An eminent specialist of ancien régime France who left an indelible mark on generations of historians, Daniel Roche will be mourned by his numerous students and all who knew him for his generosity, openness, curiosity, and sense of humour.
After studying at the Sorbonne and the École Normale Supérieure in Saint-Cloud, he taught at different Paris universities before becoming Professor at Paris I University and then the EUI, after which he became Director of studies of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS). In 1999, he was elected to the Chair of "Histoire de la France des Lumières" at the Collège de France. His seminar on the Enlightenment was a place of collective research, as can be seen in the volume dedicated to him by his students in 2011, which derived from that seminar.
In addition to his teaching, he was an active citizen of academia, taking on many responsibilities in institutes of research and learned societies in France and abroad, establishing, in particular, close links with Italian academia. He directed the Revue d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, the leading French history journal, and served for several years as President of the "Association de réflection sur l'enseignement supérieur et la recherche", an association devoted to the reform of higher education.
His work, for which he received many prizes and distinctions, was pioneering; it was at the intersection of social and cultural history, on which he published an important series of works which revolutionised the study of 18th century France and were translated into several languages. Following his thesis on provincial academies, published in 1978, which received a prize from the Académie française, he produced ground-breaking and detailed studies of Parisian popular culture (Le Peuple de Paris, 1981), learned culture (Les Républicains des Lettres, 1988), material culture (La Culture des apparences, 1989), the birth of consumer society (Histoire des choses banales, 1997), the circulation of people (Humeurs vagabondes, 2003), as well as synthetic histories of France. His passion for riding led to a vast study of equestrian culture and our relationship with horses (Histoire de la culture équestre, 3 vols, 2008-2015). He also directed or co-directed several collective works, including a dictionary of the world of the Enlightenment.
Through his research and teaching, his generosity towards generations of students and encouragement of younger scholars, and his commitment to humanist values, Daniel Roche represented a model of academic citizenship. He will be greatly missed.
By EUI Emerita History Professor Ann Thomson
Photo credit: Collège de France