at the University of Letters and Law in his native Paris, Furet was forced to leave school in 1950 due to a case of tuberculosis. After recovering, he sat for the agrégation and passed the highly competitive exams with a focus in History in 1954. After a stint teaching in high schools, he began work on the French Revolution at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, supporting himself with a job at the France Observateur between 1956–64 and Nouvel Observateur between 1964-66. In 1966, he began work at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris, where he would later be president (from 1977 to 1985). Furet served as Director of Studies at the EHESS in Paris and as a professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. In March 1997, he was elected to the Académie française. He died in July 1997 in a Toulouse hospital while being treated for head injuries he incurred in an accident on a tennis court. He was survived by his wife Deborah, daughter Charlotte, and son Antoine from a previous marriage. There is now a François Furet school in the suburbs of Paris, as well as a François Furet prize given out every year.
Furet's major interest was the French Revolution. Furet's early work was a social history of the 18th century bourgeoisie but, after 1961, his focus shifted to the Revolution. While initially a Marxist and supporter of the Annales School, he later separated himself from Les Annales and undertook a critical re-evaluation of the way the French Revolution is interpreted by Marxist historians. He became the leader of the "revisionist" school of historians who challenged the Marxist account of the French Revolution as a form of class struggle. As other French historians of his generation like Jacques Godechot or Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Furet was open to ideas of English language historians, especially Alfred Cobban. Likewise, Furet frequently lectured at American universities, from 1985 onwards, taught at the University of Chicago. In his first work on the Revolution, 1966's La Révolution, Furet argued that the early years of the Revolution had a benign character but, after 1792, the Revolution had "skidded" off into the blood lust and cruelty of the Reign of Terror. The cause of the Revolution going "off course" was the outbreak of war in 1792, which Furet controversially argued was intrinsic to the Revolution itself, rather than being an unrelated event as most French historians had argued until then.
The other major theme of Furet's writings was its focus on the political history of the Revolution, and its relative lack of interest in the Revolution's social and economic history. Other than a study of Lire et écrire (1977), a study co-edited with Jacques Ozouf concerning the growth of literacy in 18th century France, Furet's writings on the Revolution tended to focus on its historiography. In a 1970 article in Annales, Furet attacked "the revolutionary catechism" of Marxist historians. Furet was especially critical of the "Marxist line" of Albert Soboul, which Furet maintained was actually more Jacobin than Marxist. Furet argued that Karl Marx was not especially interested in the Revolution and that most of the views credited to him were really the recycling of Jacobinism.
From 1995 until his death, Furet’s views about totalitarianism led to a debate via a series of letters with the German philosopher Ernst Nolte. The debate had been started by a footnote in Furet's Le passé d'une illusion criticizing Nolte's views over the relationship between Fascism and Communism, leading Nolte to write a letter of protest. Furet defended his view about "totalitarian twins" sharing the same origins while Nolte argued that fascism was a response to Communism.
Furet was the leading figure in the rejection of the "classic" or "Marxist" interpretation. Desan (2000) concluded he "seemed to emerge the victor from the bicentennial, both in the media and in historiographic debates."
Furet, an ex-Communist, published his classic, La Révolution Française, in 1965-66. It marked his transition from revolutionary leftist politics to liberal Left-center position, and reflected his ties to the social-science-oriented Annales School.
Furet then moved to the right, re-examining the Revolution from the perspective of 20th century totalitarianism (as exemplified by Hitler and Stalin). His Penser la Révolution Française (1978; translated as Interpreting the French Revolution 1981) was a breakthrough book that led many intellectuals to reevaluate Communism and the Revolution as inherently totalitarian and anti-democratic. Looking at modern French Communism he stressed the close resemblance between the 1960s and 1790s, with both favoring the inflexible and rote ideological discourse in party cells where decisions were made unanimously in a manipulated direct democracy. Furet further suggested that popularity of the Far Left to many French intellectuals was itself a result of their commitment to the ideals of the French Revolution. Furet set about to imagine the Revolution less as the result of social and class conflict and more a conflict over the meaning and application of egalitarian and democratic ideas. He saw Revolutionary France as located ideologically between two revolutions: the first an egalitarian one that began in 1789, and the second the authoritarian coup that brought about Napoleon's empire in 1799. The egalitarian origins of the Revolution were not undone by the Empire and were resurrected in the July Revolution of 1830, the 1848 Revolution, and the Commune of Paris in 1871.
Working much of the year at the University of Chicago after 1979, Furet also rejected the Annales School, with its emphasis on very long-term structural factors, and emphasized intellectual history. Influenced by Alexis de Tocqueville and Augustin Cochin, Furet argues that Frenchmen must stop seeing the revolution as the key to all aspects of modern French history. His works include Interpreting the French Revolution (1981), a historiographical overview of what has preceded him and A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989).
Because of his influence in history and historiography, Furet was granted some of the field's most prestigious awards, among them:
Furet's concerns were not only historical but also historiographical. He attempted particularly to address distinctions between history as grand narrative and history as a set of problems that must be dealt with in a purely chronological manner.
Events from the year 1927 in France.1997 in France
Events from the year 1997 in France.Alfred Cobban
Alfred Cobban (24 May 1901 in London – 1 April 1968 in London) was an English historian and professor of French history at University College, London, who along with prominent French historian François Furet advocated a Revisionist view of the French Revolution.Centre de recherches politiques Raymond Aron
The Centre de recherche politiques Raymond Aron is the research center of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales that specializes in political philosophy.
Created by François Furet in 1982, the center's goal was to give a new basis to the study of politics in France and moving away from the dominant marxist paradigm. Its members have been at the forefront of the rediscovery of the French liberal tradition and the reintroduction of classical philosophy in contemporary political studies.
The center's seminars concentrate on a multidisciplinary approach (Philosophy, History, Sociology and Law).
The CRPRA holds seminars solely to Master and Doctorate students.Cultural Amnesia (book)
Cultural Amnesia is a book of biographical essays by Clive James, first published in 2007. The U.K. title, published by MacMillan, is Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, while the U.S. title, published by W.W. Norton, is Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and the Arts. The cover illustration was adapted from a work by German Modernist designer Peter Behrens.Enragés
The Enraged Ones (French: Les Enragés) were a small number of firebrands known for defending the lower class and expressing the demands of the radical sans-culottes during the French Revolution. They played an active role in the 31 May 31 – 2 June 1793 Paris uprisings that forced the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention, allowing the Montagnards to assume full control.The Enragés became associated with this term for their angry rhetoric appealing to the National Convention to take more measures that would benefit the poor. Jacques Roux, Jean-François Varlet, Jean Théophile Victor Leclerc and Claire Lacombe, the primary leaders of the Enragés, were strident critics of the National Convention for failing to carry out the promises of the French Revolution.The Enragés were not a unified party, rather the individual figureheads that comprised the group identified as the Enragés worked for their own objectives and evidence of cooperation is inconclusive. As individual political personalities, the Enragés were cynical to the point of anarchism, suspicious of most political organizations and individuals and they resisted ties to others. The leaders did not see themselves as part of a shared movement and Roux even called for Varlet's arrest. The notion of the Enragés as a cohesive group was perpetuated by the Jacobins as they lumped their critics Leclerc and Roux into one group.Hannah Arendt Prize
The Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought (German: Hannah-Arendt-Preis für politisches Denken) is a prize awarded to individuals representing the tradition of political theorist Hannah Arendt, especially in regard to totalitarianism. It was instituted by the German Heinrich Böll Foundation (affiliated with the Alliance '90/The Greens) and the government of Bremen in 1995, and is awarded by an international jury.Historiography of the French Revolution
The historiography of the French Revolution stretches back over two hundred years, as commentators and historians have sought to answer questions regarding the origins of the Revolution, and its meaning and effects. By the year 2000, many historians were saying that the field of the French Revolution was in intellectual disarray. The old model or paradigm focusing on class conflict has been challenged but no new explanatory model had gained widespread support. Nevertheless, there persists a very widespread agreement to the effect that the French Revolution was the watershed between the premodern and modern eras of Western history.Jules Michelet
Jules Michelet (French: [ʒyl miʃ.lɛ]; 21 August 1798 – 9 February 1874) was a French historian. He was born in Paris to a family with Huguenot traditions.
In his 1855 work, Histoire de France (History of France), Jules Michelet was the first historian to use and define the word Renaissance ('Re-birth' in French), as a period in Europe's cultural history that represented a drastic break from the Middle Ages (which he loathed), creating a modern understanding of humanity and its place in the world. Historian François Furet wrote that his History of the French Revolution (1847) remains "the cornerstone of all revolutionary historiography and is also a literary monument". His aphoristic style emphasized his anti-clerical republicanism.Le Débat
Le Débat is a bi-monthly French periodical founded in 1980 by Pierre Nora and Marcel Gauchet. It has been characterised as the "single most influential intellectual periodical" of late-twentieth-century France.The first issue of Le Débat appeared on the day of the funeral of Jean-Paul Sartre. As editor, Pierre Nora announced that the review would exemplify a new, post-partisan, role for French intellectuals: free from commitment to revolutionary politics, they would concentrate on the exercise of 'reflective judgement'. According to Nora, Le Débat sold between 8,000 and 15,000 copies per issue in the 1980s. Past editors include Raymond Aron, Georges Dumézil, François Jacob, Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, François Furet and Jacques Le Goff.Pierre Nora
Pierre Nora (born 17 November 1931) is a French historian elected to the Académie française on 7 June 2001. He is known for his work on French identity and memory. His name is associated with the study of new history. He is the brother of the late Simon Nora, former French officer.
Nora occupies a particular position that he himself qualifies as on "the side" of the French historical sphere.Pierre Rosanvallon
Pierre Rosanvallon (born 1 January 1948, Blois) is a French intellectual and historian, named professor at the Collège de France in 2001. He holds there the chair in modern and contemporary political history. His works are dedicated to the history of democracy, French political history, the role of the state, and the question of social justice in contemporary societies. He is also director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, where he led the Raymond Aron Centre of Political Researches between 1992 and 2005. Rosanvallon was in the 1970s one of the primary theoreticians of workers' self-management in the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) trade union.
He graduated from the Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC) management school with a PhD from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. In 1982, he created the Fondation Saint-Simon think-tank, along with François Furet. The Fondation dissolved in December 1999. Rosanvallon is a member of the Scientific Counsels of both the French National Library (since 2002) and the École Normale Supérieure (since 2004) in Paris.
Rosanvallon created in 2002 the "intellectual workshop" La République des Idées, which publishes a review and books.Red fascism
Red fascism is a term equating Stalinism and Maoism with fascism. Accusations that the leaders of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era acted as "Red fascists" were commonly stated by Trotskyists, left communists, social democrats, democratic socialists, liberals and anarchists, as well as among right-wing circles.Saint-Simon Foundation
The Saint-Simon Foundation (French: Fondation Saint-Simon) was a French think tank created in 1982 by the historian François Furet. Its membership included intellectuals, journalists, high-ranking civil servants, industry leaders including businesspeople and trade unionists, and academics. It was a member of The Hague Club international network of think tanks. It dissolved in 1999, and many of its former members have now joined Le Siècle circle.Stéphane Courtois
Stéphane Courtois (born 25 November 1947) is a French historian and university professor, a Director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Professor at the Catholic Institute of Higher Studies (ICES) in La Roche-sur-Yon, and Director of a collection specialized in the history of communist movements and regimes.
The Black Book of Communism, a book edited by Courtois, has been translated into numerous languages, sold million of copies, and is considered one of the most influential, although one of the most controversial books written about communism. In the first chapter of the book Courtois argued that Communism and National Socialism are similar totalitarian systems, and that Communism was responsible for the murder of around 100 million people in the 20th century.Courtois is a research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, in the Géode (group of study and observation of democracy) at Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, as well as a Professor at the Catholic Institute of Higher Studies – ICES. He is editor of the journal Communisme, which he cofounded with Annie Kriegel in 1982, and part of the Cercle de l'Oratoire think tank.
As a student, from 1968 to 1971, Courtois was a Maoist, but he later became a strong supporter of democracy, pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law.The Black Book of Communism
The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a 1997 book by Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Andrzej Paczkowski and several other European academics documenting a history of political repressions by Communist states, including genocides, extrajudicial executions, deportations, killing population in labor camps and artificially created famines. The book was originally published in France as Le Livre noir du communisme: Crimes, terreur, répression by Éditions Robert Laffont. In the United States, it was published by Harvard University Press,:217 with a foreword by Martin Malia. The German edition, published by Piper Verlag, includes a chapter written by Joachim Gauck. The introduction was written by Courtois. Historian François Furet was originally slated to write the introduction, but was prevented from doing so by his death.:51 The book has been translated into numerous languages, sold millions of copies and is considered one of the most influential, although one of the most controversial, books written about communism.The book's title was chosen to echo the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee's Black Book, a documentary record of Nazi atrocities written by Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman.:xiiiThe Mountain
The Mountain (French: La Montagne) was a political group during the French Revolution, whose members called the Montagnards (French: [mɔ̃taɲaʁ]) sat on the highest benches in the National Assembly.
They were the most radical group and opposed the Girondists. The term, which was first used during a session of the Legislative Assembly, came into general use in 1793. Led by Maximilien Robespierre, the Montagnards unleashed the Reign of Terror in 1793. By the summer of 1793, two minority groups who were referred to as the Mountain and the Girondin, divided the National Convention. The Mountain was composed mainly of members of the middle class, but represented the constituencies of Paris. As such, the Mountain was sensitive to the motivations of the city and responded strongly to demands from the working class sans-culottes. The Mountaineers had little understanding of the daily life and needs of the people in the cities and towns beyond Paris. Although they attempted some rural land reform, most of it was never enacted and they generally focused on the needs of the urban poor over that of rural France. The Mountain operated on the belief that what was best for Paris would be best for all of France.The Girondins were a moderate political faction created during the Legislative Assembly period. They were the political opponents of the more radical representatives within the Mountain. The Girondins had wanted to avoid the execution of Louis XVI and supported a constitution which would have allowed a popular vote to overturn legislation. The Mountain accused the Girondins of plotting against Paris because this caveat within the proposed constitution would have allowed rural areas of France to vote against legislation that benefits Paris, the main constituency of the Mountain. However, the real discord in the Convention occurred not between the Mountain and the Gironde, but between the aggressive antics of the minority of the Mountain and the rest of the Convention.The Mountain was not entirely unified as a party and relied on leaders like Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Danton and Jacques Hébert, who themselves came to represent different factions. Hébert, a journalist, gained a following as a radical patriot Mountaineer (members who identified with him became known as the Hébertists) while Danton led a more moderate faction of the Mountain party (followers came to be known as Dantonists). Regardless of the divisions, the nightly sessions of the Jacobin club, which met in the rue Saint-Honoré, can be considered to be a type of party caucus for the Mountain. In June 1793, the Mountain successfully ousted most of the moderate Gironde members of the Convention with the assistance of radical sans-culottes.Following their coup, the Mountain, led by Hérault-Sécuells, quickly began construction on a new constitution which was completed eight days later. The Committee of Public Safety reported the constitution to the Convention on 10 June and a final draft was adopted on 24 June. The process occurred quickly because as Robespierre, a prominent member of the Mountain, announced on 10 June the "good citizens demanded a constitution" and the "Constitution will be the reply of patriotic deputies, for it is the work of the Mountain". However, this constitution was never actually enacted. The Constitution of 1793 was abandoned when Robespierre later granted himself and the Committee of Public Safety dictatorial powers in order to "defend the Revolution".Unified Socialist Party (France)
The Unified Socialist Party (French: Parti Socialiste Unifié, PSU) was a socialist political party in France, founded on April 3, 1960. It was originally led by Édouard Depreux (from its creation to 1967).War in the Vendée
The War in the Vendée (1793; French: Guerre de Vendée) was an uprising in the Vendée region of France during the French Revolution. The Vendée is a coastal region, located immediately south of the Loire River in western France. Initially, the war was similar to the 14th-century Jacquerie peasant uprising, but quickly acquired themes considered by the Jacobin government in Paris to be counter-revolutionary, and Royalist. The uprising headed by the newly formed Catholic and Royal Army was comparable to the Chouannerie, which took place in the area north of the Loire.
The departments included in the uprising, called the Vendée Militaire, included the area between the Loire and the Layon rivers: Vendée (Marais, Bocage Vendéen, Collines Vendéennes), part of Maine-et-Loire west of the Layon, and the portion of Deux-Sèvres west of the River Thouet. Having secured their pays, the deficiencies of the Vendean army became more apparent. Lacking a unified strategy (or army) and fighting a defensive campaign, from April onwards the army lost cohesion and its special advantages. Successes continued for some time: Thouars was taken in early May and Saumur in June; there were victories at Châtillon and Vihiers. After this string of victories, the Vendeans turned to a protracted siege of Nantes, for which they were unprepared and which stalled their momentum, giving the government in Paris sufficient time to send more troops and experienced generals.
Tens of thousands of civilians, royalists, Republican prisoners, and sympathizers with the revolution or the religious were massacred by both armies. Historians such as Reynald Secher have described these events as "genocide", but most scholars reject the use of the word as inaccurate. Ultimately, the uprising was suppressed using draconian measures. The historian François Furet concludes that the repression in the Vendée "not only revealed massacre and destruction on an unprecedented scale but also a zeal so violent that it has bestowed as its legacy much of the region's identity ... The war aptly epitomizes the depth of the conflict ... between religious tradition and the revolutionary foundation of democracy."