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Joseph François Michaud

Joseph François Michaud (19 June 1767 – 30 September 1839) was a French historian and publicist.


Michaud was born at Albens, Savoie, educated at Bourg-en-Bresse, and afterwards engaged in literary work at Lyon, where the French Revolution first aroused the strong dislike of revolutionary principles which manifested itself throughout the rest of his life. In 1791 he went to Paris, where, at great risk to his own safety, he took part in editing several royalist journals. In 1796 he became editor of La Quotidienne, for which he was arrested after the 13th of Vendémiaire; he evaded his captors, but was sentenced to death in absentia by the military council. Having resumed the editorship of his newspaper on the establishment of the Directory, he was again proscribed on the 18th of Fructidor, but after two years returned to Paris, when the Consulate had superseded the Directory.

Viaggio in Grecia ed a Smirne, 1834

His Bourbon sympathies led to a brief imprisonment in 1800, and on his release he temporarily abandoned journalism, and began to write and edit books. In 1806, with his brother Louis Gabriel Michaud and two colleagues, he published Biographie moderne ou dictionnaire des hommes qui se sont fait un nom en Europe, depuis 1789, the earliest work of its kind. In 1811 published the first volume of his Histoire des Croisades (History of the Crusades) and also the first volume of his Biographie Universelle. In 1813 he was elected Academician, taking up the vacancy left by the death of Jean-François Cailhava de L'Estandoux. In 1814 he resumed the editorship of La Quotidienne. His brochure Histoire des quinze semaines ou le dernier règne de Bonaparte (1815) met with extraordinary success, passing through twenty-seven editions within a very short time.

His political services were now rewarded with the cross of an officer in the Legion of Honour and the modest post of king's reader, of which last he was deprived in 1827 for having opposed Peyronnet's "Loi d'Amour" against the freedom of the Press. In 1830-1831 he travelled in Syria and Egypt for the purpose of collecting additional materials for the Histoire des Croisades; his correspondence with a fellow explorer, Jean Joseph François Poujoulat, consisting practically of discussions and elucidations of various points in that work, was afterwards published (Correspondance d'Orient, 7 vols., 1833-1835). Like the Histoire, it is more interesting than exact. The Bibliothèque des croisades, in four volumes more, contained the "Pièces justificatives" of the Histoire. Michaud died at Passy, where his home had been since 1832.


"The Death of Baldwin" (1875), one of 100 plates prepared for a posthumous edition of Michaud's History of the Crusades by Gustave Dore

Michaud's Histoire des croisades was published in its final form in six volumes in 1840 under the editorship of his friend Poujoulat (9th ed., with appendix, by Huillard-Bréholles, 1856). Michaud, along with Poujoulat, also edited Nouvelle collection des mémoires pour servir de l'histoire de France (32 vols., 1836-1844). See Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, vol. vii.

In 1875, the famous illustrator Gustave Dore produced 100 pictures for a 2 volume medium folio edition of the Histoire which was published by Hachette and Company.



Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jean-François Cailhava
Seat 29
Académie française
Succeeded by
Jean Pierre Flourens

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