François Furet

François Furet

François Furet (27 March 192712 July 1997) was an influential French historian. He was also president of the Saint-Simon Foundation.

Biography

Furet was born in Paris, and received his education at the Lyćee Janson-Sailly, and was awarded a agrégation from Faculté de Lettres in Paris [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 427] . As a young man, Furet was a Communist, and his early historical work was written under the influence of he called "Stalino-Marxist historicism" [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . 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, all the while supporting himself with a job at the soon-to-be "Nouvel Observateur" between 1956-66. 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) [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 427] .

Furet served as Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and as a professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. In 1997, he was elected to the Academie Française and was enjoying the success of his latest book "Le passé d'une illusion" (a reference to Freud's work on religion). He died in 1997 from a heart attack on a tennis court at the age of 70, leaving behind 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.

In 1949 Furet entered the Communist Party of France, like many other noted historians of his generation: Michelle Perrot, Michel Vovelle and Jacques Le Goff. In 1956 he left the party. [cite book
last = Furet
first = François
coauthors =
title = Francouzská revoluce, díl 1.
publisher = Argo
date = Praha, 2004
month =
id = ISBN 80-7203-452-9
]

Furet's major interest was the French Revolution [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Furet's early work concerned the social history of the 18th century bourgeoise, but after 1961 he focused entirely on the Revolution [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . At one point a Marxist and part of the "Annales School", he later separated himself from "Les Annales" and undertook a critical reevaluation of the way the French Revolution is interpreted by Marxist historians. Furet was the leader of the "revisionist" school of historians who challenged the Marxist account of the French Revolution as a form of class struggle [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Unlike most French historians of his generation, Furet was open to ideas of English language historians, especially Alfred Cobban [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Likewise, Furet frequently lectured at American universities, from 1985 onwards, taught at the University of Chicago [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . 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 bloodlust and cruelty of the Reign of Terror [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . The course of the Revolution going "off course" was the outbreak of war in 1792, which Furet controversially argued was intrinsic to the Revolution itself, rather then being a unrelated event as most French historians had argued until then [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Furet was increasing to come to emphasize that the events of 1792 were the natural and logical result of the events of 1789, and renounced the "skidding" interpretation for the "bloc" interpretation first presented by Edmund Burke [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . The other major theme of Furet's writings on the Revolution was the focus on political history of the Revolution, and a relative lack of interest in social history and economic history of the Revolution [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Other a study "of Lire et écrire" (1977), a study co-edited with Jacques Ozouf concerning the growth of literacy in 18th century France, Furet mostly wrote on the historiography on the Revolution [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . In a 1970 article in "Annales", Furet attacked "the revolutionary catechism" of Marxist historians [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Furet was especially critical of the "Marxist line" of Albert Soboul, which Furet maintained was actually more Jacobin then Marxist [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] . Furet argued that Karl Marx was not especially interested in the Revolution, and most of the views credited to him were really the recycling of Jacobinism [Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999 page 426] .

He coined the term "totalitarian twins", likening Communism to Fascism despite their conflicts. Furet’s views about totalitarianism led to a debate between 1995 until his death via a series of letters with the German philosopher Ernst Nolte. The debate had been started by a footnote in "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

Intellectual interpretations

Furet's 1978 work "Interpreting the French Revolution" set about to imagine the Revolution as less the result of social and class conflict than as a conflict over the meaning and application of egalitarian, or tolerant, 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 being the authoritarian coup that brought about Napoleon's empire in 1799. The egalitarian origins of the Revolution were not undone by the Empire and saw instead a resurrection upon the July Revolution of 1830, the 1848 Revolution, and the Commune of Paris in 1871.

Because of Furet's critical influence in history and historiography, he was granted some of the field's most prestigious awards, among them:
* Tocqueville Award, 1990
* The European Award for Social Sciences, 1996
* The Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought, 1996
* An honorary diploma ("Honoris Causa") from Harvard University

Methodology

Furet's concerns were not only historical but also historigraphical. 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.

elected bibliography

* "La Révolution française, en collaboration avec Denis Richet" ("The French Revolution", 2 volumes, 1965)
* "Penser la Révolution française" ("Interpreting the French Revolution", 1978)
* "L'atelier de l'histoire" ("In the Workshop of History", 1982)
* "Terrorism and Democracy". "TELOS" 65 (Fall 1985). New York: [http://www.telospress.com Telos Press]
* "Dictionnaire critique de la Révolution Française" ("A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution", with Mona Ozouf, 1992, 2 tomes)
* "Le Siècle de l'avènement républicain" (with Mona Ozouf, 1993)
* "Le Passé d'une illusion, essai sur l'idée communiste au XXe siècle" (1995) this was translated by his wife Deborah Furet into English and titled "The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century", University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1999. ISBN 0-226-27341-5
* co-written with Ernst Nolte "Fascisme et Communisme: échange épistolaire avec l'historien allemand Ernst Nolte prolongeant la Historikerstreit", translated into English by Katherine Golsan as "Fascism and Communism", with a preface by Tzvetan Todorov, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2001, ISBN 0803219954.

*" La Révolution, Histoire de France"
* "Reading and Writing: Literacy in France from Calvin to Jules Ferry"

Footnotes

References

* Schönpflug, Daniel. "Histoires Croisees": François Furet, Ernst Nolte and A Comparative History of Totalitarian Movements", pages 265-290 from "European History Quarterly", Volume 37, Issue # 2, 2007.
* Shorten, Richard. "Europe’s Twentieth Century In Retrospect? A Cautious Note On The Furet/Nolte Debate", pages 285-304 from "European Legacy", Volume 9, Issue #, 2004.
*Watson, David Robin "Furet, François" pages 426-427 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing", Volume 1, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999.


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