Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Joseph-François Michaud

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Joseph-François Michaud

by Louis René Bréhier


Historian, born at Albens, Savoy, 1767; died at Passy, 30 September, 1839. He belonged to an ancient family of Savoy. Educated at the College of Bourg at Gresse, in 1786 he entered a publishing house at Lyons, but left it after a few years to take up journalistic work at Paris, where, during the Revolution, he defended warmly and not without risk the royal cause. Arrested on 13 Vendemiaire, 1795, he succeeded in escaping and resumed the journalistic war. Under the Consulate he wrote several pamphlets in which appeared criticisms of Napoleon that led to his imprisonment in the Temple for a time. After his release from prison he decided to abandon politics for literature. In 1808 he published the first volume of the "History of the Crusades". In the same year he founded with his brother the "Biographie Universelle". Elected to the French Academy in 1814, he was, under the Restoration, deputy editor of "La Quotidienne", and then lecturer to Charles X. In May, 1830, he undertook a voyage to the East and the Holy Land in order to study phases of Eastern life and thus impart more realistic colour to the accounts of his "History of the Crusades". He was unable to complete the final edition.

Michaud's most important work is his "History of the Crusades" (1st ed., 3 vols., Paris, 1812-17; 6th ed., Poujoulat, 6 vols., Paris, 1841). In his choice of the subject and the manner in which he treated it Michaud was an innovator; his work was one of the first productions of the historical school which, inspired by the works of Chateaubriand, restored the Middle Ages to a place of honour. Today the value of this work seems open to question; the information appears insufficient and the romantic colour is often false. It was none the less the starting point of studies relating to the Crusades, and it was under the influence of this publication that the Academy of Inscriptions in 1841 decided to publish the collection of historians of the Crusades. Michaud had accompanied his work with a "Bibliothèque des Croisades" (Paris, 1829, 4 vols., 12°), which contained French translations of the European and Arabic chronicles relating to the Crusades. Besides, he directed the publication of the "Biographie Universelle" (2nd ed., 45 vols., Paris, 1843), and in collaboration with Poujoulat that of the "Collection des Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire de France depuis le 13e siècle jusqu'au 18e" (32 vols., Paris, 1836-44).

LOUIS BREHIER