Bon Louis Henri Martin - Encyclopedia

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BON LOUIS HENRI MARTIN (1810-1883), French historian, was born on the 20th of February 181o at St Quentin (Aisne), where his father was a judge. Trained as a notary, he followed this profession for some time but having achieved success with an historical romance, Wolfthurm (1830), he applied himself to historical research. Becoming associated with Paul Lacroix ("le Bibliophile Jacob"), he planned with him a history of France, to consist of excerpts from the chief chroniclers and historians, with original matter filling up gaps in the continuity. The first volume, which appeared in 1833, encouraged the author to make the work his own, and his Histoire de France, in fifteen volumes (1833-1836), was the result. This magnum opus, rewritten and further elaborated (4th ed., 16 vols. and index, 186r-1865) gained for the author in 1856 the first prize of the Academy, and in 1869 the grand biennial prize of 20,000 francs. A popular abridgment in seven volumes was published in 1867. This, together with the continuation, Histoire de France depuis 1789 jusqu'd nos jours (6 vols. 1878-1883), gives a complete history of France, and superseded Sismondi's Histoire des Francais. This work is in parts defective; Martin's descriptions of the Gauls are based rather on romance than on history, and in this respect he was too much under the influence of Jean Reynaud and his cosmogonic philosophy. However he gave a great impetus to Celtic and anthropological studies. His knowledge of the mddile ages is inadequate, and his criticisms are not discriminating. As a free-thinking republican, his prejudices often biassed his judgment on the political and religious history of the ancien regime. The last six volumes, devoted to the 17th and 18th centuries, are superior to the earlier ones. Martin sat in the assemblee nationale as deputy for Aisne in 1871, and was elected life senator in 1878, but he left no mark as a politician. He died in Paris on the 14th of December 1883. Among his minor works may be mentioned : - De la France, de son genie et de ses destinees (1847); Daniel Manin (1860), La Russie et l'Europe (1866); Etudes d'archeologie celtique (1872); Les Napoleon et les frontieres de la France (1874). See his biography by Gabriel Hanotaux, Henri Martin; sa vie,, ses ceuvres, son temps (1885).

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