Joseph Michel Antoine Servan

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Joseph Michel Antoine Servan (November 3, 1737 – 1807) was a French publicist and lawyer.

He was born at Romans (Dauphiné). After studying law he was appointed avocat-general at the parlement of Grenoble at the age of twenty-seven. In his Discours sur l'administration de la Justice Criminelle (1767) he made an eloquent protest against legal abuses and the severity of the criminal code. In 1767 he gained great repute for his defense of a Protestant woman who, as a result of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had been abandoned by her Catholic husband.

In 1772, however, on the parlement refusing to accede to his request that a present made by a grand seigneur to a singer should be annulled on the ground of immorality, he resigned, and went into retirement. He excused himself on the score of ill health from sitting in the States General of 1789, to which he had been elected deputy, and refused to take his seat in the Corps Législatif under the Empire.

Among his writings may be mentioned Reflexions sur les Confessions de J.-J. Rousseau (1783) and Essai sur La formation des assemblées nationales, provinciales, et municipales (1789). His Œuvres choisies and Œuvres inédites have been published by De Portets. His brother Joseph Servan de Gerbey (1741-1808) was war minister in the Girondist ministry of 1792.

See "Lettres inédites de Servan," in Souvenirs et mémoires (vol. iv., Paris, 1900).

Michel Foucault's quotation of Servan who he mentioned as belonging to an influential group called the Ideologues [1] in his seminal work on Prisons, Discipline and Punish provides an illuminating insight into the mind of Servan:


  1. ^ Andreas Möllenkamp and Peter McCaffery Who were the Ideologues? 2004
  2. ^ Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish, pp. 102–103 1977
  3. ^ J.M. Servan Discours sur l'administration de la Justice Criminelle p.35 (1767)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Servan, Joseph Michel Antoine". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 684.

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