Famous French Historians

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

Vote for Your Favourite French Historians
 1 
Voltaire
(French Historian and Philosopher Known for His Wit and His Pointed Social Critique)
Voltaire
down5
Birthdate: November 21, 1694
Sun Sign: Scorpio
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 
Alexis de Tocqueville
(Historian Known for His Works 'Democracy in America' & 'The Old Regime' & 'The Revolution')
Alexis de Tocqueville
down4
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.

 3 
Gilles Deleuze
(Most popular for his works with Felix Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus from 1972 and A Thousand Plateaus from 1980)
Gilles Deleuze
down4
Birthdate: January 18, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
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.

Recommended Lists:
 4 
Fernand Braudel
(Historian)
Fernand Braudel
down4
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.

 5 
René Girard
(French Polymath, Historian and Philosopher of Social Science)
René Girard
down4
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.

François-René de Chateaubriand
down4
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.

 7 
Gustave Le Bon
(Physician, Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Psychologist, Philosopher, Historian, Sociologist)
Gustave Le Bon
down4
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.

You May Like
 8 
Jules Michelet
(Former French nationalist historian best known for his monumental Histoire de France (1833–67))
Jules Michelet
down3
Birthdate: August 21, 1798
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
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.

 9 
Germaine de Staël
(Philosopher)
Germaine de Staël
down5
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.

 10 
Georges Sorel
(Social Thinker, Political Theorist & Historian Known for His Advocacy of 'Sorelianism')
Georges Sorel
down3
Birthdate: November 2, 1847
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cherbourg, 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.

 11 
Tzvetan Todorov
(Historian, Philosopher, Sociologist Known for His Contributions to Literary, Cultural, and Thought History)
Tzvetan Todorov
down3
Birthdate: March 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sofia, Bulgaria
Died: February 7, 2017

Tzvetan Todorov was a Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, and sociologist. He completed his doctorat ès lettres at the University of Paris and had a brilliant academic career. He helped to found the journal Poétique and served as one of its managing editors. He authored many books, including Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. 

 12 
Marc Bloch
(Historian)
Marc Bloch
down3
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.

 13 
Prosper Mérimée
(Former writer in the movement of Romanticism, and one of the pioneers of the novella, a short novel or long short story)
Prosper Mérimée
down3
Birthdate: September 28, 1803
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
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. 

 14 
Jean-Yves Le Drian
(Politician, Historian)
Jean-Yves Le Drian
down3
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. 

 15 
Michel de Certeau
(Philosopher of everyday life and widely regarded as a historian who had interests ranging from travelogues of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to contemporary urban life)
Michel de Certeau
down3
Birthdate: May 17, 1925
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chambéry, France
Died: January 9, 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.

 16 
Jean Froissart
(French Historian and Poet, Chiefly Famous for His Chronicles Especially about the 'Hundred Years' War')
Jean Froissart
down3
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.

 17 
Abbot Suger
(Abbot, statesman, and historian)
Abbot Suger
down3
Birthdate: 1081 AD
Birthplace: Chennevières-lès-Louvres, France
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. 

 18 
Rose Valland
(Historian)
Rose Valland
down3
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. 

 19 
Fred Vargas
(Historian, Archaeologist and novelist)
Fred Vargas
down3
Birthdate: June 7, 1957
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France

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.

 20 
Louis Blanc
(Former socialist who favored reforms, he called for the creation of cooperatives in order to guarantee employment for the urban poor)
Louis Blanc
down3
Birthdate: October 29, 1811
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
Died: December 6, 1882

French socialist and politician Louis Blanc is best remembered for supporting the formation of "social workshops" led by workers. He initially studied law, before he started writing for journals and then eventually launched his own newspaper, Revue du progress, which published his most notable work L’Organisation du travail.

 21 
Jacques Le Goff
(Historian)
Jacques Le Goff
down3
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.

 22 
Lucien Febvre
(Historian)
Lucien Febvre
down3
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.

 23 
Hippolyte Taine
(Critic, Historian)
Hippolyte Taine
down3
Birthdate: April 21, 1828
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vouziers, France
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. 

 24 
Jacques Barzun
(Cultural historian, Historian, Philosopher, University teacher, Critic, Writer)
Jacques Barzun
down3
Birthdate: November 30, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Créteil
Died: October 25, 2012

Jacques Barzun was a French-American historian who wrote about a wide range of subjects, including mystery, baseball, and music. He was also a philosopher of education. He worked as a professor of history at Columbia College for many years. He published numerous books, including From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present

 25 
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie
down2
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.

 26 
Pierre Nora
(Historian)
Pierre Nora
down3
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

 27 
Daniel Wildenstein
(Art dealer)
Daniel Wildenstein
down3
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.

 28 
Georges Duby
(Historian)
Georges Duby
down2
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.

 29 
Élisabeth Badinter
(Philosopher)
Élisabeth Badinter
down3
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  

 30 
Bernard Gui
(Historian)
Bernard Gui
down3
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.

 31 
François Guizot
(Politician, Diplomat, Historian, Translator, Writer, Literary critic, Carpenter)
François Guizot
down3
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. 

 32 
Étienne Gilson
(Philosopher, Historian, Politician, Professor, Philosophy historian)
Étienne Gilson
down3
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.

 33 
Emmanuel Todd
(Historian)
Emmanuel Todd
down3
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.

 34 
Pierre Hadot
(Philosopher)
Pierre Hadot
down2
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.

 35 
Anne Pingeot
(Art Historian)
Anne Pingeot
down2
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.

 36 
Christian Jacq
down2
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.

 37 
François Furet
(Historian)
François Furet
down2
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.

 38 
Eutropius
(Author)
Eutropius
down2
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France

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. 

 39 
Jean de Joinville
(Chronicler)
Jean de Joinville
down2
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.

 40 
Jean Daniélou
(Theologian)
Jean Daniélou
down2
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.   

 41 
Georges Lefebvre
(Historian)
Georges Lefebvre
down2
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.

 42 
Edmond de Goncourt
down2
Birthdate: May 26, 1822
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nancy, France
Died: July 16, 1896

Edmond de Goncourt was a French writer, book publisher, art critic, and literary critic. He is credited with founding the popular French literary organization, the Goncourt Literary Society. Between 1856 and 1875, he published essays on 18th-century art, which helped revive appreciation for the Late Baroque.

Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney
down2
Birthdate: February 3, 1757
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Craon, France
Died: April 25, 1820

Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney was a French abolitionist, philosopher, orientalist, writer, and politician. Volney was one of the first modern writers to champion the Christ myth theory, which suggests that Jesus Christ had no historical existence. Volney argued that Jesus was a mythical character and that Christianity was an amalgam of numerous ancient mythologies. 

 44 
Paul Cottin
(Writer)
Paul Cottin
down2
Birthdate: June 5, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boussy-Saint-Antoine, France
Died: February 22, 1932
 45 
Edgar Faure
(Politician)
Edgar Faure
down2
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.

 46 
Prosper of Aquitaine
down2
Birthdate: 0390 AD
Birthplace: Limoges, France
Died: 0455 AD

Prosper of Aquitaine was a writer and the first continuator of the Universal Chronicle, which was originally written by Jerome of Stridon. A follower of Augustine of Hippo, Prosper of Aquitaine's writings have long attracted admirers for their classical qualities. Some of his most important works include De gratia Dei et libero arbitrio and De vocatione omnium gentium.

 47 
Yves Bonnefoy
down2
Birthdate: June 24, 1923
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tours, France
Died: July 1, 2016

Yves Bonnefoy was a French art historian and poet best remembered for translating many of William Shakespeare's plays into French. Many of his translations are regarded as the best in French. From 1981 to 1993, he served as a professor at the Collège de France. Throughout his career, Bonnefoy was honored with many prizes, including the Goncourt Prize for Poetry.

 48 
Gregory of Tours
(Historian)
Gregory of Tours
down3
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. 

Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges
down2
Birthdate: March 18, 1830
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 12, 1889

Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges was a French historian who directed some excavations in Chios and wrote a historical account of the island. He studied at the French School in Athens and proceeded to have a brilliant academic career devoted to teaching and writing. He was elected a member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques in 1875.

 50 
Geoffrey of Villehardouin
down2
Birthdate: 1150 AD
Birthplace: Aube, France
Died: 1218 AD

Geoffrey of Villehardouin was a knight and historian. He participated in and chronicled the Fourth Crusade and is considered one of the most important historians of his era. He wrote the eyewitness account De la Conquête de Constantinople (On the Conquest of Constantinople) about the battle for Constantinople that took place in 1204. He died around 1218.  

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