Eugen Weber
Eugen Joseph Weber was a Romanian-born American historian with a special focus on Western Civilization and the Western Tradition.

Weber became a historian because of his interest in politics, an interest dating back to at least the age of 12. He described his political awakening as a realization of social injustices: "It was my vague dissatisfaction with social hierarchy, the subjection of servants and peasants, the diffuse violence of everyday life in relatively peaceful country amongst apparently gentle folk".

Weber's books and articles have been translated into more than half a dozen languages. He earned many accolades for his scholarship, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Fulbright Program. His 1,300-page "A Modern History of Europe: Men, Cultures, and Societies from the Renaissance to the Present (1971)" was described "a phenomenal job of synthesis and interpretation that reflects Eugen's wide and deep learning," by his colleague, the late Hans Rogger. In addition to his distinguished American Awards and honors, he was awarded the Ordre National des Palmes Académiques in 1977 for his contribution to French culture. The Ordre National des Palmes Academiques was originally founded by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as the highest decoration to for French scholars.


He was born the son of Sonia and Emmanuel Weber, a well-to-do industrialist. At the age of ten (10) his parents hired a private tutor. But the tutor did not stay long. From this age of 10 Weber was already reading The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, adventure novels by Karl Frederich May, poetry by Victor Hugo and Homer. He was also reading George Sand, Jules Verne and "every cheap paperback I could afford". At age 12, he was sent to boarding school in Herne Bay
Herne Bay, Kent
Herne Bay is a seaside town in Kent, South East England, with a population of 35,188. On the south coast of the Thames Estuary, it is north of Canterbury and east of Whitstable. It neighbours the ancient villages of Herne and Reculver and is part of the City of Canterbury local government district...

, in southeastern England, and later to Ashville College
Ashville College
Ashville College is a co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils aged 4–18 in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England. It was founded as a Methodist boarding school for boys in 1877, and subsequently merged with Elmfield College and New College in the 1930s...

, Harrogate
Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. The town is a tourist destination and its visitor attractions include its spa waters, RHS Harlow Carr gardens, and Betty's Tea Rooms. From the town one can explore the nearby Yorkshire Dales national park. Harrogate originated in the 17th...


During World War II, he served with the British Army in Belgium, Germany and India between 1943 and 1947 rising to the rank of captain. Afterward, Weber studied history at the Sorbonne
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

 and Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) in Paris.
He graduated with a BA in 1950 and an MA from Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 in 1954. In 1950, he married Jacqueline Brument-Roth. He then taught at Emmanuel College
Emmanuel College, Cambridge
Emmanuel College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.The college was founded in 1584 by Sir Walter Mildmay on the site of a Dominican friary...

, Cambridge (1953–1954) and the University of Alberta
University of Alberta
The University of Alberta is a public research university located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1908 by Alexander Cameron Rutherford, the first premier of Alberta and Henry Marshall Tory, its first president, it is widely recognized as one of the best universities in Canada...

 (1954–1955) before settling in the United States, where he taught first at the University of Iowa
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public state-supported research university located in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. It is the oldest public university in the state. The university is organized into eleven colleges granting undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees...

 (1955–1956) and then, until 1993 on his retirement, at the University of California
University of California
The University of California is a public university system in the U.S. state of California. Under the California Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California is a part of the state's three-tier public higher education system, which also includes the California State University...

, Los Angeles (UCLA).

At Cambridge University Eugen Weber studied with the historian David Thomson. He studied for his PhD but the dissertation was refused because the outside examiner, Alfred Cobban, of the University of London, gave a negative review of his dissertation, saying it lacked sufficient archival sources.

Eugen Weber's wrote a column, opinion pieces, and book reviews for the Los Angeles Times under the column title LA Confidential. He also wrote for several French popular newspapers and, in 1989, presented an American television series, "The Western Tradition", which consisted of fifty two lectures of 30 minutes each.


Weber took a pragmatic approach to history. He once observed: Nothing is more concrete than history, nothing less interested in theories or in abstract ideas. The great historians have fewer ideas about history than amateurs do; they merely have a way of ordering their facts to tell their story. It isn’t theories they look for, but information, documents, and ideas about how to find and handle them.


Weber is associated with several important academic arguments. His book: Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France 1870-1914, for instance, is a classic presentation of modernization theory
Modernization theory
Modernization theory is a theory used to explain the process of modernization within societies. The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that, with assistance, "traditional" countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have...

. Although other historians such as Henri Mendras had put forward similar theories about the modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 of the French countryside, Weber's book was the first to situate the changes in the period between 1870 and 1914. Weber emphasizes that well into the 19th century few French citizens regularly spoke French. Instead, many of the inhabitants of France spoke regional languages or dialects such as Breton
Breton language
Breton is a Celtic language spoken in Brittany , France. Breton is a Brythonic language, descended from the Celtic British language brought from Great Britain to Armorica by migrating Britons during the Early Middle Ages. Like the other Brythonic languages, Welsh and Cornish, it is classified as...

, Gascon
Gascon language
Gascon is usually considered as a dialect of Occitan, even though some specialists regularly consider it a separate language. Gascon is mostly spoken in Gascony and Béarn in southwestern France and in the Aran Valley of Spain...

, Basque
Basque language
Basque is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories...

, Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, Flemish
Flemish can refer to anything related to Flanders, and may refer directly to the following articles:*Flemish, an informal, though linguistically incorrect, name of any kind of the Dutch language as spoken in Belgium....

, Alsatian
Alsatian language
Alsatian is a Low Alemannic German dialect spoken in most of Alsace, a region in eastern France which has passed between French and German control many times.-Language family:...

, and Corsican
Corsican language
Corsican is a Italo-Dalmatian Romance language spoken and written on the islands of Corsica and northern Sardinia . Corsican is the traditional native language of the Corsican people, and was long the vernacular language alongside the Italian, official language in Corsica until 1859, which was...

. Even in French-speaking areas provincial loyalties often transcended the putative bond of the nation. Between 1870 and 1914, Weber argued, a number of new forces penetrated the previously isolated countryside. These included the judicial and school systems, the army, the Catholic Church, railways, roads, and a market economy. The result was the wholesale transformation of the population from "peasants," basically ignorant of the wider nation, to Frenchmen.

In his book, Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs through the Ages., Weber deals with the study of the Apocalypse or revelation of God in the Bible and turns the modern time we are living on its head. He provides a critical review of the modern times which he calls "worldly times", the time and considers the modern times characterized by majority of people's influences by evil spirits and Satan. He writes: "In the first there was nothing, but God was: There was God who said I AM the first and I AM the last, and beside me there is no other God.God created the world, and men and women in it. What God did was good, but it became bad - men and women too [became bad].Led by Satan, evil spirits opposed God and ruled the world of men.Darkness made war on light.Evil outbid and outdid good.One day soon God would put an end to the world. His kingdom would appear throughout all creation, Satan would be no more, nor would evil and sorrow subsist"[Pages 223-224].

Weber also reflects on the manner in which the teaching of the Bible are being "recast" by modern worldly Christian churches. He discusses the modern day secularism of organized Christian churches who interpret and subtly twist the Bible to suit modern tastes "worldly times". Wordly times are characterized by the rejection by modern people of the teachings of the Holy Bible and people's acceptance, embrace and reliance on science, technology and education. These, Weber argues, gives birth to "worldly times" of materialism, pursuits and indulgence in outward vain pleasures and people inflamed by all kinds of ideas to pursuit fun. These things leaves one in dark sadness, constant depression and agony of life. The pledge which Weber makes to his reader is to get out of modern living ("worldly times"), come out of organised churches, turn down priests and pastors, walk out and study the Bible alone fellowshipping with God. The only true enjoyment is the peace of inner life in constant communication with God. Weber first proclaimed this substantive statement in his publicly televised Western Tradition Lecture Series, he states:

" any case here we are at the end of the 20th century with a lot of people lonely in a Godless world - and now they are denied not only God but the solid substance of judgement and perception". "The world has always been disgracefully managed but now you no longer know to whom to complain"

Eugen Weber after he traversed the whole spectrum of western thought, western tradition and western civilization and progress in this publicly televised Western Tradition Lectures series of 52 episodes each running 30 minutes concludes by pointing at some of the profound ancient lessons from the Bible and laments the fact that many people today do not read the Bible. “There are not that many people who read the Bible these days which is the epitome of wisdom, violence, high aspiration and the hurtful achievements of mankind"

He makes his final remarks in the Western Tradition Lecture Series by quoting from Ecclesiastes in the Bible: For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Vanity of vanities all is vanity." Weber was however an agnostic and viewed the Bible as an important piece of historical literature. He concluded his final lecture in this series by praising Western man as Promethean and then with Wordsworth's poetic phrase that, despite everything, "we are greater than we know."

A biography, Eugen Weber The Greatest Historian of our Times: Lessons of Greatness to the Future presents Weber's life and works in wholly positive terms.


  • The Nationalist Revival in France, 1905-1914, 1959.
  • Action Française: Royalism and Reaction in Twentieth Century France (1962).
  • "Nationalism, Socialism and National-Socialism in France" French Historical Studies, Volume 2, 1962. pages 273-307 in JSTOR
  • Satan France-Maçon: la mystification de Leo Taxil, 1964.
  • Varieties of Fascism: Doctrines of Revolution in the Twenthieth Century (1964).
  • co-edited with Hans Rogger, The European Right: A Historical Profile, 1965.
  • "Pierre de Coubertin and the Introduction of Organized Sports in France" pages 3–26 from Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 5, 1970.
  • "Gymnastics and Sports in Fin-de-Siècle France: Opium of the Classes?" pages 70–98 from American Historical Review, Volume 76, 1971.
  • A Modern History of Europe: Men, Cultures, and Societies from the Renaissance to the Present (1971).
  • Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1880–1914 (1976).
  • "The Second Republic, Politics, and the Peasant," French Historical Studies Vol. 11, No. 4 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 521–550 in JSTOR
  • "Comment la politique vint aux paysans: A Second Look at Peasant Politicization," American Historical Review, Volume 87, 1982 pages 357-389 in JSTOR
  • "Reflections on the Jews in France" from The Jews in Modern France edited by Frances Malino and Bernard Wasserstein
    Bernard Wasserstein
    Bernard Wasserstein is a professor of history. Wasserstein was born in London, and educated at the High School of Glasgow and at Wyggeston Boys' Grammar School, Leicester. He gained a BA in Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford University in 1969.Wasserstein's main area of interest is Jewish...

    , 1985.
  • France, Fin de siécle (1986).
  • My France: Politics, Culture, Myth, 1991.
  • The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s (1994).
  • Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial beliefs through the Ages (2000).

External links

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