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Author photo. Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945), Sociologue français

Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945), Sociologue français

Maurice Halbwachs (1877–1945)

Author of On Collective Memory

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Maurice Halbwachs was born in Reims, France. He attended the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he studied philosophy with Henri Bergson. He passed the aggregation (civil service teaching exam) in philosophy in 1901, and taught at various lycées before going to study at the University of Göttingen, Germany, in 1904. At Göttingen, he worked on cataloging the papers of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. After his return to France, he met Émile Durkheim, who sparked his interest in sociology. He joined the editorial board of L'Année Sociologique, where he co-edited the Economics and Statistics sections. In 1909, he went back to Germany to study Marxism and economics in Berlin. During World War I, he worked at the French War Ministry. After the war, he was appointed professor of sociology and pedagogy at the University of Strasbourg, a position he held for more than a decade. He took a leave of absence for a year to be a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. In 1935, he was named a professor at the Sorbonne, teaching sociology and serving as the editor of Annales de Sociologie, the successor journal to L'Année Sociologique. In 1944, he received one of France's highest honors, a chair at the Collège de France in Social Psychology. In 1925, he coined the term "collective memory" (mémoire collective) in his book Les Cadres sociaux de la mémoire; he advanced this theory in La Mémoire collective, published posthumously in 1950. He also wrote an important book on suicide, Les Causes du suicide (1930). During the German Occupation of France in World War II, Halbwachs was arrested by the Gestapo for protesting the arrest of his Jewish father-in-law, and deported to Buchenwald, where he died in 1945.
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