François-Louis Ganshof


François-Louis Ganshof

François-Louis Ganshof (14 March 1895–1980) was a Belgian historian of the middle ages. After studies at the Athénée Royal, he came to the University of Ghent, where he came under the influence of Henri Pirenne. After studies with Ferdinand Lot, he practiced law for a period, before returning to the University of Ghent. Here he succeeded Pirenne in 1930 as professor of medieval history, after Pirenne left the university as a result of the enforcement of Dutch as language of instruction. He remained there until his retirement in 1961.

Ganshof's work was primarily on Flanders in the Carolingian period. His best known book is "Qu'est-ce que la féodalité?" (1947). Here he defines feudalism narrowly, in simple legal and military terms. Feudalism, in Ganshof's view, existed only within the nobility. This contrasts with the later ideas of Marc Bloch, where feudalism encompasses society as a whole, and those of Susan Reynolds, questioning the concept of feudalism in itself.

Though Ganshof's definition is not always accepted today, it should be noted that this book was not his most significant work. He contributed greatly to his field, mostly through articles. Among the few books he published were "Les Destinées de l'Empire en occident de 395 à 888" (1928) and "Flandre sous les premiers comtes" (1943). In 1946 he received the Francqui Prize for Human Sciences.

References

*McKitterick, R. "Ganshof, F.L.", in Cannon, John (ed.) Blackwell Dictionary of Historians, (Blackwell, 1988).


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