Eugen Weber

Eugen Weber

Eugen Joseph Weber (April 24, 1925, Bucharest - May 17, 2007, Brentwood, Los Angeles, California) was a prominent historian. He was born the son of Sonia and Emmanuel Weber, an industrialist. At age 12, he was sent to boarding school in Herne Bay, in southeastern England, and later to Ashville College, Harrogate.

During World War II, he served with the British Army in Belgium, Germany and India between 1943 and 1947. Afterwards, Weber studied history at the Sorbonne and "Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris" (Sciences Po) in Paris, France.

He lived in Britain for a time, graduating with a BA in 1950 and an MA from Cambridge in 1954. In 1950, he married Jacqueline Brument-Roth. Weber taught at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (1953–1954) and the University of Alberta (1954–1955) before settling in the United States, where he taught first at the University of Iowa (1955–1956) and then, until 1993, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He published a variety of works, in addition to hosting "The Western Tradition", a PBS program consisting of his lectures [ (available free on line)] on the Western world.

Weber's main interest was French history. His first book, "The Nationalist Revival in France, 1905–1914" was a study of integral nationalism in France in the decade before World War One. Weber was to follow this book with further studies in French fascism and right-wing radicalism in "Action Française" and "Varieties of Fascism". Weber drew a strong distinction between what he considers to be reactionary authoritarian and fascist movements. At a conference in Moscow in 1970, Weber argued that "fascism and communism were not antithetical but "frères ennemis".

Weber took a pragmatic approach to history. "“Nothing is more concrete than history, nothing less interested in theories or in abstract ideas,”" he once wrote. "“The great historians have fewer ideas about history than amateurs do; they merely have a way of ordering their facts to tell their story. It isn’t theories they look for, but information, documents, and ideas about how to find and handle them.”"

Another area of interest for Weber was nation-building in France during the 19th century. He studied the political importance of sports in "fin de siècle" France, where he has argued that contemporaries believed that healthy bodies made for healthy nations and weak bodies for decadent and defeated nations. Thus, Weber has presented a case that for the French in this period, sports were a matter of critical national importance.

In his seminal book "Peasants Into Frenchmen", Weber examined school records, migration patterns, military service documents and economic trends to argue that until the middle of the Third Republic, a sense of French nationhood was weak in the provinces. Weber then looked at how the policies of the Third Republic created a sense of French nationality in rural areas. The book was widely praised, but was criticized by some historians who argued that a sense of Frenchness existed in the provinces before 1870.

In Weber's "The Western Tradition", written in two volumes ("Volume One: From the Ancient World to Louis XIV", "Volume Two: From the Renaissance to the Present"), he includes important historical documents as well as some writings, poems, and documents less known to the public that provide direct insight into the lives of people living throughout the centuries he discusses in his texts. For example, one chapter is titled "Liberalism, Nationalism, and 1848" and included are authors such as Joseph Mazzini, Louis Blanc, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Thomas Carlyle. In these books, Weber briefly explains the time period being referred to and provides essential background detail of the lives of the authors.

Eugen Weber hosted an instructional TV series "The Western Tradition", produced by WGBH in Boston in 1989, which is still being shown on public television.

Eugen Weber died of pancreatic cancer on May 17, 2007.


*"The Nationalist Revival in France, 1905-1914", 1959.
*"Action Française: Royalism and Reaction in Twentieth Century France" (1962).

*"Nationalism, Socialism and National-Socialism in France" pages 273-307 from "French Historical Studies", Volume 2, 1962.
*"Satan France-Maçon: la mystification de Leo Taxil", 1964.
*"Varieties of Fascism: Doctrines of Revolution in the Twenthieth Century" (1964).

*co-edited with Hans Rogger, "The European Right: A Historical Profile", 1965.
*"Pierre de Coubertin and the Introduction of Organized Sports in France" pages 3-26 from "Journal of Contemporary History", Volume 5, 1970.
*"Gymnastics and Sports in Fin-de-Siècle France: Opium of the Classes?" pages 70-98 from American Historical Review, Volume 76, 1971.
*"A Modern History of Europe: Men, Cultures, and Societies from the Renaissance to the Present" (1971).

*"Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1880–1914" (1976).

*"Comment la politique vint aux paysans: A Second Look at Peasant Politicization" pages 357-389 from "American Historical Review", Volume 87, 1982.
*"Reflections on the Jews in France" from "The Jews in Modern France" edited by Frances Malino and Bernard Wasserstein, 1985.
*"France, Fin de siécle" (1986).

*"My France: Politics, Culture, Myth", 1991.
*"The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s" (1994).

*"Apocalypses" (1999).


*Amato, Joseph "Eugen Weber's France" pages 879–882 from "Journal of Social History", Volume 25, 1992.
*Burns, Michael "Weber, Eugen" pages 1284-1285 from "The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing" edited by Kelly Boyd, Volume 2, London:Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, ISBN 1-884964-33-8.

External links

* [ Weber's UCLA Homepage]
* [ "The Western Tradition" homepage at Annenberg/CPB] - where you can watch each episode on demand for free (registration required)
* [ An episode from a TV series: "The Western Tradition"] - Google Video

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