Paul Hazard (1878–1944) was an eminent French historian of ideas and a pioneering scholar of comparative literature. After teaching at the University of Lyon and the Sorbonne, he was appointed to the chair of comparative literature at the Collège de France in 1925 and in 1940 was elected to the French Academy. From 1932 on Hazard also taught at regular intervals at Columbia University, and he was in New York when the Nazis occupied France in 1941. He immediately returned to France to assume the rectorship of the University of Paris but was rejected for the position by the Nazis. Hazard’s reputation rests on two major works of intellectual history: The Crisis of the European Mind, from 1935, and its sequel, European Thought in the Eighteenth Century: From Montesquieu to Lessing, published posthumously in 1946.
In this landmark of intellectual history, Paul Hazard looks at the period leading up the Enlightenment, years which saw the erosion of the classical values of respect for tradition, stability, and proportion, as well as a growing awareness of non-European cultures. Hazard captures the excitement of a revolution, the impact of which continues to be felt in our own time.