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Renan, Ernest (1823–1892)

Ernest Renan was one of the most widely read French authors of the nineteenth century, which is remarkable given that he was committed to the life of the research scholar. When he did choose to comment on current affairs, his sometimes ambiguous political positions made him an author particularly prone to misinterpretation. Yet it is these very ambiguities that make Renan a significant figure. His interpretation of Christianity, his views on democracy and on the nation-state, among others, give us an important insight into the contradictions of political life in late nineteenth-century France.

Renan and Catholicism

Renan was born in 1823 in Tréguier in Brittany. The most significant event in his early years was his break with Catholicism at age 22. As a successful schoolboy, he had ...

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