The life and work of Lamennais (1782‑1854) have been a continuous source of abundant historic research. They were interpreted in the most diverse and contrary fashions although no movement, either internal or external to Catholicism, ever laid claim to them. This research often only partially hides the fascination and fears conjured up by Lamennais’s life rather than his work. This production and the myths that stem from it can therefore be read under this perspective: a man whose destiny tirelessly questions the functions of spiritual authority in modern societies and its relation to authority itself. If these are indeed the preoccupations of the “Master of La Chênaie”, one may thus wonder to what extent the successive reinvestments have contributed to freeze the virtualities of the first half of the 19th century and furthermore to the movements present within contemporary Catholicism. In this regard, the analysis of the historiographic production calls for a new analysis of the success of a work and the influence of a man that reveal the anxieties of an era in search of a new government of minds – an issue that finds its roots in the French Revolution and wanes with the consequences of the failure of the Second Republic.
HistoriographyBy Sylvain Milbach