Jacques Le Goff
Le Goff champions the Annales School movement, which emphasizes long-term trends over the topics of politics, diplomacy, and war that dominated 19th century historical research. From 1972 to 1977, he was the head of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS). He was a leading figure of New History, related to cultural history. Le Goff argues that the Middle Ages formed a civilization of its own, distinct from both the Greco-Roman antiquity and the modern world.
Life and writings
A prolific medievalist of international renown, Le Goff is sometimes considered the principal heir and continuator of the movement known as Annales School (École des Annales), founded by his intellectual mentor Marc Bloch. Le Goff succeeded Fernand Braudel in 1972 at the head of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and was succeeded by François Furet in 1977. Along with Pierre Nora, he was one of the leading figure of New History (Nouvelle histoire) in the 1970s.
Since then, he has dedicated himself to studies on the historical anthropology of Western Europe during medieval times. He is well known for contesting the very name of "Middle Ages" and its chronology, highlighting achievements of this period and variations inside it, in particular by attracting attention to the Renaissance of the 12th century.
In his 1984 book The Birth of Purgatory, he argued that the conception of purgatory as a physical place, rather than merely as a state, dates to the 12th century, the heyday of medieval otherworld-journey narratives such as the Irish Visio Tnugdali, and of pilgrims' tales about St Patrick's Purgatory, a cavelike entrance to purgatory on a remote island in Ireland.
An agnostic, Le Goff presents an equidistant position between the detractors and the apologists of the Middle Ages. His opinion is that the Middle Ages formed a civilization of its own, distinct of both the Greco-Roman antiquity and the modern world.
Among his more recent works are two widely accepted biographies, a genre his school did not usually favor: the life of Louis IX, the only King of France to be canonized, and the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Italian mendicant friar.
- Time, Work, & Culture in the Middle Ages, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1980)
- Constructing the Past: Essays in Historical Methodology, edited by Jacques Le Goff and Pierre Nora. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985)
- The Medieval Imagination, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1988)
- Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages, translated by Patricia Ranum. (New York : Zone Books, 1988)
- Medieval Civilization, 400-1500, translated by Julia Barrow. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988)
- The Medieval World, edited by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. (London: Parkgate, 1990)
- The Birth of Purgatory, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1990)
- History and Memory, translated by Steven Rendall and Elizabeth Claman. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992)
- Intellectuals in the Middle Ages, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993)
- Saint Louis (Paris: Gallimard, 1996)
- Saint Francis of Assisi, trans. Christine Rhone (London: Routledge, 2003)
- The Birth of Europe, translated by Janet Lloyd. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005)
- Miri Rubin, ed. The Work of Jacques Le Goff and the Challenges of Medieval History (Cambridge: Boydell, 1997).
- Utz, Richard. "'Mes souvenirs sont peut-être reconstruits': Medieval Studies, Medievalism, and the Scholarly and Popular Memories of the 'Right of the Lord's First Night,'" Philologie im Netz 31 (2005), 49-59. (on Le Goff's autobiographical A la recherche du moyen age. Paris: Louis Audibert, 2003).
- Dan David Prize laureate 2007,
- The history of innovation and revolt
- Il Medioevo Europeo di Jacques Le Goff