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Pierre Chaunu

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Pierre Chaunu 17 August 1923 – 22 October 2009 was a French historian His specialty was Latin American history; he also studied French social and religious history of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries A leading figure in French quantitative history as the founder of "serial history", he was professor emeritus at Paris IV-Sorbonne, a member of the Institut de France, and a commander of the Légion d'Honneur A convert to Protestantism from Roman Catholicism, he defended his Gaullist views most notably in a longtime column in Le Figaro and on Radio Courtoisie


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Death
  • 3 Works
  • 4 Influence
  • 5 Publications
    • 51 Books
    • 52 Article
  • 6 Endnotes
  • 7 External links
  • 8 References


A native of Belleville-sur-Meuse, “on the outskirts of the battle of Verdun” in his own words, and raised by his uncle and aunt, Pierre René Chaunu was deeply scarred by his own family tragedies, which explained the reasons for his conservatism He was however a Republican and a Democrat, rejecting totally the far-right ideologies that were widespread during his youth He became a strong supporter of general Charles de Gaulle and of Gaullism in the aftermath of World War II

Pierre Chaunu taught in the lycée of Bar-le-Duc in 1947, where he was a professor of history He was admitted to the École des hautes études hispaniques in 1948 and stayed in Madrid and Seville until 1951 Strongly influenced by Fernand Braudel, who was his mentor, and the Annales School where he was secretary to Lucien Febvre, Chaunu defended his dissertation on Séville et l’Atlantique in 1954 Nonetheless, Braudel denied him entry into the sixth section of the École practique des hautes études

He was professor at the lycée at Vanves 1951–1956, part-time lecturer at the faculté des lettres in Paris 1956, researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research CNRS, elected member of CNRS after 1957 and of the Comité consultant des universités, and in 1959 chargé d’enseignement assistant professor In 1960, Chaunu became maitre de conferences associate professor in 1960 and full professor in 1962 at the University of Caen Lower Normandy, where he founded the Centre de recherche d’histoire quantitative in 1966 He was named professor of modern history at Paris-Sorbonne University in 1970

Beginning in 1976, he was a member of the Conseil économique et social’s section for the adaptation of research technique and for economic information, and from 1980 he was a member of the historical section of the Conseil scientifique of CNRS In 1982, he was elected as a member of the historical and geographical section of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques He became a member of the Haut conseil a l’intégration High Council on Immigration in 1994 From 1988 to 1990, he was president of the Fédération nationale des syndicats autonomes de l’enseighment supérieur

Until 2005, he directed the weekly broadcast of “Les Mardis de la mémoire” on Radio Courtoisie From the early 1980s he had a column in “Le Figaro” Pierre Chaunu converted to Protestantism as an adult having previously been a Roman Catholic He was a lay preacher in the temple at Courseulles-sur-Mer Reformed Church of France and a committee member of the Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Français He was also the father of six children, including the illustrator and cartoonist Emmanuel Chaunu born in 1966 He was a commander of the Légion d’honneur


Chaunu died at Caen on 22 October 2009, aged 86


The central thesis of several of his works, including “La Peste blanche”, is that the contemporary West is committing suicide because of demographic decline and low birth rate; hence the subtitle, “How can the suicide of the West be avoided” In evoking the word “plague,” the historian very explicitly recalled the terrible epidemic that decimated the European population in the fourteenth century He equally echoed the study of Latin America that made his reputation: South America experienced a steep drop in population at the arrival of the Spanish From 80 million, the population went to 10 million in the span of half a century This claim has provoked very significant controversy; see eg, Henige, who argues that the population at the relevant dates is essentially unknowable Thus, according to Chaunu, the demographic index became a prime indicator to understand the rise and fall of civilizations The historian maintained that population growth could reverse itself rapidly, to the point of resulting in the phenomena of near-disappearance of some peoples


Chaunu had an important impact on historiography, whether with regard to quantitative history, his studies of Latin America, or the social and religious history of France during the Ancien Régime



  • Histoire de l'Amérique latine, Paris, PUF, "Que sais-je", 1949 Réédition en 2009
  • Séville et l'Atlantique 1504–1650, Paris, SEVPEN, 12 volumes, 1955-1960 Prix de Loubat, 1962
  • Les Philippines et le Pacifique des Ibériques, Paris, SEVPEN, 2 volumes, 1960-1966
  • L'Amérique et les Amériques de la préhistoire à nos jours, Paris, Armand Colin, 1964
  • La Civilisation de l'Europe classique, Paris, Arthaud, 1966
  • L'Expansion européenne du XIIIe et XVe siècles, Paris, PUF, 1969 English translation European expansion in the later Middle Ages, Amsterdam, North Holland Publishing
  • Conquête et exploitation des nouveaux mondes, Paris, PUF, 1969
  • La Civilisation de l'Europe des Lumières, Paris, Arthaud, 1971
  • L'Espagne de Charles Quint, Paris, SEDES, 2 volumes, 1973
  • Démographie historique et système de civilisation, Rome, EFR, 1974
  • Histoire, science sociale, Paris, SEDES, 1974
  • Le Temps des Réformes, Paris, Fayard, 1975
  • De l'histoire à la prospective, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1975
  • Les Amériques, XVIe et XVIIIe siècles, Paris, Armand Colin, 1976
  • La peste blanche with Georges Suffert, Paris, Gallimard, 1976
  • Séville et l'Amérique aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles, Paris, Flammarion, 1977
  • La Mort à Paris XVIe et XVIIe siècles, Paris, Fayard, 1978
  • Histoire quantitative, histoire sérielle, Paris, Armand Colin, 1978
  • Le sursis, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1978
  • La France ridée,Paris, Pluriel, 1979
  • Un futur sans avenir, Histoire et population, Calmann-Lévy,1979
  • Histoire et imagination La transition, Paris, PUF, 1980
  • Église, culture et société Réforme et Contre-Réforme 1517–1620, Paris, SEDES, 1980
  • Histoire et décadence, Paris, Perrin, 1981 Grand Prix Goubert, 1982
  • La France, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1982
  • Pour l'histoire, Paris, Perrin, 1984
  • L'Aventure de la Réforme Le monde de Jean Calvin, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1986 English translation, The Reformation, Gloucester, Sutton
  • Apologie par l'histoire, Paris, Œil, 1988
  • Le Grand Déclassement, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1989
  • Reflets et miroir de l'histoire, Economica, Paris, 1990
  • Histoire économique et sociale de la France Tome 1, 1450-1660, with Ernest Labrousse PUF, "Quadrige", 1993
  • Colomb ou la logique de l'imprévisible, Paris, F Bourin, 1993
  • Baptême de Clovis, baptême de la France, in collaboration, Paris, Balland, 1996
  • Le Basculement religieux de Paris au XVIIIe siècle, in collaboration, Paris, Fayard, 1998
  • Charles Quint, with Michèle Escamilla, Paris, Fayard, 2000
  • La femme et Dieu, with Jacques Renard, Paris, Fayard, 2001
  • Essai de prospective démographique, with Huguette Chaunu and Jacques Renard, Paris, Fayard, 2003
  • Des curés aux entrepreneurs: la Vendée au XXe siècle, Centre Vendéen de Recherches Historiques, 2004
  • Le livre noir de la Révolution française, Cerf, 2008


  • La philosophie et l'histoire, with Roger Arnaldez in Jean-François Mattéi, Le Discours philosophique, volume IV of the Encyclopédie philosophique universelle, Paris, PUF, 1998


  1. ^ a b L'historien Pierre Chaunu est mort
  2. ^ "Fils de la morte," as he himself said in the Essais d'ego-histoire published by Pierre Nora in 1987
  3. ^ François Dosse, PUF, "Quadrige dicos poche", 2006
  4. ^ a b c "Mort de l'historien Pierre Chaunu", Le Monde /AFP, 24 October 2009
  5. ^ Philippe-Jean Catinchi, Pierre Chaunu, historien, Le Monde, obituary, 26 October 2009 Consulted on 3 November 2009
  6. ^ Comments collected by F Casadesus Pierre Gouhier, "Il avait une conviction religieuse réformée", Reformenet
  7. ^ Henige, David 1998 Numbers from Nowhere: the American Indian contact population debate Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press p passim ISBN 080613044X 
  8. ^ Histoire, Mémoire, Identité hommage à Pierre Chaunu, on collegedesbernardinsfr, Wednesday 10 February 2010
  9. ^ By Gérard-François Dumont, following reading of a text by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Le leg monumental de Pierre Chaunu à l'Histoire, on Canalacademiecom, put online 28 March 2010
  10. ^ See the honors list: here

External links

  • Le legs monumental de Pierre Chaunu à l’Histoire
  • Portrait of Pierre Chaunu on herodotenet, février 2007
  • « Surpopulation de la planète : Les chiffres donnés par l’ONU sont-ils truqués  », 6 octobre 1999
  • CRHQ, Centre de Recherche d'Histoire Quantitative


  • Obituary in French

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