Jules Michelet (21 August 1798 – 9 February 1874) was a French historian. He was born in Paris to a family with Huguenot traditions.
In his 1855 work, Histoire de France (History of France), Jules Michelet was the first historian to use and define the word Renaissance ("Re-birth" in French), as a period in Europe's cultural history that represented a drastic break from the Middle Ages (which he loathed), creating a modern understanding of humanity and its place in the world. Historian François Furet wrote that his History of the French Revolution remains "the cornerstone of all revolutionary historiography and is also a literary monument." His aphoristic style emphasized his anti-clerical republicanism.
His father was a master printer, not very prosperous, and Jules assisted him in the actual work of the press. A place was offered him in the imperial printing office, but his father was able to send him to the famous Collège or Lycée Charlemagne, where he distinguished himself. He passed the university examination in 1821, and was soon appointed to a professorship of history in the Collège Rollin.
Soon after this, in 1824, he married. This was one of the most favourable periods ever for scholars and men of letters in France, and Michelet had powerful patrons in Abel-François Villemain and Victor Cousin, among others. Although he was an ardent politician (having from his childhood embraced republicanism and a peculiar variety of romantic free-thought), he was above all a man of letters and an inquirer into the history of the past. His earliest works were school textbooks.
Between 1825 and 1827 he produced diverse sketches, chronological tables, etc., of modern history. His precis of the subject, published in 1827, is a sound and careful book, far better than anything that had appeared before it, and written in a sober yet interesting style. In the same year he was appointed maitre de conférences at the Ecole normale superieure...
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