History and Politics in France

History and politics are often closely entwined in France. Even academic historians sometimes engage directly in social commentary and political activity, sometimes referred to as histoire engagé. Some historians have taken engagement a step further to become local or national leaders of activist movements and political parties.

One of the most famous politically active historians in France, Raoul Girardet, died last week. Raoul Girardet was a Professeur at the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (IEP), also known as Sciences Po. A dedicated nationalist, Girardet was involved in the right-wing Action française in the 1930s, then in the French Resistance during the Second World War, and later in a militant anti-Gaullist movement in the 1960s.


Girardet’s historical work focused on French nationalism, colonialism, and political mythologies. His books include:

  • Le nationalisme français, 1871-1914 (Paris: A. Colin, 1966).
  • L’idée coloniale en France de 1871 à 1962 (Paris: La Table Ronde, 1972).
  • Mythes et mythologies politiques (Paris: Seuil, 1986).

Girardet also engaged in autobiographical historical writing, participating in a volume on ego-histoire by Pierre Nora. On ego-histoire, see:

Pierre Nora, Essais d’ego-histoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1987).

Jeremy D. Popkin, “Ego-Histoire and Beyond: Contemporary French Historian-Autobiographers,” French Historical Studies 19, Special Issue: Biography (Autumn 1996): 1139-1167.

English translations of some of Girardet’s books are available. See WorldCat.org for listings.

Le Monde published an obituary for Raoul Girardet.

This entry was posted in European History, European Union, French History, Paris History, Political Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

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