Patrick Boucheron is a Professor at the Collège de France, where he holds the chair of "History of the Powers in Western Europe, 13th-16th Centuries". He is a graduate of the Ecole normale supérieure in Saint-Cloud (1985-1989), where he was the student of medievalist historian Jean-Louis Biget. He returned to his alma mater as a lecturer in 1994, after earning his doctorate at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, which had focused on municipal building powers in Milan at the end of the Middle Ages. He taught at the Sorbonne first as associate professor and then as Professor of Medieval History, before joining the Collège de France, where his inaugural lecture on December 17, 2015 was noticed far beyond the halls of academia. With the conviction that history is a contemporary literature, Patrick Boucheron aims to present "compelling narratives" in order to foster the interest of history for the modern while upholding the standards of principled research.
It is because Patrick Boucheron has always examined, from his earliest works, the relevance of different scales of analysis that the Groupe d’études géopolitiques (GEG) has invited him to speak in this cycle of conferences. From Europe-wide comparative history of urban phenomena to the volumes of world history that he directed (Histoire du monde au XVe siècle, Fayard, 2009; Histoire mondiale de la France, Le Seuil, 2017), Patrick Boucheron has always thought of his initial Italian field of research in the context of larger spatial and heuristic scales of analysis. Working to build bridges between history, literature and the arts, he also - and perhaps especially - questions the political effectiveness of history, creating links that liberate from "the appeasing slowness of time and the rush of events”, to borrow from his inaugural lecture. This lecture, titled “What Can History Do?”, was delivered just one month after the November 2015 attacks and almost a month before the commemoration of the January 2015 attacks of which, with Mathieu Riboulet, he invited to “mark the date” (Prendre dates, Verdier, 2015) in order to slow the progress of oblivion and organize the past to “conjure fear” (Conjurer la peur, Le Seuil, 2013), the fear of time passing.
Attentive to the political meaning of words, to their losses and acquisitions of meaning throughout history, recalling after Confucius and Machiavel that bad government follows whenever words are taken to mean something else, when political language becomes insufficient to fully perceive reality, Patrick Boucheron will tell us about Europe, his Europe, at a time when it has become a mysterious reality that we keep hearing about.
May 22, 2018
May 22, 2018