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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Julien Havet

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JULIEN HAVET (PIERRE EUGENE) (1853-1893), French historian, was born at Vitry-sur-Seine on the 4th of April 1853, the second son of Ernest Havet. He early showed a remarkable aptitude for learning, but had a pronounced aversion for pure rhetoric. His studies at the Ecole des Chartes (where he took first place both on entering and leaving) and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes did much to develop his critical faculty, and the historical method taught and practised at these establishments brought home to him the dignity of history, which thenceforth became his ruling passion. His valedictory thesis at the Ecole des Chartes, Serie chronologique des gardiens et seigneurs des Iles Normandes (1876), was a definitive work and but slightly affected by later research. In 1878 he followed his thesis by a study called Les Cours royales Bans les Iles N ormandes. Both these works were composed entirely from the original documents at the Public Record Office, London, and the archives of jersey and Guernsey. On the history of Merovingian institutions, Havet's conclusions were widely accepted (see La Formule N. rex Francor., v. inl., 1885). His first work in this province was Du sens du mot "romain" dans les lois franques 0876), a critical study on a theory of Fustel de Coulanges. In this he showed that the status of the homo Rornanus of the barbarian laws was inferior to that of the German freeman; that the Gallo-Romans had been subjected by the Germans to a state of servitude; and, consequently, that the Germans had conquered the Gallo-Romans. He aimed a further blow at Fustel's system by showing that the Frankish kings had never borne the Roman title of vir inluster, and that they could not therefore be considered as being in the first place Roman magistrates; and that in the royal diplomas the king issued his commands as rex Francorum and addressed his functionaries as viri inlustres. His attention having been drawn to questions of authenticity by the forgeries of Vrain Lucas, he devoted himself to tracing the spurious documents that encumbered and perverted Merovingian and Carolingian history. In his A propos des decouvertes de Jerome Vignier (1880), he exposed the forgeries committed in the 17th century by this priest. He then turned his attention to a group of documents relating to ecclesiastical history in the Carolingian period and bearing on the question of false decretals, and produced Les Chartes de St-Calais (1887) and Les Actes de l'eveche du Mans (1894). On the problems afforded by the chronology of Gerbert's (Pope Silvester II.) letters and by the notes in cipher in the MS. of his letters, he wrote L'Ecriture secrete de Gerbert (1877), which may be compared with his Notes tironiennes dans les dipldmes merovingiens (1885). In 1889 he brought out an edition of Gerbert's letters, which was a model of critical sagacity. Each new work increased his reputation, in Germany as well as France. At the Bibliotheque Nationale, where he obtained a post, he rendered great service by his wide knowledge of foreign languages, and read voraciously everything that related, however remotely, to his favourite studies. He was finally appointed assistant curator in the department of printed books. He died prematurely at St Cloud on the 19th of August 1893.

After his death his published and unpublished writings were collected and published (with the exception of Les Cours royales des Iles Normandes and Lettres de Gerbert ) in two volumes called Questions merovingiennes and Opuscules inedits (1896), containing, besides important papers on diplomatic and on Carolingian and Merovingian history, a large number of short monographs ranging over a great variety of subjects. A collection of his articles was published by his friends under the title of Mélanges Havet (1895), prefixed by a bibliography of his works compiled by his friend Henri Omont. (C. B.*)

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Julien Havet'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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