Beecher, Jonathan French 1937-
BEECHER, Jonathan French 1937-
PERSONAL: Born April 26, 1937, in Boston, MA; son of Henry K. U. (a doctor and professor) and Margaret (Swain) Beecher; married Merike Lepasaar (a translator), August 24, 1974; children: David Ilmar, Daniel Lembit. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1959, Ph.D., 1968; attended Ecole Normale Superieure, 1962-64. Politics: Democratic socialist.
CAREER: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, instructor in history, 1967-69; University of California, Santa Cruz, assistant professor, 1970-76, associate professor, 1976-86, professor of history, 1986—.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, Societe d'Histoire de la Revolution de 1848, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow, 1959-60; fellow of American Council of Learned Societies, 1976-77; Guggenheim fellow, 1988-89; president's fellow of the University of California, 1988.
(Editor and translator, with Richard Bienvenu) TheUtopian Vision of Charles Fourier, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1971, second edition, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1983.
Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1986.
Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of FrenchRomantic Socialism, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
Contributor of articles and reviews to history journals, including Journal of Modern History.
SIDELIGHTS: Jonathan French Beecher once told CA: "In writing the biography of French social thinker Charles Fourier (1772-1837), one of my aims was to grasp the interplay between Fourier's dreams and aspirations and the world in which he lived. I tried to situate Fourier's ideas with reference to the worlds of discourse that he challenged and to understand his life by reconstructing the various social worlds that he traversed. This is not the way Fourier has normally been seen; and in taking this approach I was reacting in part against the conventional view of Fourier as an inspired lunatic who lived in a completely self-contained mental universe—a picturesque crank with a few 'modern' insights. I would describe my approach to intellectual biography as contextualist. However, my main concern in writing the book was not to prove a point about how biography should be written but rather to find a way of writing this man's biography that would not trivialize his thought and experience.
"Currently I'm at work on a second biography. Its subject, Victor Considerant (1808-1893), was a follower of Fourier who played an important role in the creation of a Fourierist movement and became one of the leaders of the French democratic socialist left in 1848. Considerant subsequently immigrated to the United States and spent much of the 1850s and 1860s attempting to establish a utopian community in Texas. What makes his long life particularly interesting to me is that through him we can trace the rise and fall of French romantic socialism and we can follow the efforts of a major figure of the generation of the 1840s to salvage his career and ideals after the debacle of 1848.
"When I'm finished with Considerant, I hope to write a volume of essays on European intellectuals and the French revolution of 1848. My central theme or question would be the relation between what such individuals did in 1848 and what they said about the revolution later."
"It is no exaggeration to say that, with [Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism], Beecher has established himself as the world expert on French utopian socialism," K. Steven Vincent wrote in his review of that book in French Politics, Culture and Society. The pre-Marxist socialism of Considerant and others has been an object of scorn for modern social theorists, but as Jeremy Black observed in the Journal of European Studies, "Beecher seeks to rescue early socialism from condescension." Black praised Beecher's results: "This is a splendid piece of historical scholarship.... Beecher's study is not only destined to become the standard work on Considerant in English, it is the best study of him in any language."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1988; April, 2002, Alan B. Spitzer, review of Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism, p. 631.
Choice, September, 2001, S. Bailey, review of VictorConsiderant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism, p. 194.
French Politics, Culture and Society, spring, 2002, review of Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism, pp. 120-122.
Journal of European Studies, March, 2001, Jeremy Black, review of Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism, pp. 125-6.
New York Times Book Review, May 17, 1987; June 21, 1987.
Political Studies, December, 2001, H. S. Jones, review of Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism, p. 1016.
Times Literary Supplement, April 27, 2001, Bee Wilson, "Illusions Lost," pp. 4-5.
Utopian Studies, winter, 2002, George Mariz, review of Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Socialism, pp. 173-175.
University of California Press Web site,http://www.ucpress.edu/ (May 8, 2002).