Charle, Christophe 1951-

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CHARLE, Christophe 1951-

PERSONAL: Born 1951.

ADDRESSES: Offıce—University of Paris—Pantheon-Sorbonne, 15 rue Malte-Brun, 75020 Paris, France.

CAREER: University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, Paris, France, professor; Institut d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, Paris, director.


La crise litteraire a l'epoque du naturalisme: roman, theatre et politique: essai d'histoire sociale des groupes et des genres litteraires, École Normale Superieure (Paris, France), 1979.

Les hauts fonctionnaires en France au XIXe siècle, Gallimard/Juilliard (Paris, France), 1980.

(Editor with others) Prosopographie des elitesFrançaises: (XVIe-XXe siècles): guide de recherche, Editions du CNRS (Paris, France), 1980.

(Editor, with Regine Ferre) Le personnel de l'enseignement superieur en France aux XIXe et XXe siècles: colloque/organise par l'Institut d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine et l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales les 25 et 26 Juin 1984, Editions du CNRS (Paris, France), 1985.

Dictionnaire biographique des universitaires aux XIXe et XXe siècles, Editions du CNRS (Paris, France), 1985-86.

Les elites de la republique: 1880-1900, Fayard (Paris, France), 1987.

(With Eva Telkes) Les professeurs de la faculte desSciences de Paris: dictionnaire biographique (1901-39), Editions du CNRS (Paris, France), 1989.

(Editor) Histoire sociale, histoire globale?: actes du colloque des 27-28 Janvier 1989, Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (Paris, France), 1993.

La republique des universitaires, 1870-1940, Seuil (Paris, France), 1994.

Social History of France in the Nineteenth Century, Berg (Providence, RI), 1994.

Les intellectuals en Europe au XIXe siècle: essai d'histoire comparée, Seuil (Paris, France), 1996.

(Editor) La France democratique: combats, mentalites, symboles: melanges offerts a Maurice Agulhon, Publications de la Sorbonne (Paris, France), 1998.

Paris fin de siècle: culture et politique, Seuil (Paris, France), 1998.

La crise des sociétés impériales: Allemagne, France,Grand-Bretagne, 1900-1940: essai d'histoire comparée, Seuil (Paris, France), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Christophe Charle is a professor of history at the Universite of Paris I—Pantheon-Sorbonne, and also serves as the director of the Institut d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine at Paris's Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. His body of work is chiefly concerned with the social history of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century France. He has written extensively on the role and development of French intellectual life and its intersection with social and cultural elites. His books and articles are distinguished for their subtlety of thought and the complexity of analysis. Charle is considered an academic rather than a popular historian.

In Les elites de la republique, 1880-1900 Charle presents a wealth of social data to depict the dynamic activity of the bourgeoisie's attempts to attain status and power in France's Third Republic. He gives most attention to three social groups: corporate business, bureaucracy, and the university. He uses statistics on marriage patterns, education, and social origins and lists detailing which intellectuals and bureaucrats served on which committee, along with life stories to show the struggles of people trying to move up the social ladder during the late nineteenth century. During the time of the Third Republic there was sufficient social mobility to allow for upward movement, thereby creating a situation of intense competition. Charle points out that previous to the start of the Third French Republic, admission to the ranks of the elite was based on social connections and an old family name. This system changed due to the advent of electoral politics and expanded educational opportunities, among other things. Thus, the elite became more of a meritocracy, the deciding factors of the level and quality of education replacing membership in the aristocracy. The author argues that specialization of position, or bureaucratization, and the emergence of democracy became significant factors in the shaping of the new elite. Through the recognition of opportunities for advancement, the ascending bourgeoisie began to focus attention on securing more status and power and formed strategies to secure their goals. The old guard adapted, unwilling to give their hold on power, and acquired the skills and knowledge to maintain at least a portion of their dominance. This was particularly evident in the higher echelons of the business world.

Charle also considers the impact of the Dreyfus affair, a major polarizing factor in French society at the end of the nineteenth century. Shifting social patterns and the emotions they inspired led the author to view this event in a different light. Based on his research and analysis of the times, Charle rejects the conventional view that the Dreyfus controversy was rooted in anti-Semitism. Rather, he argues that it was the result of jealousy and tension within the new elite. The author views the Dreyfus affair as part of a pattern of ideological and political struggles that resulted from competition between different strata of the elite. Critics have been inclined to consider this position seriously. They have been generally positive in their assessment of the book. The quantity of research material and the form of the presentation were widely praised.

In A Social History of France in the Nineteenth Century Charle expands his examination to include all levels of society, from the nobility to the peasantry. Critics have noted that Charle focuses on the development of distinct social groups in the wake of the French Revolution, as French society changed from a highly stratified entity where all the power was held by the aristocracy to something more democratic under the guidance of Napoleon Bonaparte. The introduction of elections, widely available education, trade unions, and a mass press were the agents of major shifts in nineteenth-century French society. The book's clarity and insight into the social dynamics of the time have received acclaim from critics.

Charle has written extensively on the role of academics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century France. In Le personnel de l'enseignement superieur en France au XIXe et XXe siècles, he and co-editor Regine Ferre compile the proceedings of a conference on that topic. Many disciplines are covered, including history, political science, sociology, and social history. The materials contribute to a considerable body of data on career histories, social backgrounds, provincial and Parisian posts, and more. Patterns of change in function and the influence of the academic community on French society at large are also examined. This book was considered most appropriate for readers of considerable scholarly background.

The significance, history, and structure of the academic establishment are explored in detail in La republique des universitaires, 1870-1940 and La naissance des intellectuels, 1880-1900. Charle examines the academic establishment in detail in order to understand its structure and function. His findings were viewed as having great relevance for the subsequent state of higher education in France. The author also looks at the German system in La republique des universitaires, 1870-1940 with the thought that the contrast between the two cultures would contribute to a sharper understanding of each. The emergence of intellectuals as a distinct group with a function and identity is studied by Charle in La naissance des intellectuels, 1880-1900. He argues that they became an identifiable force during the Dreyfus affair, and like many other groups, have a clear hierarchy and dynamic. Both books received positive critical evaluation and were acknowledged as important works in the field of French intellectual history.

Paris fin de siècle: culture et politique further expands Charle's themes of the role and structure of the elite and intellectuals in nineteenth-century France, in this instance how power and a dynamic social situation influenced these two groups. The importance of choice of residence is explored, as well as the characteristics of "cultural brokers." Set against the backdrop of the Dreyfus Affair, this book received favorable recognition from scholars in the field for its careful research and subtlety of analysis.

Charle widens his perspective to consider the histories of the French, German, and British empires in La crise des sociétés impériales: Allemagne, France, Grand-Bretagne, 1900-1940: essai d'histoire comparee. Reviewer Richard Vinen in the Times Literary Supplement admired the book's perspective, though he found a characteristically French bias in its approach. The book, Vinen wrote, "certainly deserves to be read by all who are interested in twentieth-century Europe and, especially, modern Britain."



American Historical Review, April, 1990, Bonnie Smith, review of Les elites de la republique, 1880-1900; June, 1991, Jerrold Seigel, review of La naissance des intellectuels, 1880-1900, pp. 887-889; April, 1996, George Weisz, review of La republique des universitaires, pp. 508-509.

American Journal of Sociology, May, 1991, Randall Collins, review of La naissance des intellectuels pp. 1593-1596.

English Historical Review, January, 1988, R. N. Gildea, review of Le personnel de l'enseignement superieur en France au XIXe et XXe siècles pp. 250-251.

History, January, 1997, R. D. Anderson, review of ASocial History of France in the Nineteenth Century, p. 165.

Journal of Modern History, March, 1990, Philip Nord, review of Les elites de la republique, 1880-1900, pp. 166-168; March, 2001, Michael Miller, review of Paris fin de siècle: culture et politique, p.319.

Journal of Social History, fall, 1987, C. R. Day, review of Le personnel de l'enseignement superieur en France au XIXe et XXe siècles, pp. 166-167; winter, 1992, Steven Beaudoin, review of Histoire sociale de la France au XIXe siècle, pp. 396-398; summer, 2000, Warren Breckman, review of Paris fin de siècle, pp. 978-980.

Social History, January, 1989, David Gordon, review of Les elites de la republique, pp. 123-126.

Times Literary Supplement, October 5, 1990, Peter Brooks, review of La naissance des intellectuels, 1880-1900, pp. 1075-1076; Richard Vinen, "Late Imperial Attitudes," p. 26.


French Culture Web site, (August 28, 2002).*

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