Fustel de Coulanges, Numa Denis [key], 1830–89, French historian. His masterly study, La Cité antique (1864, tr. The Ancient City, 1874), stressed the influence of primitive religion on the development of Greek and Roman institutions. Losing (1870) his professorship in antiquities at the Univ. of Strasbourg after Strasbourg became German, he turned to medieval history. The result was a work of profound and original scholarship, Histoire des institutions politiques de l'ancienne France (6 vol., 1888–92; rev. ed. by Camille Jullian, 6 vol., 1905–14). In it Fustel, attacking belief in the Germanic origin of feudalism and the manorial system, traced these institutions to Roman influences. His theories were widely attacked, but they opened the way for new interpretations of early medieval history.
See J. Herrick, The Historical Thought of Fustel de Coulanges (1954).
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