François Furet

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François Furet (born March 27, 1927 in Paris , † July 12, 1997 in Toulouse ) was a French historian .

During his academic career, he was primarily associated with the Parisian elite university École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), of which he was also president between 1977 and 1985.


Furet was born on March 27, 1927 in Paris to an upper-class family, his father was a banker . He had to interrupt his studies in literature and law from 1950 to 1954 because of tuberculosis . In 1954 Furet passed the Agrégation , the competition for the qualification to teach at grammar schools, in the subject of history, with excellent results . Until 1955 he was a teacher at Compiègne High School, then at Fontainebleau High School. From 1956 he devoted himself to research on the French Revolution at the Center national de la recherche scientifique . In 1960 he became professor (Directeur d'Études) at EHESS , from 1977 to 1985 he was its president. He then headed the Raymond Aron Institute at EHESS. From 1985 he was also a professor at the University of Chicago . He was an honorary doctor of the Universities of Tel Aviv and Harvard and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984) and the American Philosophical Society (1989). He was a Knight of the Legion of Honor . On March 20, 1997, Furet was elected to the Académie française . Due to his sudden death, however, he could no longer be officially accepted.

Furet's political activities began in 1947 when he joined the French Communist Party (PCF). He left this in 1959 and took part in the founding of the left-wing socialist PSU in 1960 . After May 1968 he was an advisor to the Gaullist Education Minister Edgar Faure and also wrote in France-Observateur, the predecessor of Le Nouvel Observateur .

Furet died on July 12, 1997 in Toulouse as a result of a sports accident.

Research on the French Revolution

One of Furet's most important works is the history of the French Revolution, written together with his brother-in-law Denis Richet . After several decades in which the period of the National Convention and that of Robespierre were in the foreground of the research interest, Furet broadened the horizon to the time after the fall of the Jacobin rule . ( Historians such as Aulard , Mathiez , Lefèbvre and Soboul considered the 9th Thermidor to be the end of the revolution).

In opposition to Marxist revolutionary historians, and particularly to Albert Soboul, Furet claimed that the revolution, an action by the elites and not so much by the "masses", had "derailed" in 1793. The seizure of power by the masses during the Jacobin Terror period interrupted and disturbed the peaceful social development of the reforms “from above” from 1789 onwards.

In his work Penser la Révolution française (1978) Furet deepened this argument, referring to the work of the almost forgotten historian Augustin Cochin, who died in 1916 . Furet saw the roots of the terror in the storming of the Bastille in 1789. In his summarizing work La Révolution 1770-1880, Furet pointed to continuities between the Ancien Régime and the Revolution.


The end of the illusion

Furet devoted his last and most successful book ( Le Passé d'une illusion. Essai sur l'idée communiste au XXe siècle , 1995) to the role of the communist idea in the 20th century, an idea to which he himself had attached himself at a young age. The comprehensive, translated in 13 languages work consists mainly specifically at how the communist ideology , the intellectuals fascinated at first and then disappointing. It specifically emphasizes French aspects such as the tradition of the “holistic” affirmation of the French Revolution and thus also of the Jacobin terror well into the bourgeoisie: This also made the Soviet terror acceptable to many. Furet deals in detail with Karl Kautsky's view of the Bolshevik seizure of power and with the disappointment of many leftist idealists with Stalinism ( Pierre Pascal , Boris Souvarine etc.). He resolutely defends the concept of totalitarianism and refers to ideologues like Ernst Niekisch , who would have acted as links between right and left terror. Furet's work, on the other hand, hardly deals with the sociological observation that communist parties and organizations were attractive to parts of the industrial workforce for decades.


  • with Adeline Daumard: Structures et relations sociales à Paris au milieu du XVIIIe siècle , Armand Colin 1961
  • with J. Bouvier, M. Gillet: Le mouvement du profit en France au XIXe siècle , 1965
  • with Denis Richet : La Révolution , Paris: Fayard, 1965, 2nd edition as La Révolution française , Hachette 1999, ISBN 2-01-278950-1
    • German: The French Revolution , translated by Ulrich Friedrich Müller, Fischer Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-596-27371-4
  • with Louis Bergeron , Reinhart Koselleck : The Age of the European Revolution 1780–1848 , Fischer Weltgeschichte , Volume 26, 1969
  • with Jacques Ozouf: Lire et écrire, l'alphabétisation des Français de Calvin à Jules Ferry , 2 volumes, Paris: Éditions de Minuit 1977.
  • L'Atelier de l'histoire , Paris: Flammarion, 1982, 2007
  • Penser la Révolution française , Paris: Gallimard 1978, 2nd edition 1983
    • German: 1789 - From the event to the subject of historical science , translated by Tamara Schoenbaum-Holtermann, Ullstein, Frankfurt / M. u. a., 1980.
  • La Gauche et la Révolution au milieu du XIXe siècle. Edgar Quinet et la question du jacobinisme (1865-1870) , Hachette, Paris, 1986
  • with A. Liniers, P. Raynaud: Terrorisme et démocratie , Fayard 1985
  • Marx et la Révolution française , Paris, Flammarion, 1986
  • Editor with Mona Ozouf: Dictionnaire critique de la Révolution française , Paris: Flammarion, 5 volumes, 1988, 2007
  • with Jacques Julliard, Pierre Rosanvallon: La république du center , Calmann-Lévy, 1988
  • La Révolution 1770–1880 , Hachette 1988 (received the Prix des Ambassadeurs in 1989)
  • with Ran Halévi: Les orateurs de la Révolution , Volume 1: Les Constituants , Gallimard 1989
  • L'héritage de la Révolution française , Hachette 1989
  • with Mona Ozouf: La Gironde et les Girondins , Payot 1991
  • Editor with Mona Ozouf: Le Siècle de l'avènement républicain , Paris: Gallimard 1993
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the French Revolution. Jan Patočka memorial lecture 1994 , Passagen, Vienna 1994, ISBN 3-85165-151-0
  • Le passé d'une illusion. Essai sur l'idée communiste au XXe siècle , Éditions Robert Laffont and Éditions Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1995
    • German edition: The end of the illusion. Communism in the 20th Century (1995), Munich 1996, ISBN 3-492-03507-8
  • with Ran Halévi: La Monarchie républicaine. La constitution de 1791 , Paris: Fayard 1996
  • with Ernst Nolte : Fascisme et communisme , Paris: Plon 1998, Hachette 2000
  • La Révolution en débat , Paris, Gallimard (coll. Folio), 1999
  • Itinéraire intellectuel. L'historien journaliste, de France-Observateur au Nouvel Observateur (1958–1997) , edited by Mona Ozouf, Calmann-Lévy, coll. “Liberté de l'esprit”, Paris, 1999


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Book of Members 1780 – present, Chapter F. (PDF; 815 kB) In: American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( Retrieved August 15, 2018 .
  2. ^ Member History: François Furet. American Philosophical Society, accessed August 15, 2018 .