Natalie Zemon Davis is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton and Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the author most recently of Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds. (May 2008)

How the FBI Turned Me On to Rare Books

The year was 1952. I had spent six months in France doing the first research for my PhD thesis on “Protestantism and the Printing Workers of Lyon.” Not long after my return, two gentlemen from the US State Department arrived at our apartment to pick up my passport and that of my husband. Early in 1952, I had done the research for and been major author of a pamphlet entitled Operation Mind, which reviewed past interrogations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities and urged readers to protest as unconstitutional its announced visit to Michigan. Whatever local readers thought, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was not pleased with Operation Mind. The seizure of our passports was one of the consequences.

The Quest of Michel de Certeau

Though in North America Michel de Certeau is known only in the university world, in France he was a celebrity, viewed as a major cultural critic, an innovative historian of early modern religion, and a religious thinker who in his life and work pursued a particularly engaged, open, and generous …

A Modern Hero

This October the Institute for World History in Moscow held an international conference to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the French scholarly journal, Annales, which had been founded in 1929 by Marc Bloch, who was killed by the Gestapo in 1944, and Lucien Febvre, who died in 1956. A Soviet …

A New Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne—who does not know that charmed name? Once it was Eyquem, but Michel dropped his father’s surname in favor of Montaigne, the noble property that he inherited as Pierre Eyquem’s oldest son. (But what glory did a name bring, Michel asked later in his Essays.) Once a law …

Happy Endings

If the Annales School of French historical writing has become influential throughout the world, no small part of this is owing to the exuberant and erudite medievalist Jacques Le Goff. As a successor to the celebrated Fernand Braudel, he presided over the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales …

Revolution and Revelation

For the past thirty years Georges Duby has been reconstructing the history of feudal society along lines that were first laid out by the great French historian Marc Bloch. In doing so Duby has himself become one of the most interesting and productive historians at work today. Bloch’s inspiration he …

Deforming the Reformation

The sociologist Guy Swanson claims here to have explained the appearance of Protestantism, and why it took hold in some countries and not in others. An ambitious enterprise, which unfortunately does not make good on its claims. I say unfortunately, but there are some historians who will relish his failure; …