Famous French Historians

Find out more about the greatest French Historians, including Michel Foucault, Alexis de Tocqueville, Gilles Deleuze, Fernand Braudel and François-René de Chateaubriand.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Voltaire

Voltaire
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 20, 1694
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.

 2 Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 15, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: June 25, 1984

If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.

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 3 Montesquieu

Montesquieu
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 18, 1689
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Brède, France
Died: February 10, 1755

French Enlightenment political philosopher, historian, judge, and man of letters Montesquieu remains the main source of the separation of powers system that is followed in many constitutions across the globe. His treatise The Spirit of the Laws on political theory greatly influenced work of many others, including drafting of the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers of the United States.

 4 Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville
4
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: July 29, 1805
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 16, 1859

French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville is best remembered for his written works The Old Regime and the Revolution and Democracy in America. He was part of French politics, primarily during the July Monarchy and the Second Republic. He had been the minister of foreign affairs briefly.

 5 Gilles Deleuze

Gilles Deleuze
4
Famous As: Philosopher, Historian, Writer, University teacher, Philosophy historian, Journalist
Birthdate: January 18, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris
Died: November 4, 1995

Gilles Deleuze was a French philosopher who wrote extensively on philosophy, film, fine art, and literature. Widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Deleuze's works have influenced a wide range of disciplines, such as philosophy, literary theory, and art. His work has also influenced movements like postmodernism and post-structuralism.

 6 René Girard

René Girard
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

 7 Fernand Braudel

Fernand Braudel
4
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: August 24, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Luméville-en-Ornois, France
Died: November 27, 1985

Fernand Braudel was a French historian who led a group of historians who were associated with the Annales School. Braudel is credited with popularizing the school in France. As the leader of the school during the 1950s and 1960s, Braudel had a major influence on historical writings around the world. He is also counted among the forefathers of world-systems theory.

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 8 Marc Bloch

Marc Bloch
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: July 6, 1886
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: June 16, 1944

Marc Bloch was a French historian and founding member of a group of influential historians, which came to be known as the Annales School. Over the course of his illustrious career, Bloch published many of his works on Medieval France. He also taught at prestigious universities like the University of Strasbourg, the University of Montpellier, and the University of Paris.

 9 François-René de Chateaubriand

François-René de Chateaubriand
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 4, 1768
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint-Malo, France
Died: July 4, 1848

François-René de Chateaubriand was a French writer, diplomat, historian, and politician. Chateaubriand had a major influence on 19th-century French literature. François-René de Chateaubriand is also remembered for defending the Catholic faith by writing The Genius of Christianity when most intellectuals were turning against the Church. Chateaubriand was a food enthusiast; it is believed that Chateaubriand steak is named after him.

 10 Jules Michelet

Jules Michelet
3
Famous As: Historian, Archivist, Writer, Diarist, Professor, Translator
Birthdate: August 21, 1798
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: February 9, 1874

Jules Michelet was a French author and historian best remembered for his work on the history and culture of France. Jules Michelet is credited with defining the term renaissance, which was originally used by Italian historian and painter Giorgio Vasari in 1550. The term is currently used to identify the period that followed the Middle Ages in Europe's cultural history.

 11 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
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Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
Died: December 30, 1944

Romain Rolland was a French novelist, essayist, dramatist, mystic, and art historian. In 1915, Rolland was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the most important supporters of Josef Stalin, Rolland is also remembered for his significant influence on Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

 12 Gustave Le Bon

Gustave Le Bon
4
Famous As: Physician, Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Psychologist, Philosopher, Historian, Sociologist
Birthdate: May 7, 1841
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-le-Rotrou
Died: December 13, 1931

French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon is best remembered for his research on crowd psychology. In his iconic work La psychologie des foules, or The Crowd, he stated that people are driven by their emotions and not by their intellect when they act as part of a crowd.

 13 Adolphe Thiers

Adolphe Thiers
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 15, 1797
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bouc-Bel-Air, France
Died: September 3, 1877

Adolphe Thiers was a French historian and statesman who served as the French Third Republic's first President. He also served as the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of France in 1840. Apart from playing a major role in the French Revolution of 1830, which ended the Bourbon monarchy, Thiers also played a key role in the French Revolution of 1848.

 14 Germaine de Staël

Germaine de Staël
5
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 22, 1766
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 14, 1817

Germaine de Staël was a French political theorist and woman of letters. She is best remembered for her collaboration with the popular  Swiss-French political thinker Benjamin Constant. Germaine, who was way ahead of her time, is widely regarded as a precursor of feminism.

 15 Ernest Renan

Ernest Renan
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 27, 1823
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tréguier, France
Died: October 2, 1892

Ernest Renan was a French Semitic and Orientalist scholar. A multi-talented personality, Renan was also an expert of Semitic civilizations and languages, philologist, philosopher, historian of religion, critic, and biblical scholar. Ernest Renan is credited with writing pioneering and influential works on the origins of Christianity. Ernest Renan is also credited with writing the extremely popular book, Life of Jesus.

 16 Georges Sorel

Georges Sorel
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: November 2, 1847
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France
Died: August 29, 1922

Georges Sorel was a French political theorist, social thinker, journalist, and historian. He is credited with inspiring Sorelianism, a support system for his ideologies. Georges Sorel is also credited with inspiring several socialists, Fascists, Marxists, and anarchists. In 1891, Georges Sorel was honored with the prestigious Légion d'honneur.

 17 Gregory of Tours

Gregory of Tours
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: November 30, 0538
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Auvergne, France
Died: November 1, 0594

Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours. He is mainly known for being the primary contemporary source for Merovingian history. His accounts of the miracles of saints are also considered invaluable. A prolific writer, he spent most of his career in Tours and is considered an outstanding literary figure of the 6th-century Merovingian world. 

 18 Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 27, 1870
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France
Died: July 16, 1953
British-French writer Hilaire Belloc is one of the most controversial figures of England from the 20th century, owing to the accusations of anti-semitism and marked Catholic influence in his works. Remembered for his Cautionary Tales for Children, he continued to move from place to place, thus depleting his finances.

 19 Prosper Mérimée

Prosper Mérimée
3
Famous As: Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Historian, Translator, Politician, Writer, Novelist, Painter, Playwright
Birthdate: September 28, 1803
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 23, 1870

Prosper Mérimée was a French writer and one of the pioneers of narrative prose, which came to be known as a novella. A multi-talented personality, Mérimée was also a historian and archaeologist; he played a key role in the development of the process of architectural preservation. He was responsible for safeguarding several historic sites, such as the Cité de Carcassonne. 

 20 Abbot Suger

Abbot Suger
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Famous As: French statesman
Birthdate: 1081 AD
Birthplace: Chennevières-lès-Louvres
Died: January 13, 1151

Abbot Suger was a French abbot, statesman, and historian considered one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture. He was born into a humble family and trained at the priory of Saint-Denis de l'Estrée. He started working as the secretary to the abbot of Saint-Denis and later became the abbot. He was also a patron of art. 

 21 Jean Froissart

Jean Froissart
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: 1337 AD
Birthplace: Valenciennes, France
Died: 1405 AD

Jean Froissart was a medieval court historian and author who wrote many influential books, such as Chronicles and Meliador. In order to gather first-hand accounts and material for his work Chronicles, Froissart traveled extensively. Jean Froissart’s works also serve as a prominent source for the events that took place during the first phase of the famous Hundred Years' War.

 22 Fred Vargas

Fred Vargas
3
Famous As: Writer, Archaeologist, Novelist, Historian
Birthdate: June 7, 1957
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris

Fred Vargas is a French archaeologist, historian, and novelist. She is best known for her work on the bubonic plague, the Black Death. In 2009, she became the first author to win three International Dagger Awards for three consecutive novels, having won the award in 2006 and 2008. In 2018, she was honored with the prestigious Princess of Asturias Prize.

 23 Michel de Certeau

Michel de Certeau
3
Famous As: Historian, Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: May 17, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chambéry
Died: January 10, 1986

Michel de Certeau was a French scholar and Jesuit whose work combined philosophy, psychoanalysis, history, and the social sciences. He is credited with co-founding a journal called Christus in 1956, with which he was associated for the rest of his life. Michel de Certeau also taught at many universities in places like Paris, San Diego, and Geneva.

 24 Jacques Le Goff

Jacques Le Goff
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: January 1, 1924
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Toulon, France
Died: April 1, 2014

Jacques Le Goff was a French author and historian who specialized in the history of the medieval period. An ardent supporter of the Annales School movement, Le Goff headed the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences from 1972 to 1977. Le Goff was honored with several prestigious awards like Dan David Prize Award and Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize.

 25 Lucien Febvre

Lucien Febvre
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: July 22, 1878
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nancy, France
Died: September 11, 1956

Lucien Febvre was a French historian best remembered for playing a major role in the formation of the influential Annales School of history. Along with his friend and colleague Marc Bloch, Lucien Febvre founded a scholarly journal named Annales in 1929, which became associated with their distinctive style of history.

 26 Hippolyte Taine

Hippolyte Taine
3
Famous As: French critic
Birthdate: April 20, 1828
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vouziers
Died: March 5, 1893

Hippolyte Taine was a French critic and historian who was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism. One of the first practitioners of historicist criticism, he was also a major proponent of sociological positivism and made attempts to provide a scientific account of literature. He had a special relationship with novelist Émile Zola and corresponded with the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. 

 27 Rose Valland

Rose Valland
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: November 1, 1898
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, Isère, France
Died: September 18, 1980

Rose Valland was a French art historian and a captain in the French military. She secretly recorded the details of the Nazis destroying and plundering French art and helped to save thousands of works of art by working with the French Resistance. After the war, she began a relationship with Joyce Helen Heer and shared a home with her. 

 28 Jean-Yves Le Drian

Jean-Yves Le Drian
3
Famous As: Politician, Historian
Birthdate: June 30, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lorient

Jean-Yves Le Drian is a French politician currently serving as the minister for Europe and foreign affairs. He is a former member of the Socialist Party and has been an independent candidate since 2018. He is credited for creating the new movement Territories of Progress with fellow minister Olivier Dussopt. He is the recipient of several awards and accolades. 

 29 Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie
2
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: July 19, 1929
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Les Moutiers-en-Cinglais, France

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is a French historian who focuses on the history of the peasantry during the Ancien Régime in Languedoc. One of the principal historians of France, Emmanuel is associated with the Annales School; he is regarded as the leading figure of the school's third generation of historians. He is also dubbed the rock star of the medievalists.

 30 Pierre Nora

Pierre Nora
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: November 17, 1931
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France

Known for his work on French identity and memory, French historian Pierre Nora began his career in Algeria, publishing his first book, The French of Algeria, based on his experience there. Later, he became the director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences socials. Concurrently, he had a noteworthy career in publishing and also authored numerous books

 31 Daniel Wildenstein

Daniel Wildenstein
3
Famous As: Art dealer
Birthdate: September 11, 1917
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Verrières-le-Buisson, France
Died: October 23, 2001

Daniel Wildenstein was a French historian and art dealer who owned one of the 20th century's most influential and successful art dealerships, Wildenstein & Co. At the peak of his career, Wildenstein was described as the most powerful and richest art dealer on earth. Daniel Wildenstein is also remembered for breeding and owning many thoroughbred racehorses.

 32 Georges Duby

Georges Duby
2
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: October 7, 1919
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 3, 1996

Georges Duby was a French historian best remembered for his work on the economic and social history of the medieval period. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most influential medieval historians, Georges Duby was also considered one of France's most important public intellectuals from the 1970s to his demise in 1996.

 33 Élisabeth Badinter

Élisabeth Badinter
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 5, 1945
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Boulogne-Billancourt, France

An ardent advocate of liberal feminism and also of the rights of women migrant workers, Élisabeth Badinter is an eminent French philosopher. Also a prolific author, she has published several works including L'Amour en plus ear, L'un est l'autre and La fausse route, raising contentious questions through them. Also a staunch supporter of French secularism, she supported Islamic scarf ban  

 34 François Gautier

François Gautier
3
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: 1950 AD
Birthplace: Paris, France

François Gautier is a French-born journalist who is currently based in India. He is best known for serving as the South Asian correspondent for many publications like Journal de Geneve and Ouest-France. He has also contributed as a columnist for publications like The New Indian Express. In 2003, Gautier was honored with the Bipin Chandra Pal Award for his work. 

 35 Bernard Gui

Bernard Gui
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 1261 AD
Birthplace: Royères, France
Died: December 30, 1331

Bernard Gui was a Bishop of Lodève, a Dominican friar, and a papal inquisitor. Gui is widely regarded as one of the most popular medieval inquisitors of all time, thanks to his fictionalized portrayals in today's popular culture. He is most notably mentioned in the 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, which was written by Italian novelist Umberto Eco.

 36 Pierre Duhem

Pierre Duhem
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: June 9, 1861
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 14, 1916

Noted for his view that every physical theory should be derivable from thermodynamic first principles, French theoretical physicist Pierre Duhem was also an eminent historian and philosopher of science, producing groundbreaking work in medieval science. Equally known for his work on relation between theory and experiments, he also established that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation.

 37 François Guizot

François Guizot
3
Famous As: Politician, Diplomat, Historian, Translator, Writer, Literary critic, Carpenter
Birthdate: October 4, 1787
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nîmes
Died: September 12, 1874

François Guizot was a French historian and statesman. He was a key figure in French politics in the years leading to the Revolution of 1848. After serving under the "citizen king" Louis Philippe in several roles, he was made the Prime Minister of France in 1847. He played a critical role in expanding public education. 

 38 Étienne Gilson

Étienne Gilson
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Historian, Politician, Professor, Philosophy historian
Birthdate: June 13, 1884
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 19, 1978

Étienne Gilson was a French historian of philosophy and philosopher. He also taught history at various universities like the University of Strasbourg, the University of Paris, and Harvard University. Gilson also took part in World War I, serving in the French Army. His efforts in the battle of Verdun earned him the Croix de Guerre for bravery.

 39 Emmanuel Todd

Emmanuel Todd
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: May 16, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines, France

Emmanuel Todd is a French anthropologist, historian, sociologist, demographer, and political scientist who currently works at the French Institute for Demographic Studies in Paris. He is best known for his research which examines the various types of families around the world. Many of his books have been translated into English.

 40 Frédéric Ozanam

Frédéric Ozanam
3
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: April 23, 1813
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: September 8, 1853

Frédéric Ozanam was a French lawyer, literary scholar, equal rights advocate, and journalist. He is credited with co-founding the Conference of Charity, which came to be known as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. in 1997, Frédéric Ozanam was beatified at Notre Dame de Paris by Pope John Paul II and his feast day is observed on 9 September.

 41 Pierre Hadot

Pierre Hadot
2
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 21, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Reims, France
Died: April 24, 2010

Pierre Hadot was a French historian of philosophy and philosopher who specialized in ancient philosophy. Hadot is credited with introducing Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's thoughts to France. He also published commentaries on and translations of Porphyry of Tyre, Plotinus, St. Ambrose, and Marcus Aurelius.

 42 Anne Pingeot

Anne Pingeot
2
Famous As: Art Historian
Birthdate: May 13, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Clermont-Ferrand, France

Anne Pingeot is a French art historian who specializes in 19th-century French sculpture. Pingeot, who is credited with writing several catalogs and books on French sculpture, served as the curator of the department of sculpture in popular museums like the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre. Anne Pingeot was also the mistress of former President of France, François Mitterrand.

 43 Christian Jacq

Christian Jacq
2
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 28, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France

Christian Jacq is a French Egyptologist and author. A great admirer of Ramses II, Jacq is best known for writing a five-book series about the pharaoh. He has also written many other novels about ancient Egypt. Christian Jacq is credited with founding the Ramses Institute, which aims at preserving endangered archaeological sites.

 44 Joseph Justus Scaliger

Joseph Justus Scaliger
2
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: August 5, 1540
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Agen, France
Died: January 21, 1609

Joseph Justus Scaliger was a French Calvinist scholar and religious leader. His works on chronology were regarded as one of the most important contributions of Renaissance scholars. Joseph Justus Scaliger is best remembered for inflating the idea of classical history from ancient Roman and Greek history to include Babylonian, Persian, ancient Egyptian, and Jewish history. 

 45 François Furet

François Furet
2
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: March 27, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 12, 1997

François Furet was a French historian best remembered for his works concerning the French Revolution. He is credited with creating a French think tank named the Saint-Simon Foundation for which he also served as president. From 1985 to 1997, he taught French history at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. Furet was honored with prestigious awards like Tocqueville Award.

 46 Eutropius

Eutropius
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Bordeaux

Eutropius was an Eastern Roman official who played an important role during Emperor Arcadius' reign. He was a confidante and one of the most important advisors of Arcadius. He also encouraged Gildo's uprising against Stilicho's machinations, thus playing a key role in the Gildonic War. Eutropius was the first eunuch to be appointed as a consul in the Roman Empire. 

 47 Jean Daniélou

Jean Daniélou
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Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: May 14, 1905
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died: May 20, 1974

Jean Daniélou was a French cardinal, Jesuit, theologian, patrologist, and historian. He is credited with co-founding the Sources Chrétiennes book series, a collection of patristic texts. He also served as a professor at the Catholic University of Paris, where he later became the dean.   

 48 Georges Lefebvre

Georges Lefebvre
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: August 6, 1874
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lille, France
Died: August 28, 1959

Georges Lefebvre was a French historian best remembered for his work on peasant life and the French Revolution. Widely regarded as a pioneer of people's history, Lefebvre conducted extensive research regarding the role played by the peasants during the French Revolution. His research resulted in one of his most important books, The Peasants of the North During the French Revolution.

 49 Jean de Joinville

Jean de Joinville
2
Famous As: Chronicler
Birthdate: May 1, 1224
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Champagne, France
Died: December 24, 1317

Jean de Joinville was a French chronicler best remembered for his biography of Louis IX of France. Titled Life of Saint Louis, the biography chronicled the Seventh Crusade. Jean de Joinville is often counted among the great chroniclers in the history of France.

 50 Edgar Faure

Edgar Faure
2
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: August 18, 1908
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Béziers, France
Died: March 30, 1988

Edgar Faure was a French historian, lawyer, and politician. After serving as the Prime Minister of France in 1952, Faure went on to serve as Prime Minister again from 1955 to 1956. Faure also served as the President of the National Assembly from 1973 to 1978. He played an important role in the creation of the Assembly of European Regions.