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Of what is History capable?

Patrick Boucheron

Of what is History capable?

Inaugural Lecture delivered on Thursday 17 December 2015

Patrick Boucheron
Traduction de Liz Libbrecht

Note de l’éditeur

This text has been translated by Liz Libbrecht in collaboration with Céline Surprenant (Collège de France).

Texte intégral

1Mr Minister,
Your Excellencies,
Mr Rector and Chancellor of the Universities,
Mr Administrator,
Ladies and gentlemen Professors,
Ladies and gentlemen,
My dear friends,

2A month ago I returned to the Place de la République, incredulous and sad, like so many others, with so many others. The November sun was almost insolent in its brightness, scandalous in its sovereign indifference towards human grief. Since January 2015, like waves crashing against a cliff, time had swept over the white stone base acting as a pedestal for the statue of Marianne. Time passed, nights and days, rain, wind, washing off children’s drawings, scattering objects, erasing slogans, dimming their anger. And we said: that’s what it is, a monument, holding up to the sky an active, live, fragile memory; that’s all it is, a city, this way of making the past inhabitable and bringing together under our footsteps its scattered fragments; history is all that, provided it knows how to embrace both the appeasing slowness of time and the abruptness of events.

3Among the flowers, the candles and the paper pasted there, I saw a page torn from a pupil’s exercise book. In a neat, applied handwriting, in blue ink, someone had copied a quote from Victor Hugo. Since the previous evening, the Web had already been buzzing with this name, in several languages and various alphabets. At the same time, a group of graffiti artists found the rage of hope in an old Latin expression, restoring to today’s dark light the Parisian slogan that had been engraved for the first time on a coin in 1581. And may those who pride themselves on their desperation by peddling our distress, those who stir about restlessly as they intoxicate themselves on the facile fumes of the idea of decline, those who despise school in the name of their illusions about it, all those who, finally, are repelled by the very thought of a collective intelligence, may they remember those days. For there too, literature was for many a source of energy, consolation and mobilization.

4I went home and plunged into the large red-binding illustrated books that had accompanied me since my childhood. On each of my birthdays, my grandfather gave me a volume of this old and popular edition of the complete works of Victor Hugo. There, in its entirety, I found what I had seen at the Place de la République. It was in the third volume of Les Misérables, in the first chapter entitled “Paris studied in its atom”, ode to the urchin of the capital who jeers and who rules. And this is what we read:

  • 1 Victor Hugo, Œuvres complètes, vol. 3, Paris, E. Girard & A. Boitte, 1859, p. 24 (Les Misérables, v (...)

To attempt, to brave, to persist, to persevere, to be faithful to one’s self, to grasp fate bodily, to astound catastrophe by the small amount of fear that it occasions us, now to affront unjust power, again to insult drunken victory, to hold one’s position, to stand one’s ground; that is the example which nations need, that is the light which electrifies them.1

  • 2 Jules Michelet, “Leçon d’ouverture (lundi 23 avril 1838): Paris représente le monde”, in Cours au C (...)

5For Hugo, what holds its position, what stands its ground, is the city in its material forms, in the stubborn and noisy insistence of its very places – and we recognize here the old humanist belief, always belied by experience, yet never impugned, that an onslaught by beauty and greatness will be able to defy the wickedness of the world. But these urban forms are nothing without the social energy animating, expressing and transforming them. They persevere, provided they do not freeze; they persist as long as they do not insist. They remain in motion, if we only lend an ear to the familiar strangeness of this expression, remain in motion, which simultaneously speaks of that which inhabits us, drives us, and repels us. For if “Paris represents the world” – the title of Jules Michelet’s first lesson at the Collège de France, on Monday 23 April 1838 – it is because “all peoples flock to it to draw elements from it for their civilization. It is the great crossroads to which the roads of nations lead”.2

6Peoples, nations, the crossroads of civilizations: ladies and gentlemen, rest assured, I am not going to inflict on you here the great nineteenth-century discourses that the solemnity of the place and the gravity of the times might well inspire in whosoever enters these walls. Michelet’s inaugural gesture is so powerful that any claim to repeat it, or even simply to make use of it, would be nothing but antics; or else, childishness or senility. We are adults however, and therefore weary of prophetism. Of what is history capable today? What should it do in order to persist and remain true to itself?

7Such is the question, which is no doubt serious, that I wish to raise here today, in this place, before you. There is perhaps an echo of Spinoza’s cry in it, the way that ontology has of speaking in terms of ethics: no one knows of what a is body is capable. What does being capable of mean here? The idea is not solemnly and martially to demand something for history which, restive towards its own power, will be master of nothing. Nor do we demand anything for historians; the fact that they sometimes regret not being heard by those in power is of little concern to us. Instead, we need to inquire as to what history can do, what it is still able to do, what it is actually capable of doing – meaning both what is possible for it, and what is its potential.


8And now, Mister Administrator, Ladies and Gentlemen the Professors, as I express my immense gratitude for the honour you have bestowed on me by electing me to this Chair of History of the Powers in Western Europe, 13th-16th Centuries, allow me an avowal. I have read your Inaugural Lectures and those of your predecessors, back to your most distant forerunners. I read them out of duty, out of the wish to do what was right, or simply to while away my wait, for it took me a long time to understand what was expected of me. I was not seeking inspiration, no, I only wanted to be sure that I would have the patience, perhaps the audacity, and certainly the humility not to fall short of the speech that I was to deliver. And here it is that today, all the emotions that arise in this type of circumstance come back to me one after the other.

9They are: dread, mixed with intense joy; the fact of being irreducibly alone and yet finding oneself among so many. The near animal impulse to run away so as not to be here, and at the same time the words beating on one’s temples to bring one back to the desire to be gathered together. Pride, of course, which sometimes elevates and sometimes crushes. Shame too, faced with such an extravagant privilege. The almost amusing evidence of the feeling of indignity, the past so heavy that it weighs like a lid. Yes, all of this has been said a hundred times, yet all of it is so rigorously true – starting with the reluctance to start.


  • 3 Michel Foucault, L’Ordre du discours, Paris, Gallimard, 1971, p. 8. M. Foucault, “The order of disc (...)
  • 4 Ibid., p. 10 (p. 52).

10Not taking the floor, but preparing to become the one from whom speech emanates, allowing oneself to be enveloped, traversed, by it, “a slender gap – the point of its possible disappearance”.3 I read and reread these unforgettable pages from L’Ordre du discours (“The Order of Discourse”) by Michel Foucault, understanding that this order is all the more imperious insofar as it does not need to state its commandments. I read and reread them, feverishly, for I find in them an ever fiery warning that enables us to protect ourselves against the violence of the word, not to allow ourselves to be intoxicated by its unjust power. “What, then, is so perilous in the fact that people speak, and that their discourse proliferates to infinity? Where is the danger in that?”4 This is the only valid question today, for it demands an answer that may well surprise us, offend us, and be distasteful to us. For the greatest dangers are both those that announce themselves noisily, and those, less noticeable, that we could hasten in wanting to avoid them.

  • 5 Pierre Bourdieu, Leçon sur la leçon, Paris, Minuit, 1982, p. 56 (our translation).

11Pierre Bourdieu’s Leçon sur la leçon can be read as the painful gloss of this passage. Neither cynicism nor suicidal impulse: the sociologist sincerely thought that by breaking the charm of academic authority he was not weakening its regime of truth but, on the contrary, basing it on reason. For he believed “in the liberating virtues of what is probably the least illegitimate of symbolic powers, that of science, especially when it takes on the form of a science of symbolic powers”.5 And if he said this in this very place, it was also and above all because he could think of no more worthy homage to address to an institution entirely devoted to freedom, than taking some liberty with it as well.

  • 6 Roger Chartier, Écouter les morts avec les yeux, Inaugural Lecture delivered on 11 Octobre 2007, Pa (...)

12So where is the danger? It seems that a large part of Roger Chartier’s work is situated here, in this meeting place where he recognized that which, in his Inaugural Lecture as well, he calls the “contradictory fear [that] inhabits modern Europe – and [that] still torments us. On the one hand, dread towards the uncontrolled proliferation of writings, the masses of useless books, the disorder of discourses; on the other, the fear of loss, of lack, of forgetting”.6 We are at the heart of the torment, for who cannot see today that it is taking two equally deafening forms: that of incessant chattering, and that of a great fearful silence? The only way to confront them is by rallying together patience, work, friendship, invention, and courage: in short, intelligence in the form of books whose cause I want to defend. Reading is to practise gratitude. That which I feel towards Roger Chartier is so profound and so sincere that it can be expressed only with the words that I have just used: work, friendship, invention. But how can we not add kindness, a quality without which intelligence is but a nasty habit, and that of generosity which – but you have just heard it – characterizes his way of doing and saying?


13Thanking one’s protectors and presenting one’s intentions: these, my dear colleagues, were the two main tasks that the first lecteurs royaux [Royal Readers] in the sixteenth century gave themselves in their opening lectures. The way in which the ancient forms of the ceremonial speech of the epideixis were passed down to them is, in itself, an illustration of the humanist fervour – the ambition, energy and necessity of which the Collège de France has consistently sought to keep alive since then.

14In the autumn of 1534, Barthélémy Masson, known as Latomus, who had been elected to the Chair of Latin Eloquence, delivered his Lecture. It was at the Collège Sainte-Barbe, not far from here, as the institution founded by François I four years earlier did not yet have its own premises. Guillaume Budé had initially wanted it to be a living encyclopaedia built on the “live stones” of the masters’ words. Budé recommended Latomus to the king. Latomus, born in Arlon, in the province of Luxembourg, had taught in Trèves, then Cologne, and finally Louvain, where he had met Erasmus. To my knowledge, his opening lecture in 1534 was the first to have been preserved. There is a single copy of it in the Mazarine library, under the title Oratio de studiis humanitatis.

  • 7 Latomus, Deux discours inauguraux, translated and published by Louis Bakelants, Brussels, Latomus, (...)
  • 8 Ibid., p. 28.

15Latomus confessed in it that he feared being a disappointment, and appealed to his friends to help him not to yield under the weight of his responsibilities: “I would thus be lying, dear listeners, if I claimed that no timidity overwhelmed me”.7 And with good reason, for the task awaiting him consisted of nothing less than leading humanity out of darkness. For what is the story that Latomus recounts? It is that of the Renaissance as it was being invented and exalted. First there were Athens and Rome, which flourished “not only through the brilliance of their genius, but through the glory of their empire”. And once again, I am quoting, “it was this great felicity which was hit by the Scythian storm hit, enemy of literature, hideous destroyer of everything that was good; there ensued an immediate devastation not only of personal virtues in the hearts of men, but also of the empire and domination”.8

16Mankind was thus plunged into the obscurity of the Dark Ages, in tenebris, which is also an eclipse of power. In the theological night, certain intellectuals groped their way forwards but, like travellers without a compass, “they lost their way in the woods and marshes”. Light suddenly emerged from the west: “eight hundred years ago, if I am not mistaken”. That was in the time of Charlemagne – and once again an empire. In the pale light of this rebirth something that could be likened to Western Europe faintly emerged: “A trickle of science turned away from its Italian sources, which were moreover almost dry, and flowed towards France, whence it soon spread out to neighbouring regions.”

  • 9 Ibid., p. 30.

17Flash in the pan, false beginning: darkness once again prevails, barely lit by a few intermittent sparks of renaissance. And still, “in many places, men lived in a wild and dreadful way”.9 But that was no longer the case. At nunc paucis annis, claims Latomus, impassioned; today, in recent years, everything has been restored, purified and fortified. And this, he said, for the greater glory of the State.


18In this discourse we recognize the great rhetoric of the separation of times which, by a single stroke, invented the two periods that it split apart: the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But we also understand how much the legend of foundation of the Collège de France is intimately linked to this very movement. Within these walls, we might therefore consider it sacrilege to step over the Humanist break. For there are few institutions that mix, as inextricably as does this one, memories, fictions and beliefs – to use the title of the first series of lectures that I will deliver this year. By putting this powerful imaginary to the test of a history of powers, we can make out the far less smooth chronicle of a fragile and halting foundation. No beginning here, but an uncertain sequence of new beginnings lingering right up to the 1560s.

19Nothing, indeed, that has the shrill clarity of the great historical scenes of the Restoration. For instance, this composition painted by Guillaume Guillon in 1824, which welcomes in this very place the new professors in the assembly hall, through the most shameless historical lie. We see in it the imposing stature of the founding king, François I, in good company since Leonardo de Vinci himself, admittedly a bit pale, is honouring him with his presence eleven years after his death. Seeing that, we understand how difficult it is for historians of the Renaissance – once they consent to being defined as such – to exit Amboise’s stifling huis-clos where Leonardo’s indestructible ghost is perpetually agonizing in François I’s arms. Yet they know full well that what finds refuge in Paris is a European Humanist dream born in Alcalá, Louvain, Oxford, Rome and Milan, just as they know that the theologians of the Sorbonne, under the leadership of their dean Noël Bédier, were not the infamous obscurantists that they are said to be.

20Yet there is no way around it, Michelet was there; the Renaissance exists because he reinvented it. It exists in no other way than as poetic creation. In this sense it is indisputable. Very rarely does history as literature attain this degree of invulnerability. But when it does, then history as a scholarly and engaged discourse is powerless against it. No one can change the fact that Michelet revived the Renaissance, right down to our day, and no one can even change the terms on which he made it exist. Although those terms still need to be clarified. Before finding Italy as its homeland and the century as a storyline or plot, the “eternal Renaissance” was initially, in his writings, a tireless intellectual movement that continuously courted the authority of the past by seeking golden ages behind it – which, as we know, is a general characteristic that the Moderns liberally ascribe to the mediaeval period.

  • 10 Jules Michelet, Leçon d’ouverture, op. cit., p. 87 (cited in Pierre Toubert and Michel Zink [eds] (...)

21But of which Middle Ages are we talking? The one that Michelet portrayed in his 1838 lecture connected twelfth-century scholastics, in a single sweep, to sixteenth-century Humanism. From Abélard to Pierre de la Ramée, the grand adventure of “free examination”10 unfolded. The history of mediaeval philosophy would hardly deny such a chronology today, no more than it would challenge the emancipating power of scholastic reasoning.

  • 11 Étienne Pasquier, Recherches sur la France, cited in Charles Waddington, Ramus (Pierre de la Ramée) (...)
  • 12 Cited in Abel Lefranc, Histoire du Collège de France depuis ses origines jusqu’à la fin du Premier (...)

22After his appointment to the Chair of Mathematics and Greek Philosophy in 1551, Pierre de la Ramée, known as Ramus, born to a humble family of labourers near Noyon and servant to a student at the Collège de Navarre upon arrival in Paris, became the untameable fighter who attacked the Aristotelian corpus. “When teaching the youth, Ramus became a statesman”11, wrote Étienne Pasquier, who was his first admiring audience. De la Ramée delivered his Inaugural Lecture on 24 August of the year 1551. It was published, preceded by a dedication to the cardinal of Lorraine, which noted that the lecture had been “delivered in the midst of such a large number of people that several of them had half-suffocated and had to be taken out of the hall, and that the speaker himself had had a coughing fit due to the intense heat and had nearly been asphyxiated himself”.12 In any case and most significantly, with Pierre de la Ramée, the Collège de France’s history did so much inaugurate a founding event, as it was ready to reap the benefits of a great history.


23It is probably clearer to you why the title of the Chair that I am defending here keeps a respectful distance from these two chrononyms: Middle Ages and Renaissance. Their tradition is so illustrious at the Collège de France that it inevitably obliges those who conform to it to lay claim to the powerful narrative that they initiated. But history can also be an art of discontinuities. By flouting the order that chronologies impose, it knows how to make itself literally disconcerting. It disturbs genealogies, threatens identities, and causes a spacing of time, where the historical becoming finds its right to uncertainty again, and in so doing, opens itself to the intelligibility of the present.

24From now on I will therefore say “13th-16th centuries”, but be aware that nothing really started in the thirteenth century nor ended in the sixteenth. A period is a time that we set for ourselves. We can occupy it at will, transcend, and shift it. There is no obligation to make it into something that exists in and of itself, a defined thing living its own life, a thing that one should have to put among a collection of other things, and to defend against other evidently hostile ones that precede or outdate it. For this time period is not the compulsory step of an oriented becoming which, by overtaking them, makes their ancient forms obsolete. It is this accumulated past, whose archaeology aims at those layers that remain active; in sum, those that allow us to understand today’s political reality.


25Relinquishing the power to give it a name, at least we can endeavour to describe the historical period of the powers that we will consider. It lies beyond what mediaeval historians now call the “Break of Gregorian Reform”. In describing it, their style is not as scathing as when history was sliced up around the year one thousand. This break no longer resembles a clear cut but rather that of a thick line, so thick that it spreads across an entire century: the twelfth.

26Let it be clear: what traditional historiography called the “Gregorian Reform” is not only a historical religious fact concerning the defence of the Church’s material goods and spiritual prerogatives, but also an overall rearrangement of all power, an organization of the world around ecclesiastical dominium. All of this was underpinned by a new sacramental doctrine that ended the Eucharistic quarrel by adopting a realist stance: it was henceforth the efficacy of the sacrament (its implementation by clerics, its reception by laypersons) that determined membership of the ecclesia.

  • 13 Hugues de Saint-Victor, De sacramentis christianae fidei, II, 2.4 (ed. PL, 176, 418), cited in Flor (...)

27This institution therefore implied an act of separation: the exclusion of Jews, infidels and heretics – all those whom the ecclesiastical discourse brought together under the same reprobation because they put no faith in the validity of the church’s sacraments, and thus in the legitimacy of the priests’ status. For such is the other separation, making the opposition between clerics and laypersons not only a functional distinction of ordo, but also an essential difference of genus defined by two forms of life, one terrestrial and the other celestial. They relate to the essential, that is, sex and money, in other words, to what the body can do. “According to these two ways of living”, wrote Hugues de Saint-Victor in his De Sacramentis christianae fidei, there are two peoples, and in these peoples, two powers”.13

28Auctoritas and potestas: as soon as the ecclesiastical authority became spiritual, the laypersons’ lordship became secular, and both got rid of the former imperial and monastic Christianity inherited from the Christian Roman Empire. The sixteenth-century Reformers were not mistaken when they energetically attacked these innovations that they deemed to be contrary to the Gospels. Thus, by ecclesia we must understand not only Church, but also its ability to impose itself as a global institution. It made Christianity not only a religion but also an all-encompassing anthropological structure, and the government of the Church, a reality that was co-extensive with society as a whole.


29Who cannot see today how sinister the ideologies of separation are? Who does not grasp the disastrous effects of a religious view of the world where everyone is assigned an identity defined by essence? By bringing to light this genealogy of the regimen, the art of governing people, historians shed a harsh and gloomy light on what today still constitutes our modernity. We guess its indivisible core, which we could readily call the “theological-political enigma”. It is a defining feature of Western history, the part that cannot be assimilated, for we are still indebted (whether we like it or not, and whether we know it or not) to this long history that turned the Eucharistic sacrament into the active metaphor of an entire social organization.

30Based on the theology of Incarnation, it informs and constrains what is implicit in a theory of representation, extended in two senses: figurative (how images act to make absence present), and political (how institutions organize themselves to delegate the power of unfindable communities to representatives). In this sense, it departs from the religions of theophany, which, like Islam, match their theology of images and their theory of power to pure presence, the other modality of the manifestation of the divine. Here we are at the core of the Western theological-political divide, which is, once again, an act of separation.


31Orphans of the great narratives explaining the world – for the mediaeval era it was the feudal paradigm –, historians must not for all that allow themselves be fascinated by the theories of ecclesia and dominium. For twenty years, their collective effort has consisted in settling old quarrels of internal periodization, so as to articulate several social transformations around a central fold that one could call “Gregorian” and that broadly covers the twelfth century. Other flexures are superimposed upon it, notably the very concrete ones of the territorialization of power relations attending profound change in urban archaeological features, in the social life of objects, and in the history of environmental planning. This test of the real must make it possible to give rhythm to economic, political, social and archaeological chronologies – which is probably the great collective project that awaits historians.

  • 14 Pierre Toubert, Histoire de l’Occident méditerranéen au Moyen Âge, Inaugural Lecture delivered on F (...)

32How can I not mention here the collective debt that they have contracted, that I have contracted, towards Pierre Toubert? Based on the concept of a “twelfth-century Renaissance” of which, he said, “the European nature is dazzling”, he proposed here an open and dynamic vision of the Mediterranean West, making history of the time when the “frontier of equilibrium” with Islam was not yet set as the “frontier of conquest”.14 By carrying his Middle Ages to the frontier, he made this challenging promise of total history that must be kept today.


33Thus, Gregorian ambition cannot be confused with the political reality of mediaeval European societies. From the thirteenth century, they were characterized by a persistent and multiform opposition to the domination of the ecclesia, of which the great confrontation between Philippe le Bel’s administrative monarchy and the pontifical theocracy of Boniface VIII was but one of the most spectacular episodes. What was the confrontation about? It was precisely about the ability of laypersons to seize the instruments of symbolic power, on which the Church was unable to defend its monopoly.

34This is why the attention of historians who strive to understand the mediaeval genealogy of modern governmentality has shifted over the past ten years. Their efforts focused first on the description of the spiral in which States are caught when the state of war entails the need for a permanent army and consequently taxes to finance it, and therefore for representative assemblies to justify it. By shifting this attention towards the understanding of the symbolic powers that make such changes thinkable and possible, do historians give in to a headlong rush into idealism? I do not think so. To have had the opportunity to accompany this historiographic change alongside its tireless promoter, Jean-Philippe Genet, I know that the effects of symbolic power are all but symbolic. They consist in the sharing of a world of thought, values, images and intentions that can be called “imaginary” but that acquires a concrete existence when it becomes socially tangible.

35It is indeed in this sense that the history of power that I will offer here originated in the symbolic revolution, which was initiated by the Church but then harnessed by lay powers. Its main manifestations were: the rise of scholarly institutions and the revolution in teaching methods; the joint development of cognitive procedures for the contradictory construction of the truth in law and theology; the spread of written culture, along with advances in documentary recording and the promotion of vernacular languages; and the diversification of the function of images and the new distribution of the sensible through the hierarchization of the entire communication system. All these were slow transformations, which began far earlier than the thirteenth century but which became fully efficient socially only then, in a context of diversity of powers and competition between them.

36It is important to say this again clearly: the Gregorian programme failed. The Pope wanted to be the doctor veritatis? But his Church was not one, traversed as it was by tensions and power relations, and the truth that it produced crossed the world – the vast world of the unity of Arabo-Latin knowledge. The scientia and the ratio of doctors seized on this requirement which had lost its truth, revived it, brought it back to life through debate and controversy, thus making it profuse and diverse, inventive and open – scholastic reason being basically the opposite of this naked and obtuse faith about which today’s fundamentalists fantasize. And here is where the third power, that of studium, intervenes between sacerdotium and regnum.

  • 15 Dante, Banquet, I, 1, Œuvres complètes, Christian Bec (ed. and tr.), Paris, Livre de poche, 1996, p (...)

37What we see in the intellectual field also applies everywhere that power has crept in. At the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Western Europe enters a new period of its history that some now call the “second Middle Ages” and which, in any case, constitutes “a little long Middle Ages” that includes a large slice of the sixteenth century, as we will see. It is another Middle Ages, in Jacques Le Goff’s sense, that joyful master of de-periodization, because it is the time of urban growth, communal experience, and secular challenge. It begins generously with Dante’s Convivio, which does not reserve the feast of “angels’ bread” for clerics alone, but welcomes to the table everyone who is hungry for knowledge in “this ailing world”.15 In short, it is a time of political experiments, which can certainly not be reduced to the neatly ordered genealogy of sovereignties, territorial formations, and State building.

  • 16 Marc Bloch, preface to Roberto Cessi, La vicende politiche dell’Italia medievale, I, La crisi imper (...)

38It is thus a political time, when theocratic mirages fade, and the in-between time of possible experiences opens. But what does “politics” mean here? “A lot could be said about this word politics. Why make it, inevitably, synonymous with superficial?” Marc Bloch signed these lines in 1944. It was to review a book, which was actually quite mediocre, on mediaeval Italy, in Mélanges d’histoire sociale – for that was the name of the Annales in Occupied France. He never ceased to write accounts in it; humbly, persistently. They were like so many small victories of integrity that – he knew better than anyone – do not prevent great disasters but do at least keep the name of humans clear. He generally did so under the pseudonym “M. Fougères”. When the sixth edition of Mélanges d’histoire sociale is published, its preface is signed as Bloch. He comes out of the shadows, because he is dead. Let us hear what consequently becomes one of Marc Bloch’s first posthumous texts. In it he describes perfectly what a history of powers might be, one that granted the term politics all its depth: “a history centred […] on the evolution of modes of government and the destiny of groups of governed” seeking to “understand, from the inside, the facts that it has chosen as the objects of its observations”.16

  • 17 M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Random House, 1977, p. 194.

39The social history in question here does not amount to a study of cultural forms of domination. It does indeed take seriously the instituting force of the law and the social production of the State. Yet it aims less to analyse doctrines or to describe government apparatus, than to understand, “from the inside”, as Marc Bloch put it, the facts and objects where power is expressed and wielded. For the nature of power, wrote Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish, is to cause a reality to occur: “In fact power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production”.17

40Therefore, by focusing on the political anthropology of these objects as a practical phenomenon of what Machiavelli called the “effective truth of the thing”, it is as if we were turning towards the large painted walls on which the effects of good or bad government are set out by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the public palace of Sienna in 1338. There, where power shows itself to be the most eloquent, since it makes visible, in painting, that which it hopes for and that which it fears; but also there where life is most vibrant, where it grasps and carries one along.

41All power is the power to create a narrative. This means not only that it employs legal fictions, fables or schemes in order to be liked and understood, but also, more profoundly, that it becomes fully efficient only once it is able to reorient the life stories of those whom it governs. Yet, at the same time, it exposes intelligibly that which can also free us from determinations, by subjecting us to so many constraints.

42These new forms of governmentality are visible in the monumental configurations of mediaeval towns, legible in their political painting or funereal sculpture programmes, and tangible in the social appropriations that organize their meanings. They are active and creative, for they concern image-related actions as much as language-related ones, and in this sense, their power is also that of the efficacy of the sign. They are at the heart of the symbolic revolution that animated the history of powers, at least until the sixteenth century when, by the joint effects of greater familiarity with written culture and printing, the appetite for narrative spread uncontrollably.


43This is why it seems to me necessary to accompany this history, not up to its ending – it never quite ends if not in our own contemporaneousness –, but at least up to the threshold that the delayed effects of the printing revolution produced. This is not so as to experience the small inane pleasure of wrenching from the modernists a bit of the vainglory attached to the magic name Renaissance, but, on the contrary, to relieve them of the ring of disenchantment that the very idea of modernity conveys today.

  • 18 Fernand Braudel, Histoire de la civilisation moderne, Inaugural Lecture delivered on Friday 1 Decem (...)

44In sum, it is about the gravity that Fernand Braudel assigned to history, and which “finds itself, today, facing formidable but also exciting responsibilities”.18 These were the first words of his 1950 Inaugural Lecture. Reading it again today, one is impressed by his portrayal of the anxieties of his day, and all the more impressed probably because it seems to be reflecting the opposite of our own: the war haunts him, but the war is over, whilst irrepressible energy opens before him, quick-tempered optimism in the expansion of the human sciences. Yet his lesson ended in a crepuscular way on “the eve of the sixteenth century” and concluded thus:

  • 19 Ibid., p. 30 (ibid., p. 425).

Lucien Febvre is accustomed to talking of sad men after 1560. Sad men, yes, probably, those men exposed to all ills, to all surprises, to all the betrayals of other men and of fate, to all bitterness, to all futile revolts… Around them and within themselves, so many inexpiable wars… Alas! These sad men resemble us like brothers.19

45And why would they resemble us, fundamentally, these men who saw their great Erasmian dream disintegrate? Might it be the fact of entering into the age of confrontation that we call “wars of religion”? The evidence is perhaps as deceptive as the name of the period is misleadingly clear. For while historians today willingly recognize the determining role of eschatological excitement in the triggering of violence, not all of them resign themselves to seeing religion as the cause. In the latter third of the sixteenth century, notably but not only in France, a profound destabilization of their collective identities characterized these societies, which were confronted with the challenges of religious pluralism and, consequently, with the necessity for a form of autonomy of political reason. They then entered into an uncertain state where the lack of distinction between war and peace reached a threshold.

46Calling it “civil war” has the merit of articulating it to a long history. Think, for example, of the Anglo-French wars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, traditionally interpreted as a feudal quarrel that got out of hand, as it spread into wars between the two countries. Here too, it is better to remove them from these all too majestic categories (religion on the one hand, nations on the other) and to describe them more simply as a civil war that soon took on European dimensions.

47With the exception that the one, which began in the 1560s, triggered new forms of political violence, such as the mass murder of unarmed civilians, termed massacres. That of Saint-Barthelemy, on 24 August 1572, witnessed the death of Pierre de la Ramée, the indignant philosopher mentioned earlier. That set another date, certainly more sombre but perhaps more truthful, in the uncertain foundation of the Collège de France.

48The removal of the pastoral government and the constitution of the raison d’État: there are many ways of designating this flexure, which to my mind was deeper and more consequential for what we think constitutes our modernity. But all certainly concern the history of powers. Following it from Giorgione’s Tempest to that of Shakespeare, or from Montaigne’s Essays to the time of the Quixote, and thus taking charge of all those “sad men after 1560”, is a way of understanding how, since then, we are born crazy, shaken, and disquieted.

  • 20 Michel de Montaigne, Selected Essays, New York, Modern Library, 1949, p. 84.

49I am trying to understand why this very intimate crack is at the same time such an old wound: it is the scar that history has left within us, and especially this history, that of the enlargement of the world in the fifteenth century. For this is, indeed, what animates Montaigne’s admirable description of Brazilian Indians’ anthropophagy. He applied all the ethnographic understanding he had, to free himself from prejudices and to compare and relativize – which amounted to admitting that we are always someone else’s other. Yet he did not give up his belief in the universal: “We may, then, well call these people barbarians in respect to the rules of reason, but not in respect to ourselves, who, in all sorts of barbarity, exceed them”.20

50Who is this we? No emotion of belonging vibrates in this pronoun. If it is today wounded, and on the whole weakened, by the deplorable identitarian regression that soils our contemporaneity, it is because it is thus drawn away from what constitutes the most valuable inheritance of its history – something like the mal d’Europe, the European ailing: that is, the intense feeling of a restlessness about being alive in the world, which is the powerful driver of its grandeur and its dissatisfaction. There is no reason to be either proud about it or ashamed of it.

51Let us at least recognize what desire for knowledge the pronoun “we” bears. To compare, to compare oneself. This enables Montaigne to disavow his own beliefs, particularly the one that is always the most deep-rooted, because it lurks in the blind angle of representation: the evidence of our own point of view. By shifting it, by making writing the place of the other, we perform the ultimate humanistic act.

52And it is therefore not false to state that the Collège de France, as an institution, has virtually never ceased wanting to rearm this act. Bring to mind the titles of the nineteenth-century human science Chairs: the comparison motif is ubiquitous, applied to grammars, to languages, to literatures and to civilizations. With the understanding of other societies at the heart of its project, comparison enables us, in contrast with sociology, to practice thought experiments, for want of genuine experimentation. In this sense, any history of powers can implicitly be but a comparative history of powers.


53Thus if the title of the Chair for which I will henceforth endeavour to prove myself worthy includes Western Europe, it is only in order to denounce the bounds of my own incompetence. Whether spaces or periods be at stake or not, no one is expected to make them exist as just and necessary things simply because he or she knows no others.

  • 21 Pierre Bourdieu, Sur l’État. Cours du Collège de France (1989-1992), Patrick Champagne, Rémi Lenoir (...)

54The terrain of urban Italy is convenient enough for the history that I will be dealing with, at least as a starting point. First, because it constitutes one of the laboratories of European political modernity from the thirteenth century, especially as far as the social assemblage of symbolic powers is concerned. And then also because today, owing notably to developments in Italian historiography, we recognize better the plurality of political languages – of civic as well as aristocratic, community or factious origin – which in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ran throughout the composite, heterogeneous, and eminently contractual nature of its institutional constructs. Finally because, with the backlash of the Italian wars sixteenth-century, Europe became a large Italy. Describing it as such enables us at least to escape what Pierre Bourdieu called, in his lecture Sur l’État, “the destiny effect of possibility realized”21, that is, the gradual construction of national identities by the State, which is in fact eminently resistible and always reversible.

55Once we consider it from a greater vantage point, this history easily lifts the retrospective illusion of continuities. From the thirteenth-century connection of spaces of the Ancient World, to the sixteenth-century conquest of the New World, its framework of intelligibility can but be global. Yet we know full well that on a Eurasian scale, including Africa, the rhythm of the world beats in time to a metronome that no one really knows, but to which no one can be entirely oblivious, since it is located somewhere in China. It is therefore less a matter of provincializing Europe than of estranging it, that is, ultimately, of bringing it back to its own strangeness.


56We would need to be able to write like an Arab geographer. Take Idrîsî who, in the mid-twelfth century in Palermo, wrote The Book of Pleasant Journeys into Faraway Lands for King Roger II of Sicily. In this book the inhabited world is organized in climates, longitudinal strips stretching from west to east and arranged in tiers from north to south. Central and temperate, the fourth is the best suited to civilization. It is the one of the Domain of Islam, but also of the Mediterranean fringe of Europe, scattered with islands named Majorca, Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus. The fifth, sixth and seventh climates border the sea and plunge into the northern fringes of the cold world.

57Everywhere, Idrîsî gave names to towns, roads and rivers, described the quality of waters, the narrowness of passages, the abundance of crops. If Europe was thus able to appear in Arabic geography, it was because this immobile traveller, a prince and scholar, was able to use the accounts of merchants and navigators, in addition to the administrative resources of the Palermo palace. We readily imagine in it the reticular world of smugglers and translators, merchant communities and of Jewish diasporas; the world of trading posts, transactions and long-term trust. Power is wielded rather than held, there where bundles of trade networks come together and taxes can be levied. Such is the true framework of the powers in Western Europe, far from the coloured flatness of our childhood maps. And what inappropriate pride might I hurt by saying that this Western Europe was integrated into the world only inasmuch as it was a periphery of the Islamic empire?

58When, at the end of the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldûn cited Idrîsî’s description in the Muqaddima, the introduction to his universal history, it was precisely so as to attempt to understand what had caused the course of this strange Europe to deviate from the unperturbed history of empires. For finally, from the eighth to the sixteenth century, from the Mongolian expansion to Ottoman conquests, who does not see that the imperial form dominated the history of the world? One’s eyes had to be riveted to the still narrow destiny of a few national monarchies not to understand that in many places of the Ancient World, especially in Europe, the potential for imperial becoming was opening. Some empires were partially realized, as in the Germanic countries of Central Europe, in the territories of the Angevins and the Plantagenets, but also in Sicily, Aragon and Castile. It would have taken little for the State constructions, which, we wrongly believe, were providentially destined to a national form, like the kingdom of France, to give in to the imperial temptation in the sixteenth century.

59What history is also capable of is to acknowledge unrealized futures and unfinished potentialities. That is what “estranging Europe” means. Europe has persistently described the world by taking stock of what is it lacks. But what does Europe lack in a world of Empires? Where does the aberrant course of its future lie? By rendering familiar that which is strange and vice versa, one contributes to disorienting the most innocently overlooked certainties. In this story we are like the missionaries and explorers in the time of Saint Louis, who went so far in their quest for knowledge of the East that their travel writings became accounts of their disarray. Following the strongest inclination of the European imaginary, that of all of the romances of Alexander, they marched heroically towards their curiosity, renouncing the art of never being taken by surprise, which also characterizes the spirit of travel. For, as taught by Gilbert Dagron, to whose memory I wish to pay tribute, the Orient is always a direction, whereas the Occident is an endpoint. It was necessary to give up this direction and to turn towards the Atlantic for these “sad men” of the sixteenth century to give meaning to the idea of an occidental Europe. Before that it hardly had any, apart from the common meaning of Maghreb, which Arab geographers saw as the side of the setting sun and ill omens.

  • 22 Yves Bonnefoy, L’Hésitation et la Décision de Shakespeare, Paris, Seuil, 2015, p. 45.

60This fascination for fatality carries within itself the risk of self-loathing plagued by resentment. As it becomes unbearable, relief is readily found in the targeting of peoples tasked with carrying the burden of our own rejection. The dread in the Moderns’ thinking stems from this. Hamlet, the prince of the last days, king of a backward Middle Ages on the brink of the Far Occident, obsessed by that time so ailing that it has become derailed, ends up exclaiming “I loved Ophelia.” But that is at the loved-one’s grave. As Yves Bonnefoy said: the “too late” of Hamlet is the “too late” of the West. There is always a slightly comical tautology in talking of the West’s decline since its name refers to nothing other than the “land of the oncoming night”. The night, yes, and furthermore, notes the poet, “no longer the great, breathing, clear night of nature, no longer the starry sky, but opacity even in the day, full darkness in which scaffoldings are sometimes known to collapse”.22


61We sometimes say, in a far more trivial language: I would hold it against myself if I “dampened the atmosphere”. In my case, personally, I would hold it against myself strongly if I did not dampen it from time to time. A historian who did not know how to show him or herself as exasperating would practice a kindly and scholarly discipline, probably pleasant for inquisitive and well-read people, but ineffective in terms of critical emancipation. Those who would take the risk of risking nothing, comfortably giving in to the mute certainty of institutions, those who would join the game with no will to play it a bit themselves, would no doubt deck themselves out in all the finery of the serious mind, but it is their discipline that they would not take seriously. I would therefore like to say a few more words, my dear friends, on how I intend to honour this way of proceeding.


  • 23 Georges Duby, Histoire des sociétés médiévales, Inaugural Lecture delivered on Friday 4 December 19 (...)

62In 1985, 21 November was a Thursday. Thursday was the day that Georges Duby lectured in this age-old institution. I was twenty years old, and I had come here for the first time. Actually, I was not yet aware that it was a venerable place – something I understand today, owing to the commitment of all of those who work here. I have already had the opportunity of relating the time when I met a voice. Duby was talking. He addressed a talk, accompanied it so that it would come and place itself there, just in front of him, so that, probably kindly, but a little stiff and solemn, everyone might come to meet him. That particular Thursday he was talking of history, and more precisely of the history of powers in the Middle Ages, powers which he described in the manner of peasants and builders, as “assises”, “armature” and “distribution”. They nailed to the ground social relations in the lord’s domain, itself defined as “that knot of powers rooted in the country soil, and adjusted to the narrowness of an entirely rural civilization, where no one could command from far”.23

  • 24 The sentence can be found in Georges Duby, Le Moyen Âge, 987-1460, Paris, Hachette, 1987, p. 11, at (...)
  • 25 Pierre Michon, back cover of Mythologies d’hiver, Lagrasse, Verdier, 1997 : “Que les choses de l’ét (...)

63And I remember a sentence that he spoke that day: “In the culture which I am talking about, the most vigorous expressions of what we call politics were manual gestures: grasping, letting go, holding. The son felt ‘in the hands’ of his father, the wife ‘in the hands’ of her husband, and the hands of God were outstretched to the delegates of his power.”24 I remember it, because it made an impression on me, because I noted it down, and because much later I compared the notes that I had taken at the time, with those that he had been using. With Jacques Dalarun, I then explored Georges Duby’s archives, to understand by what scheme a grain of his voice was found, still alive, but frozen, in the “impeccable winter of books”.25

64That first time: I have already mentioned it. But never mind inauguration, I have to tell about the second time. It was the following week, the Thursday 28 November 1985. I was back. In those days the porter introduced the professors. When it was time, he called out, but Duby did not appear. There was a moment’s hesitation in the hall. And then he finally came forward, haltingly: “Ladies and Gentlemen”, he said, “I’m shattered, I’ve just learned of Fernand Braudel’s death.” Actually, Braudel had died the previous day, on 27 November. One is twenty years old, one is starting to toy with the idea of becoming a historian one day, and one says to oneself: oh, pity, it’s a bit too late. Winter is coming.

65To be sure, this was not a great Shakespearian tragedy – my generation did not experience anything great – but let’s say that it was disturbing. For a long time I believed that philosophy was only that: looking serious and drawing up the list of all that one can no longer do, say, think, dare, or hope. We experienced comfortably the time of the social sciences’ decolonization from the Braudelian empire. It offered, if not liberties, at least some facility. But it was also the age of grand scruples. They were imposed on us for necessary and honourable reasons – don’t let us forget the dampener put on the inventiveness of historian intrigue by the call to order of reality that the response to the Holocaust denial demanded.

66It would be truly unwise not to understand that these reasons still call on our attention and more so than ever. They call on our attention, to be sure, but also demand something else from us. They demand that we give ourselves the means, including the literary means, to redirect the social sciences towards society, by readily jettisoning the dead language in which they get bogged down.

67It is towards a scientific reassurance of the regime of truth in history as a discipline that we have to work collectively. I dare say “scientific” in this highly singular place that the Collège de France is, where ancient texts and modern objects have met for such a long time; the former intimating that we should read them slowly, the latter precipitating our desire to respond as quickly as possible to the urgent demands of the present. For the former to be attuned to the latter, it is necessary to reconcile erudition and imagination in a new methodological realism: erudition, because it is this form of consideration in knowledge that allows us to stand up to the pernicious enterprise of any unjust power, which consists in eliminating the real in the name of realities; imagination, because it is a form of hospitality, and it enables us to welcome that which, in the feeling of the present, whets an appetite for otherness.

68If this is what history is, if it can do that, it is then not entirely too late. And why should we bother to teach if not, precisely, in order to convince the youth that they never arrive too late? My fortune was to have such energetic and kindly teachers, strong and clear voices, irresistibly stimulating, who made history a joyful and sound science. I would like to enumerate them, for one of them, Jean-Louis Biget, is here, and the other one, Yvon Thébert, is no longer with us.

69But I cannot mention them all, for they are too many and too dear, all those who, here and elsewhere, at Fontenay-Saint-Cloud and Paris 1 – the two places where Daniel Roche, whom I greet with recognition and affection, preceded us –, in Italy or in the Corbières, all those colleagues, students, friends, lecturers, and comrades, who were my teachers for a time.

  • 26 F. Nietzsche, “Preface” in Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (“Preface”), Cambridge, (...)

70If I took the risk of mentioning to you a memory from my youth, it is not only because I believe that we are essentially what we decided to be at the age of twenty. It is because I think that we are, as teachers – and I wish to remain what I decided to be at age twenty, a teacher – are indebted to youth. Ours, yours, theirs: it is youth that compels us. For youth, we are obliged to answers the calls of the present. This is why, if I am asked to choose between being challenged tomorrow or being useful today, I prefer not to be useless. Yet at the same time, I hope to have the courage to disappoint those who are impatient; to find that “inflexible gentleness” that Nietzsche spoke of, to “go aside, to take time, to become still, to become slow” and thus to become unbearable to the time of haste and precipitation “which want to ‘get everything done’ at once”.26 I know that for this I can count on all those whom I love, my parents and my family, my children, and the one whose inflexible gentleness enchants and tames me every day.


71We need history because we need rest: a pause to rest our consciousness, so that the possibility of a consciousness may remain – as the seat not only of thought, but also of practical reason, affording full latitude for action. Saving the past, saving time from the frenzy of the present: the poets devote themselves with exactitude to this. For this purpose we must work to weaken ourselves, to make ourselves idle, to make inoperative this endangering of temporality that wrecks experience and despises childhood. “To surprise the catastrophe”, said Victor Hugo. Or, as Walter Benjamin put it, to throw oneself against the slow oncoming disaster that is more a continuation than a sudden rupture.

72This is why, by definition, this history has neither beginning nor end. Tirelessly, without faltering, we must bluntly oppose all those who, cultivating the little plot of continuities, expect historians to support their uncertainties. The realization of the dream of origins is the end of history – it would thus circle back to what it was, or ought to be, from these beginnings that never happened anywhere if not in the deathly dream of stopping its course.

73For, as we well know, the end of history has lasted a long time. We should therefore, with the same fervour, demand a history which does not end – because it is always open to what transcends and transports it – and one which has no end. A history that we could traverse from one side to another, freely, joyfully, that we could visit in all its possible places and desire, like a body offered to caresses, so as, indeed, to remain in motion.


  • 27 Letter to Daniel Defert, February 1967, cited in “Chronologie”, M. Foucault, Œuvres, vol. 1, Paris, (...)

74In February 1967, Michel Foucault left for Tunis to flee the noise in the media following the publication of Les Mots et les Choses (The Order of Things). He went to Sidi Bou Saïd, facing the sea. There he wrote his lecture on “other spaces”, sought a new stylization for his existence, and attempted to connect with his Greek future. He stood before the sea. He read The Permanent Revolution by Leon Trotski, but also The Mediterranean by Fernand Braudel, and more and more books by historians. Then, in a letter, he exclaimed: “History is actually prodigiously amusing. We are less alone and just as free”.27

75I remember why I chose to teach history: because I suddenly understood that it was prodigiously amusing.

76I remember, on the other hand, how long and difficult it was for me to understand that it could also be deployed like an art of thinking.

77I remember the solitude, and the way I gave it the slip; the desire to gather together and to disperse.

78I remember that there are happy times when the Mediterranean Sea can be crossed from one side to another, and other, darker times, when it turns into a grave.

79And so, facing the sea, one no longer sees the same thing. “Try, dare, persist”: that is where we are. There is definitely something to try. How can we resign ourselves to a future without surprises, to a history where nothing can arise on the horizon, if not the threat of continuation? What will happen, no one knows. But everyone understands that, to perceive and welcome it, we will have to be calm, diverse and excessively free.


The audio and video recordings of this Inaugural Lecture are available on the Collège de France website:​site/​patrick-boucheron/​inaugural-lecture-2015-12-17-18h00.htm


1 Victor Hugo, Œuvres complètes, vol. 3, Paris, E. Girard & A. Boitte, 1859, p. 24 (Les Misérables, vol. 3, Marius, livre 1, “Paris étudié dans son atome”, XI). V. Hugo, Les Misérables, vol. 3, Chapter XI, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1887 (no page number available).

2 Jules Michelet, “Leçon d’ouverture (lundi 23 avril 1838): Paris représente le monde”, in Cours au Collège de France, 1838-1844, vol. 1, Paul Viallaneix (ed.), Paris, Gallimard, 1995, p. 87-95: p. 95 (cited in Pierre Toubert and Michel Zink [eds], Moyen Âge et Renaissance au Collège de France, Paris, Fayard, 2009, p. 45-51: p. 51).

3 Michel Foucault, L’Ordre du discours, Paris, Gallimard, 1971, p. 8. M. Foucault, “The order of discourse”, in R. Young (ed.) Untying the Text: a Post-Structuralist Reader, Boston, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1981, p. 5.

4 Ibid., p. 10 (p. 52).

5 Pierre Bourdieu, Leçon sur la leçon, Paris, Minuit, 1982, p. 56 (our translation).

6 Roger Chartier, Écouter les morts avec les yeux, Inaugural Lecture delivered on 11 Octobre 2007, Paris, Collège de France/Fayard, coll. “Leçons inaugurales”, 2008, p. 67.

7 Latomus, Deux discours inauguraux, translated and published by Louis Bakelants, Brussels, Latomus, revue d’études latines, 1951 (translation slightly amended here by the author), p. 20.

8 Ibid., p. 28.

9 Ibid., p. 30.

10 Jules Michelet, Leçon d’ouverture, op. cit., p. 87 (cited in Pierre Toubert and Michel Zink [eds], Moyen Âge et Renaissance au Collège de France, op. cit., p. 45).

11 Étienne Pasquier, Recherches sur la France, cited in Charles Waddington, Ramus (Pierre de la Ramée). Sa vie, ses écrits, ses opinions, Paris, Charles Meyrueis et Cie, 1855, p. 82.

12 Cited in Abel Lefranc, Histoire du Collège de France depuis ses origines jusqu’à la fin du Premier Empire, Paris, Hachette, 1893, p. 210.

13 Hugues de Saint-Victor, De sacramentis christianae fidei, II, 2.4 (ed. PL, 176, 418), cited in Florian Mazel, “Pour une redéfinition de la réforme ‘grégorienne’. Éléments d’introduction », Cahiers de Fanjeaux, no. 48 (La Réforme “grégorienne” dans le Midi [milieu xie-début xiiie siècle]), 2013, p. 9-38: p. 21.

14 Pierre Toubert, Histoire de l’Occident méditerranéen au Moyen Âge, Inaugural Lecture delivered on Friday 19 March 1993, Paris, Collège de France, 1993 (no. 119), p. 7 et p. 17 (cited in Pierre Toubert and Michel Zink [eds], Moyen Âge et Renaissance au Collège de France, op. cit., p. 563-576: p. 564 and p. 569).

15 Dante, Banquet, I, 1, Œuvres complètes, Christian Bec (ed. and tr.), Paris, Livre de poche, 1996, p. 184.

16 Marc Bloch, preface to Roberto Cessi, La vicende politiche dell’Italia medievale, I, La crisi imperiale, Padoue, 1938, Mélanges d’histoire sociale, VI, 1944, p. 120.

17 M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Random House, 1977, p. 194.

18 Fernand Braudel, Histoire de la civilisation moderne, Inaugural Lecture delivered on Friday 1 December 1950, Paris, Collège de France, coll. “Leçons inaugurales”, 1951, (no. 4), p. 5 (cited in Pierre Toubert and Michel Zink [eds], Moyen Âge et Renaissance au Collège de France, op. cit., p. 413-425: p. 413).

19 Ibid., p. 30 (ibid., p. 425).

20 Michel de Montaigne, Selected Essays, New York, Modern Library, 1949, p. 84.

21 Pierre Bourdieu, Sur l’État. Cours du Collège de France (1989-1992), Patrick Champagne, Rémi Lenoir, Franck Poupeau and Marie-Christine Rivière (eds), Paris, Raisons d’agir/Seuil, 2012, p. 219 (Lecture delivered on 24 January 1991).

22 Yves Bonnefoy, L’Hésitation et la Décision de Shakespeare, Paris, Seuil, 2015, p. 45.

23 Georges Duby, Histoire des sociétés médiévales, Inaugural Lecture delivered on Friday 4 December 1970, Paris, Collège de France, coll. “Leçons inaugurales”, 1971, p. 17, p. 16, p. 12 and p. 17-18; Des sociétés médiévales, Paris, Gallimard, 1971 (cited in Pierre Toubert et Michel Zink [eds], Moyen Âge et Renaissance au Collège de France, op. cit., p. 477-489: p. 483).

24 The sentence can be found in Georges Duby, Le Moyen Âge, 987-1460, Paris, Hachette, 1987, p. 11, at the end of a path reconstructed in Patrick Boucheron, “La lettre et la voix: aperçus sur le destin littéraire des cours de Georges Duby au Collège de France, à travers le témoignage des manuscrits conservés à l’IMEC”, Le Moyen Âge, CXV, 3-4, 2009, p. 487-528 : p. 488.

25 Pierre Michon, back cover of Mythologies d’hiver, Lagrasse, Verdier, 1997 : “Que les choses de l’été, l’amour, la foi et l’ardeur, gèlent pour finir dans l’hiver impeccable des livres.”

26 F. Nietzsche, “Preface” in Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (“Preface”), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 5.

27 Letter to Daniel Defert, February 1967, cited in “Chronologie”, M. Foucault, Œuvres, vol. 1, Paris, Gallimard, coll. “La Pléiade”, 2015, p. LII.


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