The Specificity of French Trade Unionism According to Lucien Febvre (1919–1920)

Special Conference by Lucien Febvre on Trade Unionism
By Jean Lecuir

The report including the papers of the four conferences that Lucien Febvre gave in 1920 on the history of French trade unionism long remained in the shadow of his later work, although he kept it and enriched it with new references. The subject matter had little to do with his research interests as a historian of the 16th century. It rather reflects his youthful commitments. As a fellow student of Albert Thomas in the Rue d'Ulm, he closely followed the evolution of the socialist and trade unionist movement at the turn of the century. He represented the socialist committee at the popular university of Besançon and anonymously published some thirty articles in Le Socialiste comtois between 1907 and 1909. He then became removed from these because of his attachment to his own independence and because the preparation of his theses and his teaching career oriented him in different directions. After returning from the war and having been awarded the Légion d'honneur and the rank of Captain for his military merit, he started teaching at the University of Strasbourg on December 4, 1914 where he remained for fourteen years. The preparation of the conferences took place during the key period of his return to a professional career. These constitute a precious testimony of the way in which Lucien Febvre attempted what we would today call an essay in “immediate history.”

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