Mathiez, Albert

Mathiez, Albert

(älbĕr` mätyā`), 1874–1932, French historian, an authority on the French Revolution. He studied under AulardAulard, Alphonse
, 1849–1928, French historian. He was the first professional historian of the French Revolution, and he devoted his life to this study. A professor at the Univ.
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, whose scientific method he adopted, although it led him to different conclusions. Although not a member of the Socialist party, Mathiez was a follower of Jean Jaurès. Mathiez's chief work, La Révolution français (3 vol., 1922–27; tr. 1928, repr. 1962), was essentially a socialist interpretation. For Mathiez, the French Revolution began as a struggle between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, but evolved into a conflict that pitted the middle class against the working class. He saw the terror as a necessary response to the circumstances, and characterized Robespierre as the patron of popular democracy, and regretted Robespierre's overthrow. He published many studies of Robespierre, but no complete biography.
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Mathiez, Albert


Born Jan. 10, 1874, in La Bruyère; died Feb. 26, 1932, in Paris. French historian, specialist in the history of the Great French Revolution.

Mathiez graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure in 1897. He was awarded a doctorate in humanities (es lettres) in 1904. His first works, written at a time when the struggle against clericalism was mounting in France, were devoted to the religious policy of the French Revolution. After breaking with the bourgeois liberal school of Aulard, Mathiez founded the Society of Robespierre Studies (1907) and the journal Annales révolutionnaires, which in 1924 became the Annales historiques de la Revolution française. Mathiez was opposed to the idealization of J.-J. Danton and strove to restore the true historical character of M. Robespierre, although he idealized him somewhat.

In the 1920’s, Mathiez was influenced by Marxism. In this period he published his best works, in which he devoted considerable attention to the socioeconomic policy of the Jacobins. His leftist convictions and his statements in defense of the Great October Socialist Revolution kept him from being invited to teach at the Sorbonne until 1926; until then he taught at provincial universities. He was not given the chair on the history of the French Revolution, although the bourgeois press characterized Mathiez as “the only professor at the Sorbonne teaching the history of class struggle.” Like J. Jaures, he played a major role in overcoming the influence of liberal bourgeois historiography. He helped to explain the importance of the class struggle and the role of the Jacobin dictatorship in the history of the Great French Revolution.


Les Origines des cultes revolutionnaires (1789-1792). Paris, 1904.
La Corruption parlementaire sous la Terreur, 2nd ed., Paris, 1927.
Autour de Robespierre. Paris, 1926.
Autour de Danton. Paris, 1926.
Girondins et Montagnards, 3rd ed. Paris, 1930.
Le Directoire. … Paris, 1934.
Etudes sur Robespierre (1758-1794). Paris, 1958.
In Russian translation:
Frantsuzskaia revolutsiia, vols. 1-3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925-30.
Bor’ba s dorogoviznoi i sotsial’noe dvizhenie v epokhu terrora. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Termidorianskaia reaktsiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.


Lukin, N. “Al’ber Mat’ez (1874-1932).” Istorik-marksist, 1932, no. 3 (25).
Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 1932, no. 51.
Godechot, J. Les Revolutions (1770-1799). Paris, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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