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We must therefore try to ascertain what simple facts underlie moral qualities just as we can ascertain those that underlie physical qualities. There is, then, a system in human ideas and sentiments. Thus, his Les origines de la France contemporaine asked what linguistic possibilities France had available to it in the eighteenth century and what forms of thought this linguistic apparatus permitted. During the two centuries leading up to , he argued, French writers had sought to purify their language of uncouth words and to give it clarity and balance. In this case, Taine turned to quantiWcation to Taine, History of English Literature, , 9.

Taine, Sa vie et sa correspondance, 1 November Taine, Sa vie et sa correspondance, —61 22 April ; for another example, see also The storage, residues, and unconscious combining of images. By its nature, the soul was a historical phenomenon, heavily subject to outside inXuences. Rigorously materialistic, Taine answered his question by arguing that the self had no real existence. It was merely the space within which the impressions of life were registered, an interior that remained amidst the continual Xux of exterior impressions.

Such stability as it had derived from its placement, not its content. Its coherence rested on memory, the series of sensations built up over a Taine, Les origines de la France contemporaine, n. This vision led Taine to an interest in the circumstances that might disrupt the continuity of selfhood: false memories, delusions, insanity, and cerebral disturbances, concerning which he undertook researches with specialists at Parisian asylums.

But in this respect as in others, his scientiWc argument accorded with the larger outlook of the Magny group. Although they believed that their contemporaries had dramatically improved the methods of historical study, they also expressed reservations about contemporary historical writing;91 and these doubts applied even to Jules Michelet, whose interest in social history might seem akin to their own.

Trivial causes help to explain this failure. In an review of a Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve, esp. For Sainte-Beuve and his colleagues, there could be no such simple progress through history, indeed no clear identiWcation of a successful end point to historical development.

For the author, the enemies that this spirit encounters are so many personal enemies. A transformed society has transformed the soul. Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, 7 October For similarities between Sainte-Beuve and Michelet, cf. Quoted and discussed in more detail in Chapter 4, below. We [are] free from everything,. A general idea: there is no progress, merely evolution in human life. They shared their interest in the history of society, but not their conWdence about what that history meant. Sainte-Beuve, Taine, and their associates, I have argued, believed that history was a central method for understanding the human condition and that, as such, it needed to move beyond its Wxation on politics, institutions, ideas, and narrative.


  1. Have His Carcase (Lord Peter Wimsey, Book 8).
  2. Lost Worlds: The Emergence of French Social History, 1815-1970.
  3. John Strachan | Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences | Lancaster University.

Because it concerned itself with private persons and inner lives, this new history also demanded new sources and techniques of analysis, notably through the development of a scientiWc psychology. In answering this question, it is important to note that the group was not unambiguous in its conservatism.

Bourget, Essais de psychologie contemporaine, — In , the leading Catholic intellectual Monsignor Dupanloup publicly denounced Taine and Renan for atheism, leading Sainte-Beuve in turn to defend them Casanova, in Sainte-Beuve, , summarizes the episode; it is discussed in more detail in Chapter 3, below. They were the enemies of civilization, of order, of public peace. Every wound they received was a blessing for the country. They showed the emergence of new societal energies and the consequent need for new social arrangements.

Sainte-Beuve, Tableau historique et critique, We must not, because of our personal tastes, stand in the way of what our era is achieving. Everything that serves the progress of humanity, however humble and profane it may seem, is by that fact deserving of respect and sacred. The decay of invention among the Romans demonstrated their failure of nerve; our fecundity of invention shows our internal energy. Tocqueville, Old Regime and the French Revolution, , Taine failed as a historian because he focused on details and neglected the larger circumstances from which they emerged. Understanding the Revolution therefore demanded a new kind of science, the Taine, Les origines des ls France contemporaine, He could only understand the revolutionary leaders as criminals, their actions to be explained by particular facts in their backgrounds and personality.

Renan himself noted the irony that his plan to write a large-scale history of Mediterranean religion had culminated in a Life of Jesus, though he also defended the choice. Cochin, Taine, and the other conservative historians considered here thus turned to social history partly because of their very fears about modernization. Like other aspects of modern culture to which scholars have recently Renan, Life of Jesus, To what extent, he asked, could literary Wgures like the Magny diners be compared with the highly professionalized historians of the twentieth century?

For one thing, Taine and his fellows enjoyed close relations with some of the early advocates of professional, university-based history. My understanding of the issues implicit in discussions of professionalization owes much to Smith, Gender of History. Taine, Sa vie et sa correspondance, , ; see above. Following a thorough and sensitive overview of the university historians between and the war, William R. There is in his whole person a certain low and disgusting smell of the provincial schemer. Keylor, Academy and Community, Keylor, Academy and Community, 68—69, 94—95, ; see also den Boer, History as a Profession, — Novick, That Noble Dream, Goncourt and Goncourt, Journal, 19 August His Professor Brichot is yet another pathetically subservient character, fawning on a salon hostess and so poor that he considers marrying his servant.

They were dazzled by his descriptions of dinners to which they would never be invited. Even today, recruitment is loftier in the law schools and at Saint-Cyr than in the humanities. Lavisse, Charles Seignobos, and Charles-Victor Langlois all complained in these years about the narrowness of much historical research and urged historians to address larger questions. Proust, Sodome et Gomorrhe, Keylor, Academy and Community, —8.

But the widening inXuence of their journal ensured a measure of institutional permanence for the tradition of criticizing university history-writing. By the mid-nineteenth century, I argue in this chapter, French intellectuals had developed a robust conception of social history. They believed that history should concern itself with the real life of past societies, rather than limiting itself to politics and great men, and they insisted that new sources and methods would be needed for getting at these realities.

Addressing such questions, they understood, required attention to groups that had scarcely Wgured in earlier historical accounts— women, peasants, small-town elites. All these expectations implied a new kind of history, one that conXicted with the traditions of the genre, and nineteenth-century intellectuals regularly used language that revealed their awareness of having broken with older visions of historical study. These ideas emerged in a speciWc milieu, the group of freelance intellectuals who in the s and s associated with the literary critic Dosse, New History in France, This orientation would change dramatically after This episode and the larger issues surrounding it are discussed in detail in Chapter 4, below.

These writers depended for their livelihoods on reaching a broad public, and, often under acute Wnancial pressure, they worked quickly, sometimes overconWdently. But their best writing meets high scholarly standards, a result both of the ferocity with which they worked and the excellent literary educations that they had received. Their writing was also extraordinarily inXuential. In the years around , these were among the most widely read of all French writers.

In a variety of ways, I argue here, their circumstances help account for the kind of history that these intellectuals advocated and wrote. All were attentive to literary culture, and all wrote works of Wction at some point in their careers. As in their novels, in their historical writings they sought to explicate how people lived in the world and how their personalities functioned. Willingly or not, they had made their way through journalism and the world of the salons, rather than through the university. The nineteenthcentury French university was committed to both, and so could not tolerate doubters like Taine and Renan among its faculty.

Their detachment from conventional career paths left these writers unusually ready to explore the psychological workings of their own society, and unusually willing to see valid ethical and cognitive systems in societies that were not their own.

This hardly resulted in a full cultural pluralism. What was the shape of French history? When had France become modern, and what were the respective contributions of the Old Regime and the Revolution to its modernity? But I argue in this chapter much more basic issues were also at stake.

Their views of French chronology also expressed their ideas about the element of progress in historical change. The best-known nineteenth-century historians saw historical processes as fundamentally progressive. In contrast, Sainte-Beuve, Taine, Renan, and the other writers on whom this study focuses contested all progressive visions of historical development.

They did so from an explicitly atheistic position, which disturbed their contemporaries, but they were equally critical of secular visions of progress. Their doubts derived in part from their ambivalence about the modern world itself. Reluctant to accord moral superiority to the world they inhabited, these writers could not see previous history as simply the story of how that world unfolded. Because such large issues lay behind discussions of historical chronology, these discussions persisted through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the terms of debate changed remarkably little.

Although they disagreed in their speciWc views, French historians and other intellectuals deWned the relevant questions in similar ways, and their answers clustered around a few fundamental themes. Instead, writers 2. These ideas are brieXy discussed in the Introduction, above. This chapter thus focuses on a very speciWc problem, how French writers understood the seventeenth century, as a means of access to much larger issues: how did these writers deWne modernity, how did they understand the nature of historical change, and ultimately how did they deWne Frenchness itself?

At the popular level, there were of course the tales of Alexandre Dumas, which sold in legendary quantities, and which one observer described as the history lessons of ordinary people. SainteBeuve himself proWted from this interest. Some of it, of course, reXected the anguished response of conservatives to the discomforts of life after , and there were milder forms of nostalgia as well, for a world that was slower and quieter. Goncourt and Goncourt, Journal Port-Royal is the subject of the following chapter.

It touched also some of the movers and shakers of nineteenth-century academic life, and notably the philosopher and historian Victor Cousin. Cousin dominated the French university during the Restoration and July Monarchy, having become professor of philosophy at the Sorbonne in , at the age of twenty-three. Cousin made full and arbitrary use of his power. While beginning his studies at the pious seminary of Saint-Sulpice, Renan and his fellows were not allowed 7.

Franklin and his setting are discussed in Chapter 5, below. On Cousin, see Kelley, Descent of Ideas 14— But more radical thinkers took more or less the same position. It was then that natural philosophy came into being and that scientiWc capacity assumed its true character, that of the spiritual element of a new social system. Cousin, Cours de philosophie, 59, Cousin, Cours de philosophie, , Discussed by Pocock in Barbarism and Religion, The establishment of the Academy of Sciences, instituted under Louis XIV by his minister Colbert, is a solemn declaration of this principle.

This humanist [humaine] thought, unknown to Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Observe, after that violent sixteenth century, the honest seventeenth, [age of] la vie moderne. Monarchs and philosophers alike contributed to this modernity, enshrining science and establishing the political peace needed for social progress. In a series of articles, the novelist Stendhal argued that the nineteenth century needed to give up its preoccupation with French classical culture altogether, and turn instead to stronger, Comte, Early Political Writings, 32— Michelet, Cours, A cumbersome politesse, followed a few years later by manners that were more lively and free of any feeling, repressed and in the end seem to have done away with any enthusiasm and any energy.

How could true gaiety have shown itself there? He succeeded like the great man he was; that is, almost perfectly. The comedies that he produced for the courtiers of the sun-king were probably the best and the most amusing that one could write for such people. But, in , we are no longer this kind of people.

It is my contention that henceforth tragedies should be written for us, the young people of the year of Our Lord , who are argumentative, serious, and a bit envious. In the following generation, Charles Baudelaire argued in similar terms for the speciWcity of modern aesthetic conditions and the irrelevance to them of models from the past. Stendhal, Stendhal, , ; emphasis in the original.

Stendhal, Racine and Shakespeare, 47— I have slightly modiWed this translation. Stendhal, Racine and Shakespeare, Absolute and eternal beauty does not exist. An eclectic is not a man. Real boundaries separated one thought-world from another and severely restricted cross-border transactions.

Early nineteenth-century intellectuals thus presented their successors with an apparently straightforward antithesis. Lurking behind these viewpoints, of course, was the reality of Cousin and Michelet stressed the deep continuities of French culture across that gap, Stendhal and Baudelaire its impassibility. Intellectuals of the following generations might situate themselves at many points along the spectrum that stretched from Cousin to Stendhal, but they could not avoid the problem itself. But as the nineteenth century advanced, few intellectuals were willing to accept the choice in its extreme form.

However critically they viewed seventeenthcentury culture, it remained an obvious presence in national life. Conversely, no one could deny the novelty of the conditions that the Revolution had created, or the implications of the new technologies and industrial organizations that already were becoming visible in the s. Over the forty-Wve years of his career, he returned again and again to the problem of Wtting the seventeenth century into a larger understanding of French culture.

Shakespeare, Lope de Vega and Cervantes, Dante, and Tasso—all worked within national traditions, rather than rejecting them wholesale, and all managed to speak to popular as well as aristocratic audiences. Literary history conventionally presents him as evolving over the course of his career from Romantic to neoclassical views, but in fact he returned to these questions repeatedly without ever coming to a straightforward assessment of what the seventeenth century had meant.

French literary greatness would always be colder, less emotional, than that of neighboring nations. For Sainte-Beuve, there were gains as well as losses in this speciWcally French pattern of cultural development. But even these seventeenth-century successes, Sainte-Beuve argued, had little connection to the deeper realities of French life. Sainte-Beuve, Tableau historique et critique, , —67, The discreet graces will return eventually, perhaps.

His introduction made clear his view that the anger of was justiWed, indeed inevitable. Thirty years later, he had become more conWdent about nineteenth-century society. SainteBeuve loved seventeenth-century literature, but his comments suggested that authentic Frenchness was rather to be found in these rougher times.

For Sainte-Beuve as for Stendhal and Baudelaire, then, discussion of the seventeenth century inevitably shaded into discussion of historicity, posing questions about the chronological divisions within French history and about how inXuences seeped from one era to another. The period also Sainte-Beuve, Portraits de femmes, Madame Roland. Sainte-Beuve, Oeuvres, , , Sainte-Beuve, Nouveaux lundis, ; on de Bonald and other reactionaries, — Both sets of questions only became more acute as the nineteenth century advanced, bringing social tumult and a growing sense of national weakness, both exempliWed in the events of — The urgency that these questions had for nineteenth-century writers is suggested by the example of Hippolyte Taine, in the generation after Sainte-Beuve.

In deWning his approach to history, as we have seen, Taine emphasized his debt to Sainte-Beuve. But he also presented himself as a follower of Stendhal, a remarkable choice in that few midcentury intellectuals took the novelist seriously. This theme dominated his Wrst major work, his dissertation on La Fontaine. There he described French society in terms familiar from Sainte-Beuve, as divided between two cultures. We have only an artiWcial civilization, which covers us without penetrating. Taine, Les philosophes classiques. This remained his position throughout his career, and as a result the seventeenth century plays a surprisingly large role in his last great work, Les origines de la France contemporaine, whose Wrst volume appeared in Taine, La Fontaine et ses fables, 56, 59, 60, 61, Taine, La Fontaine et ses fables, 46, 61, 97, The book presents itself as an extended reXection on the traumas with which the s had begun: military defeat, which called into question the capacity of French thought to deal with the modern world, and the Paris Commune, which suggested that a democratic society might descend into chaos.

In the s as in , he saw the seventeenth century as the turning point in French cultural history, and he continued to stress the divide between Rabelaisian and neoclassical France. It established itself at the same time as the monarchy and polite conversation, and not by accident. In describing this failure, Taine recycled his language from the s. This line of thought Taine, Les origines de la France contemporaine, , Taine, Les origines de la France contemporaine, , , That question will receive further exploration in the chapter that follows.

Social history - Wikipedia

Their questions about the seventeenth century formed part of a larger interrogation of contemporary certitudes. The continuity of historical progress seemed clearer than it had during the Second Empire, and the questions raised by Stendhal, Baudelaire, Sainte-Beuve, and Taine seemed less pertinent. Hanotaux, Histoire du Cardinal de Richelieu, 1:vi, viii. Christian Jouhaud has drawn attention to this point, and more generally to the eagerness of republican historians to see in Richelieu a precursor of contemporary political choices.

Jouhaud, La main de Richelieu, ou le pouvoir cardinal, passim. These are two tightly linked forces, or indeed altogether merged. By this point his associate Marc Bloch had moved Wrst to the relative safety of southern France, and then into hiding and active resistance. In order to keep the journal alive, Febvre had pressured Bloch into renouncing his share in its management, though Bloch continued to publish in it under an easily decoded pseudonym. But Febvre seems already to have understood that the journal and the historical movement surrounding it faced new possibilities, as well as terrible challenges.

He participated regularly in government commissions on higher education and, through UNESCO, acquired even some measure of international inXuence. Peter Burke incorrectly suggests that the book was a wartime project. Burke, French Historical Revolution, A new philosophical vocabulary emerged, allowing Descartes and his contemporaries to reason in a newly systematic way. A chaos of opinions, contradictory and Xoating.

Floating, because they lack a solid and stable foundation. The solid foundation that will consolidate them. Men who, even in their cities, found themselves in touch with the country, its animals and plants, its smells and noises. Ultimately, material and cultural life are shown to be two aspects of a single whole. Febvre wrote within an academic context that gave considerable attention to these issues.

Less explicitly, though, he also argued with the economic historian Henri Hauser, who taught at the Sorbonne until —when Marc Bloch succeeded him in the position. Hauser will receive brief attention in Chapter 4. But he was also intervening in a much larger discussion that French intellectuals had carried on since the Revolution itself. Like these last two writers, he sought to implement an historical psychology, a term that Taine had employed. That framework allowed for numerous If the answers varied, however, the questions themselves changed little.

They centered on deWning the relationship between the modern present and the premodern past, and on dating the shift from the one to the other. For the writers considered here, both sets of questions led to reXection on the seventeenth century, the age of Richelieu, Louis XIV, and the other great architects of the French state. Intellectuals asked whether the culture of that age had produced a fundamentally new outlook on the world, or whether the upheavals that began in had rendered it irrelevant.

The debate cut across the basic divisions of French intellectual life, chronological, professional, and political. These debates proved so tenacious partly because they touched on the sociology of French history, as well as on its chronology. Those who like Stendhal and Taine viewed seventeenth-century culture as irrelevant or pernicious described it instead as a rickety superstructure atop the deeper realities of French popular culture. To them the real France was that described by Rabelais and La Fontaine, the world of canny tricksters and bawdy jokers. On this view, neoclassical culture and its state sponsors constituted a mainly repressive force, not a creative one.

The terms in which these questions were discussed changed little between the s and the s because the questions themselves were not merely historical. They concerned the present as much as the past, and as a result they were posed with particular urgency following moments of political crisis, when national identity itself appeared to have been threatened: following the revolutionary era, the debacles of —71, and the German occupation that began in Conversely, Hippolyte Taine denounced democracy, but also sought to valorize Rabelaisian popular culture as the core of Frenchness; and he dismissed the supposed leaders of French politics and culture as a destructive inXuence on the nation.

Nor is it appropriate to divide the professional practice of history from the larger currents of French intellectual life. But in writing the book, Febvre also participated in an old cultural debate, which used the markers of French chronology to argue about the essence of French national identity, in the present as in the past. He had begun his own book on the topic in complete isolation, he claimed, believing that the public would Wnd Jansenist practices strange and repellant.

In fact the public responded with enthusiastic interest. Port-Royal is a complex book that deals with an overlapping set of themes.

Lost Worlds

Why did a topic of apparently marginal signiWcance attract such passionate engagement, from both Sainte-Beuve and his audience? For these reasons his impact on twentieth- century historical thinking matches that of more commonly discussed historians like Leopold 03 Chapter 3. Considerable importance thus attaches to understanding the explicit arguments and broader implications of his most important historical work, a work to which he devoted the central years of his career.

The history of religion posed basic problems about what modernity was and how it had come into being. In this context, Port-Royal mattered for its atheism. Pascal, for instance, believed passionately in miracles and in the power of relics. Early modern religion has remained central to more recent explorations of the modernization process.

Especially inXuential examples include M. P-R, Further references to the work appear parenthetically in the text. Such strangeness encouraged Sainte-Beuve to describe his task as essentially anthropological. Here, I hasten to add, are our ancestors. It had not contributed to the evolution of modern France. But Sainte-Beuve is well aware that he uses Port Royal as a kind of thread or point of reference and even pretext for 03 Chapter 3. Vincent de Paul, a third example of seventeenth-century saintliness, has so much personal humility that he gloriWes the aristocrats among whom he moves, and speaks as if Christian virtues matter less than social grandeur P-R, , —79, — 63, In these ways, Port-Royal seems repeatedly to undercut its own signiWcance, showing its subjects to have been both atypical of their times and insigniWcant in the larger development of modern society.

Yet SainteBeuve gives these arguments a series of unexpected twists. First, PortRoyal suggests that in their very oddity the Jansenists in fact expressed central truths about Christianity itself. One must rather admire the skill with which he succeeds in enhancing the appeal of a subject that appears so specialized and remote from imaginative literature. And if one is not careful, Christianity transforms itself so as to Wt with [human] nature. But one of the most direct ways to become one, surely, is to view fallen human nature exactly as Hobbes, La Rochefoucauld, Machiavelli did.

Hence the real threat to Christianity as Sainte-Beuve describes it is not Jansenist pessimism, but the optimism that social progress has occasioned over the past few centuries. Living better and interacting more rationally, humanity can no longer understand itself in the terms that genuine Christian practice requires. If Jansenist pessimism were to become completely unacceptable today; if, thanks to a degree of social progress, human nature were to appear too sound to be described in terms of fundamental misery—.

Port-Royal thus presents its heroes as men and women keenly aware of the coming onslaughts of modernity, who sought desperately to warn their fellow Christians and shore up Christian belief. Their doctrines, in so many ways incompatible with a commonsensical, humane life in the contemporary world, in fact expressed an authentic Christianity; their opponents, who argued for adapting religion to new ethical standards, in fact failed to see the nature of that world, and in particular failed to see the directions in which it was evolving.

For Sainte-Beuve, to study Jansenism was to study the encounter between traditional European culture and the modern world, which would prevail in the eighteenth century and after. This line of thought, reappearing discreetly throughout Port-Royal, rendered it, in important respects, an anti-Christian book. Although SainteBeuve admired much about his subjects, he repeatedly stressed the ties between their beliefs and the social conditions of a backward, vanished world; at the same time, these beliefs in fact embodied the authentic message of Christianity, demonstrating the inappropriateness of that message within an advanced society such as his own.

Given its connections to a speciWc social world, real Christianity of this sort could not survive under the conditions of modernity, which had succeeded in eliminating so many of the fears and uncertainties on which faith had rested in previous centuries. It is not surprising that the papacy responded by placing the book immediately on the Index of Prohibited Books. He had arranged with friends that this material receive its Wrst public exposition as a series of lectures in Lausanne, during the academic year —38, 03 Chapter 3.

In the background lurked Swiss Protestantism. ReXection on French religious culture is here presented as a further step in the Europe-wide tradition of philosophical contestation. But again, the apparent simplicity of this contrast—on the one side, seventeenth-century believers, on the other, Enlightened skeptics and romantic wanderers—tends to break down in the course of its elaboration. In images like these, the Jansenists have ceased to represent a pure resistance to modernity. They have become instead precursors of a distinctively nineteenth-century 8.

The convent of Port-Royal had two houses, one in Paris, the other in the countryside south of the city. The Byronic Pascal recalls our attention to the Byronic recollections that Sainte-Beuve himself experienced during his Swiss sojourn. Those most appalled by modern culture Wnd themselves contributing to it in fundamental ways, even as they seek to halt its encroachments; deeply committed to preserving Christian belief, they contribute to its destruction.

As victims of papal and monarchical persecution, they necessarily acquired some skepticism about the justice and good sense of the political order around them, and they were compelled to organize themselves in innovative ways. Its political theory stressed obedience, but as an illegal movement relying heavily on pamphleteering, its practices were necessarily threatening P-R, , But alongside the modernities that its situation required, the movement displayed others, which were more clearly matters of intellectual choice.

They were equally enthusiastic about the study of nature and by midcentury, were dissecting dogs in order to study the circulation of the blood 9. In this instance, Sainte-Beuve presents the Jansenists as blind to the consequences of their intellectual involvements. Descartes contributed more than anyone else to making the human mind a precision instrument, and that leads far. Unlike Pascal, most of the leading Jansenists failed to understand the consequences of their enthusiasms. In promoting Descartes, argues Sainte-Beuve, they unwittingly undermined their own Christian project.

It should be noted that Sainte-Beuve was not necessarily correct in thus linking Jansenism to enthusiasm for Descartes and for science more generally: cf. Nadler, Arnauld and the Cartesian Philosophy of Ideas. In this case, Port-Royal Wtted within the modernizing seventeenth century both through analogies of form—Jansenism resembled other movements for change—and as a powerful inXuence: its teachings helped to create change in cultural areas that ostensibly had little to do with theology.

Montaigne had Wxed himself within him, while pretending to be a passing guest. But whatever its limitations, this morality had become an essential fact of modern society. Far from irrelevant, they now appear as leading creators of modernity, in their politics, their prose, their science, their vision of human nature, their ideas of the good itself. The German philosopher G. They gratify their own interest; but something further is thereby accomplished, latent in the actions in question, though not present to their consciousness, and not included in their design.

Political power in Port-Royal shows itself above all as a malign inXuence, which tends quickly to pointless brutality. Hegel, Philosophy of History, Kelley, Descent of Ideas 14— Quoted in Bourget, Essais de psychologie contemporaine, But the critique of absolutism implies no corresponding defense of centrist nationalism, of the sort that Cousin himself warmly endorsed. A second area of divergence concerns the end point of historical development, the modern world itself.

Sainte-Beuve viewed modernity as unavoidable, in many ways admirable, but also as a disturbing condition. In contrast, though staunch republicans, the Sorbonne historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries tended to invert this critical view of absolute monarchy, seeing in Richelieu and Louis XIV heroic builders of modern France; see Jouhaud, La main de Richelieu, and the brief discussion in Chapter 2, above.

As discussed in Chapter 1, above. In Sainte-Beuve, Pour la critique, — Modern conditions, however, had enormously intensiWed the Xow of such writing. Writing and getting oneself into print will be less and less a mark of distinction. With our electoral and industrial customs, everyone, at least once in his life, will have had his page, his speech, his prospectus, his toast—in short, will be an author. But he could not accept the vision of triumphal progress announced by Hegel and Cousin.

The detached, divided view of what history had produced allied in SainteBeuve with a Wnal, distinctive commitment: his absolute secularization both of the processes of history and of the historian. They worried both about the threat that atheism represented to society as a whole and about what godlessness meant for historical understanding. Such ideas echoed within French academia. Sainte-Beuve, Pour la critique, Quoted in Casanova, Sainte-Beuve, Kelley, Descent of Ideas, Only with this understanding could the world retain a rational appearance.

These occasional remarks in Port-Royal itself received ampliWcation in other essays. Quoted in Gossman, Basel in the Age of Burckhardt, — Gossman, Between History and Literature, — Tocqueville, Correspondance, 68 22 October Yet the force of the description is ultimately positive.

These expectations have particular force because he applies them to the investigation of religious belief itself. Nonetheless, the coherence of his vision remains striking. Modernity as he presented it had little to do with industrialization or urbanization. To some extent it reXected Sainte-Beuve, Nouveaux lundis, , , , —5, Taken together, these changes in outlook amounted to a new mode of life, a new world. For all its concern with antiquated theological disputes, PortRoyal ultimately focused on the boundary separating modern from premodern societies.

Much of Port-Royal concerns the complex process by which France crossed this boundary. Every inXuential author creates a world that copies him, continues him, and often goes beyond him. But underlying this focus on the particular was a larger conception of the movement toward modernity. This essential unity of the modernizing process is partly sociological, in that many of the same cultural actors participated in its diverse developments, and partly analogical: developments in theology, for instance, show structural resemblances to those in philosophy, poetry, science, and rhetoric.

More important, however, are the intricate causal linkages that render so many of the Jansenists unwitting and unwilling modernizers. The force of these connections was such, so Port-Royal ultimately suggests, as to justify speaking of modernization as a single process, touching all areas of French culture, so pervasive that even its avowed enemies in the end furthered it. Their histories ultimately concerned societal transformation—even as they wrote about nuns, theologians, and philosophers.

Sainte-Beuve, Les cahiers, , no. Sainte-Beuve inserts himself often into his text, as an exemplar of the incapacity for belief that modernity has produced. In the end, Port-Royal suggests, the historian who can best understand the passionate faith of the vanished premodern world is the one who himself has no faith of any kind. It remains important in much contemporary scholarship. Exploring the gap between modernity and its antecedents has thus implicitly meant exploring the modern self, and as such it has drawn on cultural resources well outside the discipline of historical research, on ideologies, experiences, and literature.

In this chapter I develop four arguments about the character of that interaction in twentieth-century France. First, I want to show the importance of the question itself in the process by which distinctive historical approaches deWned themselves in the early twentieth century. Second, in this as in the other topics investigated in this book, twentieth-century historians worked in a complex but mostly tacit dialogue with their predecessors, a dialogue that included borrowing, adaptation, and criticism. In this domain as in others, Annales historians reused old ideas, while Wtting them to new demands and addressing new circumstances in the contemporary world.

Third, I argue here for the importance of these contemporary circumstances in shaping the scholarship of twentieth-century historians. For French historians, this meant above all the presence of colonialism, and I seek to show here the strong presence of colonial imagery in their writings about the history of their own nation.

The twentieth-century colonial world supplied them with metaphors for understanding the social structures of preindustrial Europe, and it supplied incentives for doing so, because the urgency of contemporary colonial encounters encouraged viewing historical data as knowledge that had real-world uses. Finally, I suggest that the force of such contemporary concerns encouraged French historians to reXect on the boundaries between their own practices and those of other intellectual disciplines.

Precisely because their scholarship touched on the ideologies and experiences of contemporary life, they found themselves forced to deWne the speciWcities of their own form of knowledge. As throughout this book, my approach here is primarily textual, with little reference to the backgrounds or personal lives of the scholars I 04 Chapter 4. This method obviously precludes some lines of inquiry—and may seem perversely ill suited to an investigation of social history, which has so often sought to link private life with public utterance.

My refusal of intentionality applies especially to the historian on whom the inquiry focuses, the sixteenth-century specialist and Annales school cofounder Lucien Febvre. See Chapter 1, above. Bloch, French Rural History, xxiii. Bloch and Febvre made these implications explicit, each calling on historians to turn from the hermetic study of parchment and paper to the study of how life actually was lived, in the present as in the past. His scholar was to learn from life, rather than from books alone. Bloch was equally emphatic. Braudel, Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, , Discussed in Chapter 5, below.

Bloch, French Rural History, xxx. I discuss this essay later in this chapter. For certainty, they have often substituted the inWnitely probable; for the strictly measurable, the notion of the eternal relativity of measurement. Those experiences, over the past forty years, have been especially cruel for all men; they have forcibly pushed us to look deep within ourselves and, beyond that, to the common destiny of humanity, that is, to the crucial problems of history.

That culture was a rapidly changing one, which repeatedly confronted historians with the challenges of a modernizing world, requiring them to address new topics and use new methods. More important, the history of society was no uncharted wilderness even in the s, let alone when Duby introduced the History of Private Life, in Dosse, New History in France, 48— Herbert Spencer calls the natural history of society.

To describe the homes, clothing, food, habits, mores, pleasures, the conditions of work and leisure; to penetrate the daily and the real, not forgetting to study religious feeling, intellectual development—to study all of this among the country-dwellers of France during the past three centuries, is this not a task well worth attempting? History has always been a social science. Since the nineteenth century, the social perspective has been increasingly dominant in our ways of seeing history, as it been in reality itself.

There exists a historical school that claims that history ought to be reduced altogether to the history of economic and social facts. Without going so far,.

Lost Worlds: The Emergence of French Social History, 1815-1970

Revue historique 77, no. For Hauser, the history of society needed to be written precisely because past resembled present. Literary critics shared these interests, but suggested other directions in which it might develop. See, for example, Jouhaud, La main de Richelieu, 10, 26, and passim, and the discussion in Chapter 2, above.

In judging the life, the actions, the writings of a famous man, one begins by thoroughly examining and describing the era that preceded his arrival, the society that welcomed him, the general movement of mind. Each presented this sociological interpretation of culture as the commonplace assumption of nineteenth-century intellectuals.

A generation after Sainte-Beuve, the sociological method received less ambivalent exposition from his younger friend Hippolyte Taine. Taine made the contextual the basis of literary understanding.

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Almost always, habits of the mind express [annoncent] those of the heart. They are like oversubtle Xavors: we no longer perceive them; so much delicacy seems to us coldness or pallor. Man, like all living beings, changes with the air that nourishes him. This is so from one end of history to the other: each century, with its own conditions, produces feelings and beauties particular to it; and as the human race advances, it leaves behind forms of society and kinds of perfections that are no longer to be met with.

Unlike sociologically inclined university historians such as Hauser, his point was not the usefulness of the past but its distance, a distance so great as to preclude aesthetic or moral judgment. Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve, quotations at , One must neither sneer nor imitate, but invent and understand. It is necessary that history be respectful, and art original.

Bourget, Essais de psychologie contemporaine, , discussed in Chapter 1, above. History was thus primarily the study of social structures in the past. The word history had the same meaning and referred to the same thing, at least for those who understand it properly. History is the science of social facts, that is, sociology itself. It also had complicated political overtones, as has also been suggested in previous chapters.

This seems worth underlining, because both admirers and critics of social history have stressed its interest to the political Left and its challenges to longestablished cultural traditions. But these were precisely the academics whose historical aims and methods Febvre most vigorously dismissed. Sainte-Beuve, Taine, Bourget, and There were French echoes to the German conservative argument that social history was intellectually unsatisfactory,.

Lost Worlds: The Emergence of French Social History, 1815-1970

Burke, French Historical Revolution, 13— Taine and Fustel began their careers further to the left, but were shocked by the Paris Commune into conservative positions; Bourget was a conservative from the outset, but his opinions became more Wrmly monarchist with age. In , Febvre published a study of the Rhineland, in collaboration with a geographer colleague. No geopolitical structures rendered Franco-German conXict over the Rhineland inevitable; in fact the essence of Rhenish geography lay in the connections it permitted between peoples. The issue had long concerned Febvre.

Febvre and Demangeon, Le Rhin, vii. Febvre and Demangeon, Le Rhin, Febvre, Martin Luther, The literary historian Abel Lefranc believed that Rabelais had broken free of medieval categories and could view the world in materialist, atheistic terms; his Rabelais is a cultural revolutionary. For Febvre no such freedom was available, to Rabelais or any other intellectual. Febvre thus presented mentalities as structures of mind that no individual could altogether evade. There exist between two civilizations essential oppositions. In the movement from one to the next, something new occurs, something like a biological mutation.

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A society appears to him as a complete and homogeneous structure, which expels foreign elements, or reduces them to silence. Struggle for power, for inXuence, for political domination, no doubt; but the deeper causes of antagonism, are they not elsewhere? It is in the analysis. The place of class conXict of this sort in the work of both Febvre and Marc Bloch is discussed in Chapter 6, below.

Contrasts between night and day, unknown to us in our electrically lighted homes; between winter and summer, softened for us—in normal times—by a thousand inventions: these they endured, practically without attenuation, for weeks and months at a time. Evening out of conditions of life, evening out of temperaments—the two go together. Both men had served the entire four years at the front during World War I, amid untold horrors, and both had watched with alarm the rise of National Socialism; alert to what anti-Semitism might mean for France, in Bloch had already conWded to Febvre his fear of ending in a concentration camp,53 and in he was in fact tortured and executed for his part in the resistance.

Students of the twentieth century have encouraged us to see in the violence of the trenches an experience that unsettled and Wnally destroyed Victorian self-assurance; Febvre, Bloch, and Braudel, we have seen, all referred to the impact of warfare on their thinking. In their texts, knowledge of twentieth-century violence has been repressed in favor of an exactly opposite interpretation, with only the phrase Bloch, Feudal Society, Fink, Marc Bloch, Gender-speciWc terminology is appropriate here, for Febvre saw these processes of change in explicitly gendered terms: the civilizing process centered on maleness itself, in turn linked to animality and violence.

To be sure, in normal times brute force plays a small role in the adult world—but it pervades that world; much masculine behavior starts against a background of possible violence. Periodization in terms of medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation has declined in importance and has increasingly been replaced by the broader division between modern and premodern eras.

The distance between the modern world and earlier periods, on this view, is so great as to render other categories secondary. Previous chapters have revealed the extremity of these claims. We see the Xuidity of a world where nothing is strictly delimited, where beings themselves lose their boundaries. Hippolyte Taine had argued that modern rationality constituted an always tentative achievement, constantly subject to both societal and individual disruptions; there was nothing especially solid about the modern ego. Bourget, Essais de psychologie contemporaine, 9.

He had a deep commitment to this position, moreover. The savage is above all a creature of habit, and habit chieXy governs his movements. Man, civilized today, banished from geography as the patient, reappears in the very forefront of it as dominant agent. This was, he acknowledged, a world in ruins, and a world now under the greater threat of atomic ruin.

Yet for Febvre the war was essentially a secondary phenomenon, which posed no special problems of historical understanding. His manifesto did not mention extermination camps or issues of wartime complicity, nor did it suggest that the war had raised new questions about human guilt or European cultural traditions. Febvre, Geographical Introduction to History, —63, Febvre, Geographical Introduction to History, — That is how our world has been destroyed.

All the drama is there, in the drama of civilizations. It was visible in It is playing itself out in Greenhalgh, Ephemeral Vistas, 89— What extraordinary mixture of new ideas and old traditions? What chaos? Yesterday, small and isolated battleWelds, where the White Man triumphed easily, one against one hundred. Today—need one spell out the sectors along an immense front that the White Man himself equips, materially and morally, against the White Man? The world is pushing you, you can feel its fevered breath. No, you will not be left in peace. The world of yesterday is Wnished.

Finished forever. If we French have some hope of succeeding in these circumstances, it is in understanding—faster and better than the others—this basic truth. Decolonization brought one set of threats, but the rising inXuence of the United States brought equally grave ones, which became clearer in the postwar years. For the past three years we have encountered the most consistent, systematic policy of crushing our language and ideas. We need to look straight on at both [Soviet and American] perils.

In the Wnal analysis one is as bad as the other. And we need to Wght both with the same seriousness, if we are French and aware of what France means. Only when they could think clearly about the realities of their existence could individuals begin to control the world around them.

Those mental tools as shown in Chapter 2 were primarily French, the These issues receive more detailed discussion in Chapter 2, above. Asserting in this way the value of French philosophy and philosophes, of course, was anything but a neutral scientiWc choice in the s. On the contrary, like the idea of social history itself, ideas about the otherness of past societies had been developed and debated in the circle around Sainte-Beuve and Taine during the later nineteenth century.

Febvre brought a new scholarly depth to these debates, but his principal innovation was interpretive. Isbn Label Lost Worlds : the emergence of French social history, , Jonathan Dewald, electronic resource Instantiates Lost Worlds : the emergence of French social history, Publication University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press, c Antecedent source unknown Bibliography note Includes bibliographical references p.

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