Georges Lacour-Gayet

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Georges Lacour-Gayet
M Lacour Gayet (photographie (...)Atelier Nadar btv1b531204336.jpg
Portrait photograph of Lacour-Gayet by the Atelier Nadar
Born(1856-05-31)31 May 1856
Marseille, France
Died8 December 1935(1935-12-08) (aged 79)
Paris, France

Georges Lacour-Gayet (31 May 1856 – 8 December 1935) was a French historian who taught at the École Navale and the École Polytechnique. His books on the French navy under Louis XV and Louis XVI are much-quoted and were considered references when published, although they betray his patriotic bias. His master work was a four-volume biography of Talleyrand.

École Navale French Naval Academy in Lanvéoc-Poulmic, Brittany, France

The École Navale is the French naval academy, in charge of the education of the officers of the French Navy. They are educated at the academy for responsibilities onboard surface ships and submarines, in French Naval Aviation, with the fusiliers marins and commandos, and on the general staff.

École Polytechnique French institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau

École Polytechnique is a French public institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau, a suburb located south from Paris. It is one of the leading prestigious French 'Grandes Écoles' in engineering, especially known for its polytechnicien engineering program.

Louis XV of France Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre 1715–1774

Louis XV, known as Louis the Beloved, was King of France from 1 September 1715 until his death in 1774. He succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five. Until he reached maturity on 15 February 1723, the kingdom was ruled by Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, as Regent of France. Cardinal Fleury was his chief minister from 1726 until the Cardinal's death in 1743, at which time the king took sole control of the kingdom.



Georges Lacour-Gayet was born in Marseille on 30 May 1856. [1] He attended the École normale supérieure at rue d'Ulm, Paris. His schoolmates included the future geographers Bertrand Auerbach, Marcel Dubois and Paul Dupuy, and the future historians Salomon Reinach and Gustave Lanson. [2] He became a historian. [1] On 2 October 1882 he married Cécile Janet (1856–1926), daughter of the philosopher Paul Janet (1823–1899). [3] Their children were Jacques(fr) (1883–1953), Thérèse (1890–1936) and Robert (1896–1989). [3] [1]

Marseille Second-largest city of France and prefecture of Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 869,815 in 2016. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after those of Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.

An école normale supérieure or ENS is a type of publicly funded higher education institution in France. A portion of the student body, admitted via a highly-selective competitive examination process, are French civil servants and are known as normaliens. ENSes also offers master's degrees, and can be compared to "Institutes for Advanced Studies". They constitute the top level of research-training education in the French university system.

Bertrand Auerbach was a French explorer, anthropologist and geographer. He published several works on Austria-Hungary, which had a complex mix of ethnic groups and languages in the period before World War I (1914–18).

Lacour-Gayet was professor at the École Navale during the period of the Fashoda Incident and the Entente Cordiale. [4] For many years his La marine militaire de la France sous le règne de Louis XV (Paris, Champion, 1902, 571 pages) was considered the reference work for this subject. [5] He gave a course of lectures at the Ecole Superieure de Marine that formed the bases for his 1905 La marine militaire de France sous le règne de Louis XVI. [6] He was also a professor at the École Polytechnique in Paris. [1] He was a member of the Institut Français, Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques and the Académie de Marine. [1] He was a member of the Société de l'histoire de France from 1924, and became a member of the society's council that year. [7]

Fashoda Incident imperial territorial disputes between Britain and France in Eastern Africa

The Fashoda Incident was the climax of imperial territorial disputes between Britain and France in Eastern Africa, occurring in 1898. A French expedition to Fashoda on the White Nile river sought to gain control of the Upper Nile river basin and thereby exclude Britain from the Sudan. The French party and a British-Egyptian force met on friendly terms, but back in Europe, it became a war scare. The British held firm as both empires stood on the verge of war with heated rhetoric on both sides. Under heavy pressure the French withdrew, securing Anglo-Egyptian control over the area. The status quo was recognised by an agreement between the two states acknowledging British control over Egypt, while France became the dominant power in Morocco. France had failed in its main goals.

Between the two governments there was a brief battle of wills, with the British insisting on immediate and unconditional French withdrawal from Fashoda. The French had to accept these terms, amounting to a public humiliation....Fashoda was long remembered in France as an example of British brutality and injustice.

Entente Cordiale series of agreements between the United Kingdom and France about colonies in Africa, Siam (Thailand), Newfoundland, and New Hebrides (Vanuatu)

The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic which saw a significant improvement in Anglo-French relations. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a thousand years of intermittent conflict between the two states and their predecessors, and replaced the modus vivendi that had existed since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 with a more formal agreement. The Entente Cordiale was the culmination of the policy of Théophile Delcassé, France's foreign minister from 1898, who believed that a Franco-British understanding would give France some security against any German system of alliances in Western Europe. Credit for the success of the negotiation belongs chiefly to Paul Cambon, France's ambassador in London, and to the British foreign secretary Lord Lansdowne.

Institut Français public establishment

The Institut Français is a French public industrial and commercial organization (EPIC). Started in 1907 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for promoting French, francophone as well as local cultures around the world, in 2011 it replaced the CulturesFrance project as the umbrella for all French cultural outreach projects, with an expanded scope of work and increased resources.

Lacour-Gayet later had another child, a future historian and journalist Georgette Elgey, from his relationship with Madeleine Léon, who belonged to the Jewish upper-class but later converted to Catholicism; she was the great-granddaughter of Michel Lévy, France's first Jewish general. After he refused to marry her, Léon fought for years for Elgey to be officially recognised as his daughter, eventually losing in court but leaving his reputation in shatters. [8] [9] He died in Paris on 8 December 1935 at the age of 79. [1]

Georgette Elgey is a French journalist and historian. She is the author of Histoire de la IVe République, published in 6 volumes from 1965 to 2012.

Michel Lévy (1821–1875) was the founder of the Michel Lévy Frères publishing house.


Lacour-Gayet described the colonial competition between France and Britain in the century before 1815 as the "Second Hundred Years War". [4] He claimed that the efforts of the Académie de Marine prepared the French navy for its "victories in the American War". This view was not shared by Raoul Castex, who connected the personnel and work of the Academy to the naval defeats of the Seven Years' War (1756–63). [10] Lacour-Gayet considered that "Suffren, among the grand sailors, is the perfect model." [11] He had "the spirit of initiative ... the premier quality of a commander, the most necessary, the most truly characteristic, because it is for this that he is chief." [12]

Académie de Marine organization

The Royal Naval Academy of France was founded at Brest by a ruling of 31 July 1752 by Antoine Louis de Rouillé, comte de Jouy, Secretary of State for the Navy. This institutionalised an earlier initiative by a group of officers from the Brest fleet headed by the artillery captain Sébastien Bigot de Morogues who all wanted to contribute to the modernisation of the French Navy, a group which had very quickly received the approbation of Louis XV.

Raoul Victor Patrice Castex was a French Navy admiral and a military theorist.

Seven Years War Global conflict between 1756 and 1763

The Seven Years' War was a global war fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions: one was led by the Kingdom of Great Britain and included the Kingdom of Prussia, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and other small German states; while the other was led by the Kingdom of France and included the Austrian-led Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Swedish Empire. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal.

Writing of the year 1758 Lacour-Gayet wrote in La marine militaire de France sous le règne de Louis XVI (1905), "To the repeated descents of the English on coasts of the Saintonge, the Contentin, and Brittany, had been added the loss of Louisbourg, which portended that of Montreal. ... The course of events led one to the idea of a landing in the British islands; because it was the true means to revenge ourselves with a single stroke, and to finish the war." [13] Lacour-Gayet was hard on failure. Charles François Emmanuel Nadeau du Treil(fr), the governor of Guadeloupe, was degraded and condemned to life imprisonment after he lost the island in 1759. Lacour-Gayet said he deserved the punishment. [14]

Guadeloupe Overseas region and department in France

Guadeloupe is an archipelago forming an overseas region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands, Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings. It lies south of Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat, and north of Dominica. Its capital is Basse-Terre on the west coast; however, the largest city is Pointe-à-Pitre.

Lacour-Gayet's 1905 book on the navy under Louis XVI was written at a time when the loss at Fashoda was still remembered with bitterness and many in France were hostile to England. He saw the failure of France to invade Britain when they had the chance in 1779 as a great lost opportunity. The French fleet dominated the English channel and the French army of invasion was ready to embark in transports. He wrote, "Never at any time in history, not even when Napoleon's army lay encamped at Boulogne, was the French navy to near its oft-dreamt-of goal, the invasion of England." [6]

In 1918 Nicolae Petrescu-Comnen contributed an ethnographic overview of Dobruja (La Dobrogea), just as the region was being absorbed into a Greater Bulgaria. Lacour-Gayet presented the work at the Romanian Academy and said the "savant work" of "truth and justice", had exposed the practices of Bulgarisation. [15]

Lacour-Gayet's biography of Talleyrand (4 volumes, 1928–1934) was exhaustively documented. [16] He studied all of Talleyrand's writings. He concluded that "the mechanism of the constitution, which had been functioning only a few years, the role of the President, the programs of different parties did not seem to have fixed his attention." [17] He noted that Talleyrand's observations focused primarily on economics rather than politics, so he could not be called a direct predecessor of Alexis de Tocqueville. [18]


Roman Empire from the Battle of Actium to the era of Diocletian by Paul Guiraud and Georges Lacour-Gayet , published by Erhard, Paris Empire romain Depuis la bataille (...)Lacour-Gayet Georges btv1b55011143q.jpg
Roman Empire from the Battle of Actium to the era of Diocletian by Paul Guiraud and Georges Lacour-Gayet , published by Erhard, Paris

The Bibliothèque nationale de France records 222 published documents by Lacour-Gayet. Documents provided in digitized format on the Gallica website are: [1]


    1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Georges Lacour-Gayet (1856–1935) – BnF.
    2. Ginsburger 2017.
    3. 1 2 Garric.
    4. 1 2 Lesueur 2015, p. 12.
    5. Dziembowski 2006, p. 194.
    6. 1 2 Patterson 1960, p. 1.
    7. Procès-verbal de la Séance du Conseil ...
    8. Catinchi 2017.
    9. Devarrieux 2017.
    10. Palmer 2009, p. 125.
    11. Palmer 2009, p. 158.
    12. Palmer 2009, p. 159.
    13. Palmer 2009, p. 113.
    14. Smelser 2012, p. 176.
    15. Lacour-Gayet 1918, pp. 404–405.
    16. Greenbaum 1969, p. 944.
    17. Sonn 2010, p. 167.
    18. Sonn 2010, p. 177.


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