Georges Lefebvre

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Lefebvre, Georges


Born Aug. 8, 1874, in Lille; died Aug. 28, 1959, in Boulogne-Billancourt. French historian.

In 1924, Lefebvre published and defended as a doctoral dissertation his fundamental research on the peasantry of northern France during the Great French Revolution. He began teaching the same year in higher educational institutions in France (from 1935 to 1945 at the Sorbonne, where, beginning in 1937, he was chairman of the subdepartment of the history of the French Revolution). In 1932, after the death of A. Mathiez, Lefebvre became permanent president of the Robespierre Society and editor of the journal Annales historiques de la Révolution française. Lefebvre, a dedicated democrat, resolutely opposed the policy of collaboration during the fascist German occupation of France.

As an historian, Lefebvre was greatly influenced by Marxism. He made a significant contribution to the study of the socioeconomic (principally agrarian) history of the Great French Revolution. His principal interest was in the class stuggle in the countryside during the Jacobin dictatorship. His work The Agrarian Question During the Reign of Terror was translated into Russian in 1936.

Lefebvre had a considerable influence on the development of the progressive wing of Western European historiography, inspiring a school of researchers who focused their attention on the role of popular movements during the revolutionary period (A. Soboul, G. Rudé, and C. Tenneson).


Les Paysans du Nord pendant la Révolution française [2nd ed.]. Bari, 1959.
La Révolution française, 3rd ed. Paris, 1963.
La Grande Peur de 1789. Paris, 1932.
Napoléon, 5th ed. Paris, 1965.
Les Thermidoriens. Paris, 1937.
Le Directoire. Paris, 1946.
Études sur la Révolution française, 2nd ed. Paris, 1963.
Études orléanaises, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1962–63.
La Naissance de l’historiographie moderne. Paris, 1971.


Lukin, N. M. Izbr. trudy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1960. Pages 307–22. Soboul, A. “Zh. Lefevr—istorik Frantsuzskoi revoliutsii.” In Frantsuzskii ezhegodnik, 1959. Moscow, 1961.


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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.
Paris, 1847-53); and Georges Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution, trans.
Gilbert Shapiro, "The Many Lives of Georges Lefebvre," American Historical Review, 72:2 (1967): 502-514.
While "Marc Bloch, Fernand Braudel, Georges Lefebvre are not names which can be pigeonholed as social historians," that, it seems, is precisely what Hobsbawm thought social history should be: expansive, elastic, eclectic, reluctant to privilege one field of inquiry over another, willing to examine mentalities as well as concrete economic processes and structures.
If Mendels and the question of proto-industrialization loom large in the treatment of the emergence of weaving and merchant capitalism, the classic work of Georges Lefebvre provides a framework for understanding the crisis and revolutionary shakeup.
Georges Lefebvre, Les paysans du Nord pendant le revolution francaise (Paris, 1972, orig.
Vardi also challenges the view of Georges Lefebvre that the peasants' participation in rural industry before the revolution is evidence of their pauperization, and that their situation was ameliorated by their purchase of confiscated land during the revolution.
Such rumors were common among rural people especially during the early years of the insurgency in Mexico, recalling to some extent in form and content the rapidly circulating, panic-inducing tales of marauding armies of sanguinary counter-revolutionary aristocrats traced by Georges Lefebvre in The Great Fear of 1789: Rural Panic in Revolutionary France (Princeton, 1973).