- Michelet, Jules
- (1798–1874)One of France’s foremost nineteenth-century historians, Jules Michelet was born in Paris less than a decade after the French Revolution. Michelet worked from a young age in his father’s print shop; however, in 1817, he passed the baccalauréat with high honors. He then held a variety of teaching positions until 1822, when he was appointed specifically to teach history - only recently added to the curriculum, and still viewed with suspicion by the government - at the Collège Sainte-Barbe. In 1827, Michelet was invited to teach philosophy and history at the École Normale and later became keeper of the national historical archives from 1831 to 1852 and held a Chair at the Collège de France from 1838 to 1851.Michelet came to believe that the study of world history revealed a progressive movement from enslavement to liberty and that France had a crucial role to play in the next phase of world history - the unification of humanity. Hence, he sought to acquaint himself with every possible detail of France’s past. In doing so, he produced a vast body of historical work. His massive History of France was published in 17 volumes between 1833 and 1869. His History of the French Revolution - 1847–1853, seven volumes - and History of the Nineteenth Century - 1872–1874, three volumes -were also written on a grand scale and in a florid, literary style. Michelet eventually came to see the French Revolution as the moment when nations, and France in particular, attained the final stage of self-consciousness. His glowing patriotism and intense sense of what it meant to be French, combined with a strong current of enlightenment universalism, meant that he came to view France as “the brilliant culmination of universal history.” As he recalled in retrospect, “I arrived both through logic and through history at the same conclusion: that my glorious motherland is henceforth the pilot of the vessel of humanity.” He believed that these views were justifiable because France had built its identity on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The popularity of Michelet’s work waned sharply after his death, but it was extremely well received during his lifetime and inspired in many significant public figures both patriotism and a belief in the unique mission of France to disseminate the values of the revolution abroad.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Kippur, S. A. Jules Michelet, a Study of Mind and Sensibility. New York: State University of New York Press, 1981.PAUL LAWRENCE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.