French Historians and Collective Violence

French historians and French history have dominated the study of early modern violence. This essay addresses why this is so and what has characterized French historians' approaches to collective violence in particular, whether in the form of popular revolt, confessional division, or revolutionary violence. It posits that historians are essentially uncomfortable in defending and explaining popular violence in the past, that they ought to address this issue more directly and not to establish too much cultural distance from their subjects in doing so. It concludes with some reflections on approaches to violence in the past and the present, how historians and others talk about and engage with violence, and how its treatment today should inform how historians address the challenges of writing the history of violence in the future.