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Philippe Aries and the Politics of French Cultural History

Philippe Aries and the Politics of French Cultural History

Patrick H. Hutton
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 304
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    Philippe Aries and the Politics of French Cultural History
    Book Description:

    The author of Centuries of Childhood and other landmark historical works, Philippe Ariès (1914–1984) was a singular figure in French intellectual life. He was both a political reactionary and a pathbreaking scholar, a sectarian royalist who supported the Vichy regime and a founder of the new cultural history—popularly known as l’histoire des mentalités—that developed in the decades following World War II. In this book, Patrick H. Hutton explores the relationship between Ariès’s life and thought and evaluates his contribution to modern historiography, in France and abroad. According to Hutton, the originality of Ariès’s work and the power of his appeal derived from the way he drew together the two strands of his own intellectual life: his enduring ties to the old cultural order valued by the rightwing Action Française, and a newfound appreciation for the methodology of the leftist Annales school of historians. A demographer by training, he pioneered a new route into the history of private life that eventually won him a wide readership and in late life an appointment to the faculty of the prestigious École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. At the same time, he fashioned himself as a man of letters in the intellectual tradition of the Action Française and became a perspicacious journalist as well as a stimulating writer of autobiographical memoirs. In Hutton’s view, this helps explain why, more than any other historian, Philippe Ariès left his personal signature on his scholarship.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-114-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE Old France in the New History
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. Chronology of the Life of Philippe Ariès
    (pp. xxi-xxviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 From Tradition into History
    (pp. 1-18)

    Philippe Ariès was a singular figure in the historiography of the late twentieth century, both in France and abroad.¹ He moved from a youthful identification with sectarian royalism toward a broadly conceived perspective on a new cultural history, and so became one of the most original historians of his time. His work stimulated a sustained inquiry into the history of mentalities that would engage historians in the Western world for the better part of the late twentieth century. More than any other historian he left his personal signature on this new field. He helped to usher it in through his...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Between Ego-Psychology and Ego-Histoire A Biographical Sketch
    (pp. 19-36)

    The life of Philippe Ariès as an intellectual in twentieth-century France is a study in personal growth in the face of obstacles, some imposed upon him by the times in which he lived, some derived from his personal makeup, and some of his own creation. Denied his ambition to become a university professor as a young man, he pursued an alternate route as an amateur historian and achieved success as a scholar that he might otherwise never have known. He was conspicuous for his commitment to some deeply held convictions about the nature and value of historical inquiry while reformulating...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. CHAPTER 3 The Politics of a Young Royalist
    (pp. 37-56)

    In his autobiography, written in 1980, Philippe Ariès, by then a member of the faculty of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes, evokes a tableau of his discovery of the writings of the Annales historians during the dark days of Vichy France, when Paris was under the Occupation. Conscripted immediately at the outset of the war in September 1939 and as precipitously demobilized after the armistice of June 1940, he returned to Paris, his life disrupted and his plans for the future uncertain. Still hoping to pass hisagrègation, the qualifying examination for an appointment to the university faculty, he turned...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Royalist Politics after the War
    (pp. 57-75)

    During the fall 1941, Philippe Ariès, an aspiring man of letters, attended the salon of Daniel Halévy for the first time. Halévy was a renowned intellectual with broad and eclectic interests, formed in the style of the savant of the nineteenth century. He wrote old-fashioned narrative essays on France’s political heritage, with subtle insight into correspondences between past and present. As a man of letters, he epitomized refined, lingering attachments to old France. These were somber days in Paris, and the city’s normally vibrant intellectual life had been largely stilled. But Halévy’s salon on the quai de l’Horloge was a...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Secrets of the History of Mentalities
    (pp. 76-91)

    In the winter of 1943 Philippe Ariès, by then an unemployed teacher coping with the travails of life in Paris under German Occupation, made a pilgrimage to Lyon to visit with the remnant of the Action Française that had gathered in exile there. He was looking for some validation from his former associates of his fragile hopes for the movement’s renewal under the Vichy regime that had taken on the responsibility of governing a defeated nation. The war years had been miserable not only for their privations but also for their deceptions. Ariès had just resigned as an instructor at...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Decades of Debate about Centuries of Childhood
    (pp. 92-112)

    Philippe Ariès’sL’Enfant et la vie familiale sous l’Ancien Régime(1960), better known to its American readers asCenturies of Childhood(1962), is a revealing example of how a work of history, like one of art or literature, may take on a life of its own among its critics. Assessing its significance has become as much a matter of its readershipas its authorship.Centurieswas Ariès’s fourth book, and the one for which he first gained international recognition. As a historian, he had never before received more than marginal notice. He had struggled to find publishers for his earlier books...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Of Death and Destiny The Ariès/Vovelle Debate about the History of Mourning
    (pp. 113-128)

    In the 1960s Ariès embarked on a massive project of coming to terms with the second major topic he had blocked out in his historical studies in the late 1940s—that of Western attitudes toward death and mourning.¹ Like his study of the family, the source of his project reverts to the Vichy years. The death of his brother Jacques in one of the last campaigns of the war, he confided in friends, had been a major factor in his initial interest in past practices of mourning loved ones.² Though he sketched some ideas on the “techniques of death” in...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Sacred and the Profane Lifelong Commitments
    (pp. 129-147)

    In his autobiography, the historian Raoul Girardet tells of his last encounter with his old friend Philippe Ariès, about a month before he died. They had lunch together in Paris, animated by the quips and banter in which they often engaged. They had been friends since their days at the Sorbonne together, then as earnest young royalists writing and speaking in behalf of the Action Française. In those days, they often gathered at the apartment of the Girardet family in the heart of the Latin Quarter, where Raoul’s mother lavished maternal affection on their band of friends. During the war...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Late-Life Historical Reflections on the Family in Contemporary Culture
    (pp. 148-164)

    Primerose Ariès died in Toulouse late in the summer of 1983, leaving Philippe, her husband of thirty-six years, alone.¹ Their intimacy as a couple was legendary among their acquaintances. They had been friends since adolescence, hailing from families among the provincial bourgeoisie that prided themselves in their enduring attachment to the royalist politics and traditional culture of old France. Affianced in what might be construed as an arranged marriage, they had some difficult beginnings to their life together. But over time they drew closer. They traveled together extensively, initially in connection with Philippe’s work as director of the commercial documentation...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. CHAPTER 10 A Time in History
    (pp. 165-186)

    In his autobiography, Philippe Ariès tells a charming story of an illuminating moment in his ruminations on the concept of historical time. As with so many of his ideas, it comes intertwined with an account of the personal circumstances that attended his reflections, in this case a tale of the way he and Primerose began to share their lives as a married couple in the late 1940s. In those days, they sometimes made weekend excursions into the Loire valley. It was not that far from Paris, an easy journey on the train. They often took their bicycles with them and...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 187-222)
    (pp. 223-238)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 239-244)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-246)