Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer is currently translating Pierre Nora’s Lieux de mémoire.

Grumpy

Arthur Goldhammer, 5 October 1995

Like Strachey’s Dr Arnold, Louis Pasteur was all ‘energy, earnestness and the best intentions’. The anti-clerical Third Republic made him its principal intercessor with the invisible world. It erected an absurdly baroque shrine to his memory at the Institut Pasteur and named more streets after him than after any other historical figure, save that Republic’s founder, Gambetta. Somehow, though, the reducing lens of irony seems inadequate to bring Pasteur into clear view. If anything still frightens us, it is disease, and Pasteur, though at times an insufferable prig, was also, as the 19th century could say more easily than we can, a benefactor of humankind. Countless wall plaques, popular images and milk cartons remind us that he was not only the promulgator of the germ theory but also the man who conquered fowl cholera and anthrax, as well as a disease called pebrine that left silkworms looking as though they had been sprinkled with pepper and cost the French silk industry millions of francs annually, and the ‘maladies of wine’ (one of which, by causing good claret to spoil in the bottle, threatened to deprive France of some of the benefits of a recent commercial treaty with England). And he became world-famous of course as the vanquisher of rabies, an age-old scourge that killed few but terrified many.

The Inequality Engine

Geoff Mann, 4 June 2020

According to Thomas Piketty, history demonstrates that the means deployed to address the problem of legitimacy are only ever partly material. The more important means are ideological: at the very least,...

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A State Jew: Léon Blum

David A. Bell, 5 November 2015

The​ newspaper Action française habitually referred to Léon Blum, France’s Socialist leader, as the ‘warlike Hebrew’ and the ‘circumcised Narbonnais’...

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The Castaway: Algeria’s Camus

Jeremy Harding, 4 December 2014

December​ 1938 in a large provincial city. It’s the last chance for the council to agree the municipal budget; in the chamber a reporter from the local paper tries to wring a bit of fun...

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Piketty is one of the very few contemporary economists eager to revive the old-fashioned spirit of political economy.

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Come and see for yourself: Tocqueville

David A. Bell, 18 July 2013

On 11 May 1831, a fastidious 25-year-old Norman aristocrat arrived in New York City with an assignment to report on American prisons for the French Ministry of Justice. Over the next nine months...

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This is the story of a goatherd who progressed through destitution and self-education to become the printer of the first edition of Calvin’s greatest work and one of the most respected...

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Kill a Pig, roast a Prussian

Michael Burns, 19 November 1992

In this very short book about a very long murder Alain Corbin returns, as he puts it, ‘to the peasants of my youth (or at any rate to their traces in the archives)’. And he returns...

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Sappho speaks

Mary Beard, 11 October 1990

‘It is against the nature of things that a woman who has given herself up to unnatural and inordinate practices ... should be able to write in perfect obedience to the laws of vocal...

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Sweet Homes and Tolerant Houses

Linda Colley, 16 August 1990

The rise in the reputation of French history, not just in its own territory but throughout the Anglo-Saxon world as well, has been one of the most remarkable cultural developments since the...

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Je sui uns hom

Tom Shippey, 1 June 1989

Very good, Mr Hardy. Excellent poetry, especially in a time of the breaking of nations (1915). One of time’s universals. ‘War’s annals will cloud into night/Ere their story...

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A captious person might mutter that The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe is a little ‘hobbitical’: it reminds one of Professor Tolkien’s hobbits, who ‘liked...

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Pénétra

Bonnie Smith, 21 May 1987

Jacques-Louis Ménétra was an 18th-century glazier who worked for abbesses, for aristocrats, and for Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s landlord. Like Rousseau, but unlike any other artisan...

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Grande Dame

D.A.N. Jones, 18 July 1985

Marguerite Yourcenar was born in Brussels in 1903. She became a US citizen in 1947 and has lived for more than thirty years on Mount Desert Island, off the coast of Maine. Thus when she was...

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Medieval Dreams

Peter Burke, 4 June 1981

One night in 1130, King Henry I had a nightmare. He dreamed that he was being attacked, first by a crowd of peasants, then by a group of knights, and finally by a number of clerics. For many...

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