Eugen Weber: Charting the story of modern France (obituary)





Eugen Weber, who has died aged 82, was one of the most distinguished historians of modern France. He wrote on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from French sport to Romanian fascism, and was the author of a seminal study of the transformation of the French countryside in the last three decades of the 19th century.

Born to a Romanian family in Bucharest, Weber spent his entire academic career in the west. His origins were important, however, to his later development. As he wrote: "Few 20th-century historians of 19th-century Europe had the good fortune to be born in the 19th century: that was where Romania still lived between the wars." Sent by his parents to be educated in Britain, he was here when war broke out.

He served in the British army from 1943 to 1947, and after demob read history at Cambridge, with a year at the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris. He then began his doctorate in Cambridge on the nationalist right in France in the decades before 1914.

Weber's career suffered a slight hiccup when his thesis was failed, but he had the last laugh since the book that resulted from it has rarely been out of print since its publication as The Nationalist Revival in France (1959). In 1956 he was appointed to the history faculty at UCLA, California, where he spent his entire career, culminating in a professorial chair now named after him. He was a lively teacher and excellent communicator, hosting a 52-part, historical television documentary series, The Western Tradition....


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