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Mignet, Francois Auguste Alexis

MIGNET, FRANCOIS AUGUSTE ALEXIS (1796-1884), French historian, was born at Aix in Provence on the 8th of May 1796, and died at Paris on the 24th of March 1884. His father, a Vendean by birth, was an ordinary locksmith, who enthusiastically accepted the principles of the French Revolution and roused in his son the same love for liberal ideas. Francois had brilliant successes when studying at Avignon in the lycec where he was afterwards professor (1815); he returned to Aix to study law, and in 1818 was called to the bar, where his eloquence would have ensured his success had he not preferred the career of an historian. His abilities were shown in an Eloge de Charles VII., which was crowned by the Academic de Nimes in 1820, and a memoir on Les Institutions de Saint Louis, which in 1821 was crowned by the Academic des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. He then went to Paris, where he was soon joined by his friend and compatriot, Adolphe Thiers, the future president of the French republic. He was introduced by J. A. Manuel, formerly a member of the Convention, to the Liberal paper, Courrier franQais, where he became a member of the staff which carried on a fierce pen-and-ink warfare against the Restoration. He acquired his knowledge of the men and intrigues of the Napoleonic epoch from Talleyrand. He wrote a Histoire de la revolution française (1824) in support of the Liberal cause. It was an enlarged sketch, prepared in four months, in which more stress was laid on fundamental theories than on the facts, which are more rigidly linked together than their historical sequence warrants. In 1830 he founded the National with Thiers and Armand Carrel, and signed the journalists' protest against the Ordonnances de juillet, but he refused to accept his share of the spoil after his party had won. He was satisfied with the modest position of director of the archives at the Foreign Office, where he stayed till the revolution of 1848, when he was dismissed, and retired permanently into private life. He had been elected a member of the Academic des Sciences Morales et Politiques, re-established in 1832, and in 1837 was made the permanent secretary; he was also elected a member of the Academic Francaise in 1836, and sought no further honours. He was well known in fashionable circles, where his witty conversation and his pleasant manners made him a favourite. The greater part of his time was, however, given to study and to his academic duties. Eulogies on his deceased fellow-members, the Academy reports on its work and on the prizes awarded by it, which it was part of Mignet's duty as secretary to draw up, were literary fragments thoroughly appreciated by connoisseurs. They were collected in Mignet's Notices et portraits. He worked slowly when in his study, and willingly lingered over research. With the exception of his description of the French Revolution, which was chiefly a political manifesto, all his early works refer to the middle ages De La feodalite, des institutions de Saint Louis el de I 'influence de la legislation de ce prince (1822); La Germanic au viii' et au ix' siecle, sa conversion au christianisme, el son introduction dans la sociite civilisee de I' Europe occidentale (1834); Essai sur la formation territorial^ et politique de la France depuis la fin du xi' siecle jusqu'd la fin du xv* (1836); all of these are rough sketches showing only the outlines of the subject. His most noted works are devoted to modern history. For a long time he had been taken up with a history of the Reformation, but only one part of it, dealing with the Reformation at Geneva, has been published. His Histoire de Marie Stuart ( 2 vols. , 1 85 1 i is well worth reading; the author made liberal use of some important unpublished documents, taken for the greater part from the archives of Simancas. He devoted some volumes to a history of Spain, which had a well-deserved success Charles Quint, son abdication, son sejour, et so, mart au monastere de Yuste (1845); Antonio Perez et Philippe II. (1845); and Histoire de la rivaliti de Francois I. et de Charles Quint (1875). At the same time he had been commissioned to publish the diplomatic acts relating to the War of the Spanish Succession for the Collection des documents inedits; only four volumes of these Negociations were published (1835-1842), and they do not go further than the peace of Nijmwegen; but the introduction is celebrated, and Mignet reprinted it in his Melanges historiques.

See the eulogy of Mignet by Victor Duruy, delivered on entering the Academic Francaise on the 18th of June 1885, and the notice by Jules Simon, read before the Academic des Sciences Morales et Politiques on the 7th of November 1885.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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