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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.