Jules Michelet

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Michelet, Jules


Born Aug. 21, 1798, in Paris; died Feb. 9, 1874, in Hyères. French historian of the romantic school and ideologist of the petite bourgeoisie. Member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences (1838).

Michelet was appointed a professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in 1827 and at the Collège de France in 1838. During the July Monarchy, he was idolized by radical students as an ardent opponent of the Catholic Church. His hostility to the church is expressed in his sociological studies The Jesuits, Priest, Woman, and the Family, and The People (Russian translation, Moscow, 1965). As a young man Michelet believed in a “liberal monarchy,” but he later became a republican. Although he accepted the French Revolution, he disapproved of the Jacobins and communist ideas, regarding economic inequality as a divine law. In 1852, after refusing to take an oath of allegiance to Napoleon III, he was dismissed from the Collège de France and lost his position as head of the historical section in the National Archives, a post he had held since 1831. His textbooks on modern and world history, which exerted a great influence on French historiography, reveal his talent for broad historical generalization and an eclectic approach to philosophical and historical thought, combining G. Vice’s cyclical view of history with G. Hegel’s theory of progress. For Michelet the people, undivided into social classes, are the hero of social progress. Great men are merely symbols, expressing the social ideas of civilizations; essentially they are pygmies who have climbed “on the obedient shoulders of the good giant, the People.”

His most important works are the multivolume History of France, covering events to 1789, and its sequel, the History of the French Revolution. These works are based on primary sources, both published and archival, and on geographic and numismatic data. Michelet set out to reveal the psychology of the French nation, the “national spirit,” as expressed in language, folklore, literature, and art. He strove to resurrect the past with the aid of the arts. Michelet’s subjective evaluations rest on intuition, imagination, and sympathy for the persons and phenomena described.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–40. Paris, 1893–98.
In Russian translation:
Obozrenie noveishei istorii. St. Petersburg, 1838.
Reforma (Iz istorii Frantsii v XVI v). St. Petersburg, 1861.
Zhenshchina. Odessa, 1863.
Istoriia XIX v., vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1882–84.
Zhanna d’Ark. Petrograd, 1920.
Ved’ma. Moscow, 1929.


Vainshtein, O. L. Istoriografiia srednikh vekov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940. Pages 191–93.
Reizov, B. G. Frantsuzskaia romanticheskaia istoriografiia. Leningrad, 1956. Chapter 9.
Kosminskii, E. A. Istoriografiia srednikh vekov. Moscow, 1963. Pages 401–10.
Monod, G. La Vie et la pensee de J. Michelet, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1923.
Alff, W. Michelet’s ideen. Geneva-Paris, 1966.


References in periodicals archive ?
Jules Michelet, The People, translated by John McKay (Urbana,
At the Jules Michelet school, Kroll has brought his command of glass and metal to new levels of delight.
The chief source of this all-out assault in the middle years of the century was the prestigious College de France, and the chief attackers were the distinguished historians, Jules Michelet (1798-1874) and Edgar Quinet (1803-1875), joined by the novelist Eugene Sue (1804-1857) with his depiction of Jesuit intrigue in The Wandering Jew.
It was French historians in the early 19th century who first identified the cultural phenomenon we now call the Renaissance; Jules Michelet (1798-1874), for example, has been described as murdering the Middle Ages, seeing the Renaissance as a new and better form of culture inspired by the antique, science and reason.
Her treatment of the complicated topic of religion and the French Revolution is a model of clarity, although she relies too much on zealously anticlerical historians like Jules Michelet, Michel Vovelle, and Mona Ozouf, whose conclusions have been modified in important ways by a number of American and English historians.
More sympathetic portrayals of women, such as those of Jules Michelet, tended to regard them as ahistorical, representatives of the "eternal feminine" in contrast to historical men.
From the revolution of the "people" of Jules Michelet through the Marxist interpretation of Georges Lefebvre, (1) probably the greatest academic historian of the subject, and up to the present, explanations of the revolution have hinged on understanding one or another social group.
In fact, many of the most revered historians of the nineteenth century, such as Jules Michelet and Francois Guizot, had virtual "household workshops" (85).
During that same period, the historian Jules Michelet declared, "Thanks to the railway, the medicine of the future will be a preventive emigration.
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In the mid nineteenth century Jules Michelet argued that a wave of apocalyptic excitement swept Christian Europe as the year 1000 approached.
It showed Manet to have presided over a comprehensive program that included subtle allusions to the issues raised by Jules Michelet and Theophile Thore, public intellectuals who promoted the politics of international harmony and cultural universalism - a political modernism to accord with worldwide economic and social progress.